Kiwi rich-lister quits Russia for Africa

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 12:02 29/11/2012
Stephen Jennings
HIGH PRAISE: Jennings was said to have brought to Russia more international investment capital, competitive talent and commercial dynamism than any other person.

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A Taranaki-born man once hailed as the richest New Zealander in the world has quit his high rolling investment company in Russia and, according to the Moscow Times, is heading for Africa.

Stephen Jennings, through Renaissance Capital founded 17 years ago, made around US$5 billion ($6 billion) before falling on harder times and last year made the National Business Review's rich list with $900 million.

Bloomberg reported Jennings stepped down from Renaissance after billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov rebuffed his requests seeking more cash for the money-losing investment bank.

Prokhorov's Onexim Group, which purchased almost 50 per cent of the lender for US$500m four years ago, received two approaches for additional funds in the past year from Jennings.

One of Jenning's competitors, Bernie Sucher of investment bank ATON, has written in the Moscow Times warmly of Jennings.

"The world of finance offers bigger stages, but none of its actors has so captivated an audience as Jennings did in Russia," Sucher writes.

Jennings and Renaissance was a high-wire act, "a collection of colourful and super-aggressive money men banded together by vaulting ambition for wealth amid the land grab that was Russia in the 1990s".

Sucher says their ambition was feral.

"Renaissance, inspired by Jennings' beloved Kiwi rugby tradition, was in your face: muscular, fierce, fast and intimidating."

As the company began to fail in a changed Russian economy, Jennings defended its remains.

"A charismatic, intense leader, he rallied his best people to a challenge few of them understood and for which none of them had bargained."

Sucher says Jennings knew Russia was going to boom.

With his two decades of vision, creativity, smarts and relentless drive, it was Jennings who brought to Russia more international investment capital, competitive talent and commercial dynamism than any other person.

"Stephen Jennings has taken his last walk out the door of Renaissance's Moscow offices," Sucher writes.

"He is bound for Africa, a continent buzzing with boundless possibilities for someone with his rare gifts. Watching him go, I say Russia has lost a true champion."

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