Статья об открытии А. Вавиловым хедж-фонда в Нью-Йорке «From Russia With Cash: Seeding a Hedge Fund»

Источник: New York Times

А. Вавилов

ANDREI VAVILOV — Russian multimillionaire, well-connected energy magnate and nascent hedge fund manager — smiles broadly in a Manhattan restaurant as a lawyer, a lobbyist, an economist and a former congressman praise him over shots of vodka and a lavish spread of lamb, salmon and beef tenderloin.

They toast Mr. Vavilov, 46, as an architect of Russia’s fledgling market economy and a maverick financier whose philanthropic contributions to universities in the United States and abroad have produced important financial research.

“Congratulations on your newest venture, this hedge fund of yours,” says Thomas B. Evans Jr., a former Republican representative from Delaware. “I mean, I don’t know much about it, but I am sure it will be a big success.”

If Mr. Evans is hoping to learn more about Mr. Vavilov’s new fund, the IFS Hedge Fund, he may have a long wait. Throughout his career, Mr. Vavilov’s bookishness — he is fond of wire-rimmed glasses and a buzz cut — has belied his reputation as a shrewd back-room operator whose business and political relationships have followed a circuitous and largely silent path from Moscow to London to New York. Even by the standards of hedge fund managers, whose activities are often shrouded in secrecy, Mr. Vavilov occupies uniquely murky territory — at the intersection of shadowy Russian oil riches and fast money on Wall Street.

Mr. Vavilov, who survived an assassination attempt about a decade ago while working in the Russian government, says he personally pocketed 0 million when he sold his oil company, Severnaya Neft, five years ago. Since then, he says, he has invested 0 million in his hedge fund, which he incorporated in the Bahamas in 2004. He has yet to raise money from outside investors, but he is setting up shop in New York to do exactly that — at the very time that hedge funds, started by everyone from former Wall Street trading stars to former professional hockey players, are encountering the potentially brutal uncertainties of a national credit squeeze and market turbulence.

In the first eight months of this year, the average hedge fund generated after-fee returns of 6.1 percent, compared with 6.9 percent during the same period last year, according to Hedge Fund Research, a Chicago firm. In each year, those returns only slightly outpaced the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, and a basket of stocks linked to the index typically carries less risk than investments in the more highflying world of hedge funds. Investors who place their money with hedge fund managers expect them to handily outperform the S.& P. 500 over time, and they are willing to cede hefty fees to them for the privilege of doing so.

For his part, Mr. Vavilov — who says his fund has garnered annual returns of more than 20 percent since its start in 2004 by placing global, macroeconomic bets that he declines to describe in any detail — remains unbowed by the challenges sweeping across the hedge fund landscape. He says that he is positioning himself to play a central role in the potential privatization of a Russian government fund that holds 0 billion in oil proceeds, and that his hedge fund should be a beneficiary if that state fund is privatized.

He also says he brings another advantage to the table: smarts. “We’ve created a strategy that allows me to get high returns without some of the risks that are associated with volatility,” he says. “I sleep well and don’t have insomnia worrying about what’s happening to my money.”

As the prices of oil and other natural resources like nickel and aluminum have soared, Mr. Vavilov joins the ranks of wealthy Russian business titans trying to put fresh riches to work here and in other markets outside their country. They say they are doing so in order to protect assets from corruption at home and to gain financial legitimacy in the West.

“What you see is a glut of oil money in Russia seeking its way into calmer waters,” says Ariel Cohen, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization in Washington. “These Russian tycoons and oligarchs are looking to place their money in jurisdictions with more rule of law, and where they are not subject to expropriation by the state.”

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