Jennings, then 32 and working for consultants Credit Suisse First Boston, went to Russia for a six-week job: to privatise Russia's first-ever company.

He went to work at Treasury, then Jarden Consulting, which became Credit First Suisse Boston, which sent him to Russia. Join over 300,000 Finance professionals who already subscribe to the FT. 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He's keep out of politics as much as possible, but kept connected people close to him. Since 2012, Stephen has focused on Rendeavour, of which he is the largest shareholder. He went to Spotswood College. He wraps his body into contortions to fit his limbs into his chair in his central Moscow office. Jennings sees an economic reordering of the world coming - a "convergence". "As assets found their way into stronger hands, as private ownership caught on, then the people who owned these assets wanted the institutions and mechanisms to make these effective." Jennings is stepping down as RenCap’s CEO, but will remain chief executive of Renaissance Group, the parent company, which will focus on asset management. They had to organise buyers too: the method was "voucher privatisation", which involved issuing vouchers to Moscow's 12 million citizens to trade for shares in the factory. He also has shares in a company here with Bill Trotter (son of Sir Ronald) who was the subject of a foiled kidnap plot in 2002. He somehow managed to play the perfect double game. He has been living and working in emerging markets for more than 25 years. Those who believed in the Russian stock market before it existed have told us about their experiences, their businesses and the state, about how the crises and periods of growth passed, what was achieved and what was not. That is an obvious place to start." This week, Lehman, a 158-year-old firm collapsed, the biggest bankruptcy in United States history. "The poor and middle-class countries are going through a massive amount of growth, their incomes are catching with the relatively small number of people who live in the so-called rich part. He hit the free-market highway, working on "Telecom's deregulation, health reform, ports, airports, environmental resource management, deregulation, corporatisation, privatisation" in New Zealand and Australia. He's a big name in the international business press. Jennings says New Zealanders tend to keep their thoughts to themselves. Despite this, Jennings is still relatively unknown here in New Zealand. The six weeks in Russia turned into 16 years. Jennings estimates that during his time with Renaissance, the bank attracted around $200 billion in foreign investment funds into Russian assets. The company Jennings founded, Renaissance Group, is a major player in Russian finance. "I'm not going to let anyone label me. So what is he thinking? Do they want to go back to a 66 per cent tax rate?"

She has a collection of Russian art, and set up the Sotheby's auction house in Moscow. Won't many just see him as a Rogernome who became a billionaire pillaging his way around economies that didn't know better? Jennings says Renaissance stayed clear of corruption, yet was also able to be accepted into the Russian circle.

"I believed in a lot of the myths and sacred cows about New Zealand and the New Zealand economy," he says. Interview with Stephen Jennings: Renaissance Capital, the first … Jennings is Renaissance Group's chairman, chief executive and the main stakeholder as it expands to Africa. Renaissance Capital founder Stephen Jennings may be enjoying better weather since fleeing Russia for Africa three years ago, but his problems seem to be mounting. London-based former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick works three days a week for Renaissance Capital. "If you wanted to get into the oil industry or gas, or if you wanted to get involved in big state privatisations as a buyer, or if you wanted to buy big steel mills, then you are had to deal with corruption-type issues. None of those policies have been unwound. "I believe if you scrape a few layers of the top, and, to be colloquial, with a little bit of boot in the bum, we can reinvigorate those values." If so, going to Russia in 1992 would have been like doing God's work for Jennings. Jennings says too much government involvement entrenches "really dangerous values" and that "the mainstream" New Zealander would agree with him. Last month, Forbes magazine put his stake in Renaissance Group at $5.2 billion, much higher than previous estimates of his wealth at $1.6 billion. In the next 20 years, two billion people will join the middle class." And the people who stayed and invested did extraordinary well. "Without being melodramatic, I saw it as making a difference," he says. "I'd rather stand up and say what I think." He has a $1.5 million home on Oakura's beachfront Messenger Tce, and a share in a bach at Awaroa inlet in the Abel Tasman National Park. He worked on electricity reform with American economist Vernon Smith - now a Nobel Prize winner for economics. Expert insights, analysis and smart data help you cut through the noise to spot trends, Jennings is now on to his next challenge: Africa. Some believe Jennings could be New Zealand's richest man. That's why he's speaking out to the media now, and at the Business Roundtable's annual Sir Ronald Trotter lecture next month. "There was a huge amount of dislocation, there was a huge amount of corruption, there was a huge amount of asset-stripping," Jennings says. THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION Taranaki boy Stephen Armstrong Jennings is a typical son of Taranaki. Zimbabwe looks good in Jennings' "medium-to-long-term view". Jennings stayed on when others didn't. It has resources, a good education system, "the best management in Africa, is in a high growth region, with a seven million-strong diaspora that will come back if things go well." This week's economic meltdown will affect Renaissance Group, says Jennings, with "global contagion" of the worst crisis since the 1929 depression likely to affect all the world's markets.

But Stephen Jennings kick-started his way to wealth at the Moscow plant. This view saw Jennings and a colleague break away from Credit Suisse First Boston to set up Renaissance Capital as an investment bank in 1995. There were no street lights, no neon signs, just one or two restaurants.

The Bolshevik Biscuit Factory seems an unlikely place to start the story of a Taranaki boy who became a billionaire. Born in Waitara's old maternity hospital, the farmer's boy spent his early years in Awakino, north Taranaki, then moved to Oakura, a beach village 12 km southwest of New Plymouth. He fears New Zealand could be left behind in this. He credits secretary Graham Scott, and senior officials Roger Kerr (now executive director of the Business Roundtable), Bryce Wilkinson (economist) and Rob Cameron (investment banker) for teaching him "common sense". He saw the profits to be made. "It felt," says Jennings, "like we were driving into a very dark place." Three years later, he and his partners created Renaissance Capital, which became one of the country’s largest investment banks. There were no laws in place to facilitate the sale, says Jennings, so "during the day we'd draft a decree and send a note to the president (Boris Yeltsin) saying 'if you want to meet your target for six weeks you've got to pass this presidential decree"'.

After living in Moscow for six weeks, he decided to stay. He likes to keep his New Zealand links, and has had Moana and the Tribe to Moscow to teach the haka. The factory sold for less than $1 million. It needs to embrace the opportunities in emerging economies, like he has.

Communism had collapsed, and while Jennings was there to help get capitalism in place - "people literally didn't know what private ownership meant". That's about to change. "It's easy to grizzle at the barbecue," says Jennings. Russia was effectively a fire sale. New Zealand, he believes, needs to become more open, with a more entrepreneurial culture and approach to life. Connections Jennings' plays it down, but Renaissance Group needs international political contacts and Vladimir Putin, Colin Powell and Tony Blair are among them.

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