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. 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.
Jennings says Russia is easy to bag. Renaissance has ploughed more than half a billion dollars into everything from real estate to banking, and plans to quadruple this investment. That is an obvious place to start." They have four children, aged 6 to 15. 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 has been living and working in emerging markets for more than 25 years. One gets the feeling of unfinished business. He likes to surf a bit when he can. "There was a huge amount of dislocation, there was a huge amount of corruption, there was a huge amount of asset-stripping," Jennings says.

"All [Western commentators] can see is the historical issues and the existing problems rather than the trajectory they are on." He sees New Zealand as dominated by "powerful interest groups". Jennings says New Zealanders tend to keep their thoughts to themselves. "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." It is really more of the same: a continued downward slide in our relative income standards relative to the rest of the world and every other indicator going with that: social indicators, health indicators, cultural indicators, sporting indicators." He went to work at Treasury, then Jarden Consulting, which became Credit First Suisse Boston, which sent him to Russia. In the next 20 years, two billion people will join the middle class."

Bright spark The tall (2m) rugby-lover studied business at Massey University and economics at Auckland where he graduated with first class honours. He's keep out of politics as much as possible, but kept connected people close to him. The financier had to beat Lehman Brothers and other international heavyweights to dominate investment banking in Russia. This week, Lehman, a 158-year-old firm collapsed, the biggest bankruptcy in United States history. Despite this, Jennings is still relatively unknown here in New Zealand. He likes to keep his New Zealand links, and has had Moana and the Tribe to Moscow to teach the haka. "I'm not going to let anyone label me. Jennings had seen a similar factory sold in Poland for more than $100 million. She has a collection of Russian art, and set up the Sotheby's auction house in Moscow.

He went to Spotswood College. "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. Jennings says New Zealand's Polynesian explorers had the values needed for the modern economic world - adventure, exploring, risk, pushing into the unknown - and that heritage is still there. "Being told that agriculture shouldn't be subsidised and should stand on its own two feet was a pretty radical idea."

He says the Bolshevik Biscuit Factory was the pilot for 5000 more privatised companies in the next three years - more than had been done in the rest of the world in total. Jennings donated $20,000 to Don Brash before the 2005 election but says he does not know any current New Zealand political leaders, including John Key, and did not believe he should have too close a relationship. He wraps his body into contortions to fit his limbs into his chair in his central Moscow office. That's why he's speaking out to the media now, and at the Business Roundtable's annual Sir Ronald Trotter lecture next month. Jennings says Renaissance stayed clear of corruption, yet was also able to be accepted into the Russian circle. He says the free market wasn't just good for him, it was good for Russia. He has just been in Ghana, Kenya and Zimbabwe, a day before the power-sharing agreement between President Robert Mugabe and his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai. risks and opportunities. "Without being melodramatic, I saw it as making a difference," he says.
"It's easy to grizzle at the barbecue," says Jennings. "We've had a lot of government involvement in many aspects of our lives. He can even walk anonymously along Oakura beach, 12 kilometres southwest of New Plymouth. 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. Jennings started his first job in 1984 at Treasury: a boiler-room of free-market economics. It is predictably and unashamedly free-market, but he doesn't just believe it - he's done it. Where would he start?

"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." But for Jennings, the developing economies where Renaissance Group works have strong underlying economies and good prospects for growth and, therefore, better prospects to weather the storm. “In theory, what should have been the most conservative strategy in the world, turned out to be the worst thing to do”, recalls Stephen Jennings, the former head of Renaissance Capital, about the 1998 financial crisis in Russia.Stephen Jennings came to Russia in 1992 to advise the government on the privatisation programme. London-based former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick works three days a week for Renaissance Capital. 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. It needs to embrace the opportunities in emerging economies, like he has.

“But that was the time of maximum opportunity.

He's ready to give away his low profile here, saying he wants to pass on what he's learnt. 'Heart-racing' 4.6 magnitude quake rattles Christchurch, Paekākāriki seaside house: The perfect place to record an album, Guy Fawkes night: Fire crews attend 15 call-outs around the country, Slight reprieve in wild weather before turbulent weekend, Canterbury town named safest in New Zealand, Live: Trump's hopes teeter - Biden closes gap in two key states, 'absolutely confident' of presidency, George Floyd death: Judge orders former police officers be tried together. Interview with Stephen Jennings: Renaissance Capital, the first … Stephen Jennings is a pioneer of capital markets in Africa and Central & Eastern Europe, responsible for over $200 billion of investment flows to these regions. Jennings stayed on when others didn't. So what is he thinking? But Stephen Jennings kick-started his way to wealth at the Moscow plant. He also saw the way the world was changing, and that there were not just more Bolshevik Biscuit Factories, but many more countries like Russia as well. And, says Jennings "globally, investment banks are being decimated, so from a competitor's standpoint there's some reasonable things happening". He worked on electricity reform with American economist Vernon Smith - now a Nobel Prize winner for economics. After living in Moscow for six weeks, he decided to stay.

We would like to tell the story of the Russian stock market through the mouths of the people who created it: investment bankers and international experts, the founders of the first brokerage companies, and representatives of the regulator. It has Russia's top brokerage, investments including the Ukraine's biggest land-holding and Russia's biggest forest estate, and a consumer finance arm with 12,000 employees that provides credit cards and personal loans. New Zealand, he believes, needs to become more open, with a more entrepreneurial culture and approach to life. It was 1992 and Russia had just opened its doors to the world after 70 years of communism. "I'd rather stand up and say what I think."

Jennings says too much government involvement entrenches "really dangerous values" and that "the mainstream" New Zealander would agree with him. Jennings is Renaissance Group's chairman, chief executive and the main stakeholder as it expands to Africa. We have a very comprehensive and very generous and in my view, excessive, welfare system. Russia was effectively a fire sale. What do they mean by Rogernomics?

THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION Taranaki boy Stephen Armstrong Jennings is a typical son of Taranaki.

Communism had collapsed, and while Jennings was there to help get capitalism in place - "people literally didn't know what private ownership meant". He saw the profits to be made.

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