Bill Browder was born on April 23 in 1964. He is a political activist and the co-founder of Hermitage Capital. At the same time he is a best selling author. What propelled Bill to stardom was his quest to get justice for his fallen friend Sergei Magnitsky.
Due to Bill’s commendable and heroic work with trying to get justice for Sergei this has made him an enemy of many. One of these enemies is none other than Vladimir Putin.
Disclaimer: Most of the information in this article is based upon two of Bill Browder’s books Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath and Red Notice.
A fact that is often overlooked is that Bill Browder’s grandfather was Earl Browder the leader of the American communist party. Earl Browder was so skilled at organising labour unions that he was invited to the Soviet Union in 1926. Earl resided in Moscow for approximately 6 years from 1926 to 1932. During his time in Moscow he encountered a woman named Raisa Berkman who he had three kids with. One of these kids was Felix Browder who became the father of Bill.
After returning to the United States in 1932 Earl settled down in the Yonkers area in New York. He became the leader of the communist party in the US from 1934 to 1945. Earl candidated in two presidential elections one in 1936 and the other in 1940. Earl Browder was a very effective communist and landed himself on the cover of TIme in 1938. This infuriated Roosevelt and Earl was arrested in 1941 for the misuse of his passport for which he was sentenced to four years for. Luckily for Earl the alliance between the US and the Soviet Union during the second world war made his release possible. However he was constantly persecuted for being a communist particularly, because of Senator John Mccarthy’s efforts to eradicate every single communist in the United States.
Due to this intense scrutiny that Earl suffered, Felix Browders mother Raisa wanted him to stay out of politics. Therefore Felix turned to science and mathematics instead. When Felix was required to complete his Military Service in 1953, because of president Truman’s decision to instate mandatory military service. After completing basic training his last name was soon noticed. As a result of his last name he was quickly sent away to fort bragg in North Carolina where he was stuck pumping gas until 1955. In 1955 Felix had completed basic training.
Before all of this occurred Felix met Eva at MIT who he married in 1948. In 1964 Bill Browder was born. Bill writes that the two subjects that dominated the dinner discussions were mathematical theories and crooked businessmen who were bringing down the world. One day Bill’s parents told him that they were taking a year of work and he could either join them on their sabbatical or go to boarding school. Bill chose boarding school and ended up at Whiteman School. Bill was miserable at Whitman where he was being picked on heavily.
After a while Bill had enough of being bullied so he gave one of his bulliers a tremendous beating. This beating resulted in several sessions with psychologists and doctors. It was their job to get Bill back to the straight and narrow. It did not go to plan and Bill revolted against his parents by not going to school. However he felt that this wasn’t enough and therefore he decided shortly after graduating high school to become a capitalist.
That would really be the ultimate act of defiance towards his parents!
When Bill graduated highschool with bad grades he naturally found it difficult to be accepted to universities. It was only when his guidance counsellor intervened that he was accepted to the University of Colorado in Boulder. After a while of partying and hanging out with the wrong people Bill realised he needed to focus on his studies. Therefore he spent every night in the library studying. As a result Bill got the highest marks on his tests and could apply to the best universities in the country.
He was soon accepted to the University of Chicago were he realised near the end of his studies that he needed to do more to become a capitalist. Therefore he wrote letters to big financial firms such as Golman Sachs, McKinsey and 25 other similar financial firms about working for them. The only offer he got was from Bain & Company in Boston, a consulting firm. The offer was to work for 16 hours a day for two years in exchange for a place at one of the country’s finest business schools.
Bill jumped on this opportunity and started right away. Bill described it as working until your eyes bled for 28000 dollars a year for a 16% chance to get into Harvard or Stanford. The place you were promised at one of the country’s top business schools went up in smoke, because of the fast pace Bains business grew at. Therefore it made sense to hire 120 students who would slave away for Bain instead of 20 as all the other companies did. This disturbed Bains deal with business schools who still wanted to accept employees from Bain, but also from other firms such as Morgan Stanley, McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group and Goldman Sachs. The best case scenario was that 20 out of the 120 students who worked at Bain were accepted in total by the schools.
Luckily Bill was accepted at Stanford after working 80 hours a week at Bain. After a while Bill Decided to apply for a summer job at JP Morgan. When he got called in for an interview he was met by two gentlemen called Jake Chip and Winthrop Higgins. After a while of asking several standard questions such as why do you want to work at JP Morgan? It was clear that they were only interested in determining whether or not Bill would fit into the culture at JP Morgan.
After the interview had been concluded Bill ended up at a cafe. At the cafe he encountered an old friend Ken Hersh who he told about the interview. He had apparently also been interviewed by Chip and Winthrop as they were called. Neither of them got the job and Bill eventually took a position at BCG:s London division.
When the Soviet Union fell in 1991 many countries gained their independence. Before the Soviet Union fell it was very difficult to conduct business there. Bill realised that there were enormous amounts of business opportunities in eastern europe now that the Soviet Union was gone. While all of this was unfolding Bill decided that since his grandfather had been America’s biggest communist he was going to become eastern europe’s biggest capitalist.
One day Bill Stumbled upon an enormous opportunity when the government started issuing preference shares to the citizens of Russia. Bill had recently started his hedge fund called Hermitage Capital and along with it started a collaboration with Edmon Safra. Safra had agreed to back Bills business ventures in Russia after Bills successful pitch concerning the preference shares. Bill planned to purchase preference shares of the Russian citizens, because they did not realise the value of these preference shares. It was not unusual for them to trade away their preference shares for a bottle of vodka. The only problem Bill had was he did not have money himself to acquire these preference shares. Enter Edmond Safra who was a famous billionaire who agreed to back Bills Plan financially.
Investopedias definition of preference shares: Preference shares, more commonly referred to as preferred stock, are shares of a company’s stock with dividends that are paid out to shareholders before common stock dividends are issued. If the company enters bankruptcy, preferred stockholders are entitled to be paid from company assets before common stockholders.
What made these preference shares so appealing to Bill is that they were cheap and they were sold by nearly every Russian company. Bill saw this as an opportunity to acquire significant ownership stakes in Russian companies at a fraction of their actual value. With Edmond Safra’s financial backing, Bill started purchasing these preference shares on a massive scale, gradually building Hermitage Capital into one of the largest investment funds in Russia.
As Hermitage Capital’s influence grew, Bill became known for his aggressive and strategic investment tactics. He was often vocal about corporate governance issues and pushed for transparency and accountability in Russian businesses. His efforts gained attention, and he earned a reputation as a shrewd financier who was not afraid to challenge the status quo.
However, Bill’s rise to prominence in Russia would soon take a dramatic turn. In 2003, his lawyer and close friend, Sergei Magnitsky, was arrested by Russian authorities after uncovering a massive corruption scheme involving government officials. Magnitsky was imprisoned, tortured, and ultimately died in custody under suspicious circumstances.
Devastated by the loss of his friend, Bill Browder turned his attention to seeking justice for Sergei Magnitsky. He embarked on a relentless campaign to expose the corruption and human rights abuses in Russia, advocating for Magnitsky’s case and pushing for sanctions against the individuals involved. Bill’s efforts led to the passing of the Magnitsky Act in the United States in 2012, which imposed sanctions on Russian officials implicated in human rights abuses.
As Bill continued his fight for justice, he became a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. His activism and exposure of corruption threatened the interests and power of those in positions of authority. Putin, known for his strong-handed tactics against dissent, targeted Bill Browder and launched a relentless campaign to discredit and silence him.
The Russian government retaliated by accusing Bill of various crimes, including tax evasion and illegal business activities. They revoked his visa, banned him from entering Russia, and froze Hermitage Capital’s assets. The situation escalated further when the Russian authorities arrested and convicted Sergei Magnitsky posthumously, in a widely criticized trial.
Undeterred by the mounting pressure, Bill Browder continued to champion human rights causes and expose corruption in Russia. He traveled the world, advocating for the adoption of Magnitsky Acts in different countries, which would impose sanctions on individuals involved in human rights abuses. His efforts resulted in the expansion of the Magnitsky Act to several other nations, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and several European countries.
However, the Russian government’s vendetta against Bill Browder persisted. In 2017, Interpol issued a red notice, a request for the arrest and extradition of an individual, against him. The notice was later found to be politically motivated and was eventually revoked.
Bill Browder’s story is a testament to the power of one individual’s determination to seek justice and hold corrupt regimes accountable. His fight against the Russian government and his quest for justice for Sergei Magnitsky have made him a symbol of defiance and resilience in the face of adversity.
Today, Bill Browder continues his activism, advocating for human rights, and working to expose corruption around the world. His relentless pursuit of justice has inspired many and serves as a reminder of the importance of standing up against tyranny and fighting for what is right.
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