For the free-market economist and former New Zealand Treasury official, the disintegrating Soviet Union had shadows everywhere. 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"'. He is defensive about it, once criticising British Prime Minister Tony Blair for making a "rash statement" that investors would turn away from Russia because of concerns over democratic principles. "You had to be a little bit crazy and have a medium-to-long-term view." That is an obvious place to start." 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. But Stephen Jennings kick-started his way to wealth at the Moscow plant. "I believed in a lot of the myths and sacred cows about New Zealand and the New Zealand economy," he says. "But if you wanted to start an industry based on pure market transactions, you didn't face those same issues." Interview with Stephen Jennings: Renaissance Capital, the first … London-based former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick works three days a week for Renaissance Capital. Zimbabwe looks good in Jennings' "medium-to-long-term view". That's about to change. 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. He sees New Zealand as dominated by "powerful interest groups". 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. He's known to party hard: Renaissance Group once hired a 18th century palace and flew the United States waterski team in entertain guests with stunts on its lake. Connections Jennings' plays it down, but Renaissance Group needs international political contacts and Vladimir Putin, Colin Powell and Tony Blair are among them. None of those policies have been unwound. Jennings says too much government involvement entrenches "really dangerous values" and that "the mainstream" New Zealander would agree with him. 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. He's a big name in the international business press. Jennings estimates that during his time with Renaissance, the bank attracted around $200 billion in foreign investment funds into Russian assets. Stephen Jennings has taken his last walk out the door of Renaissance's Moscow offices. And, says Jennings "globally, investment banks are being decimated, so from a competitor's standpoint there's some reasonable things happening". Renaissance has ploughed more than half a billion dollars into everything from real estate to banking, and plans to quadruple this investment. 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. What do they mean by Rogernomics? This reflects Jennings' theme about New Zealand: that the world is changing quickly, the emerging economies are on the rise, and the old guard of the Western economies and multinationals simply aren't nimble enough to go with it. 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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. Do they want to go back to a 66 per cent tax rate?" Some believe Jennings could be New Zealand's richest man. Communism had collapsed, and while Jennings was there to help get capitalism in place - "people literally didn't know what private ownership meant". Jennings is Renaissance Group's chairman, chief executive and the main stakeholder as it expands to Africa. 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. Downtime Jennings says he usually gets back to New Zealand twice a year. An article in British magazine Spectator quoted a fellow banker who called him "the only foreign oligarch in Russia". It needs to embrace the opportunities in emerging economies, like he has. “But that was the time of maximum opportunity. 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. "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. Jennings and his colleagues needed to find, then persuade, a guinea-pig enterprise to sell, not easy when entrepreneurship had long been viewed as a crime. Jennings says Russia is easy to bag. Since 2012, Stephen has focused on Rendeavour, of which he is the largest shareholder. He worked on electricity reform with American economist Vernon Smith - now a Nobel Prize winner for economics. He likes to keep his New Zealand links, and has had Moana and the Tribe to Moscow to teach the haka. Where would he start? "It felt," says Jennings, "like we were driving into a very dark place." Many are now either in jail or exile. Russia was effectively a fire sale. Jennings knew them - they were his clients. "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." 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. 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, 48, is talking to the Weekend Herald because he believes New Zealand is "squandering" its potential. Jennings is Renaissance Group's chairman, chief executive and the main stakeholder as it expands to Africa. He says the free market wasn't just good for him, it was good for Russia. 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. "All [Western commentators] can see is the historical issues and the existing problems rather than the trajectory they are on." Three years later, he and his partners created Renaissance Capital, which became one of the country’s largest investment banks. Join over 300,000 Finance professionals who already subscribe to the FT. 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