Dust off your history books and have a look at how and why bankers from our former Cold War nemesis and current election-hacking paradise have decided to come in from the cold and join the warmth of the green rush.
Two Moscow bankers were in the right place at the right time for many years, when the former USSR seismically and chaotically shifted from a communist regime to one of the world’s most corrupt capitalist countries. And now, they are moving their money into marijuana.
Bernie Sucher and Boris Jordan helped form Russia’s capital markets after the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991. They remained active investors for more than two decades, and their efforts paid off.
But, now with international sanctions and sinking oil prices, the businessmen are looking for a reliable place to sink their rubles.
Jordan, co-founder of Renaissance Capital, and Sucher, a Goldman Sachs refugee who helped start Troika Dialog, say the U.S. weed industry will generate the kind of returns they reaped from the “rubble of communism,” or when so many banks made off with their compatriots’ bank accounts and pension plans.
“It’s just like Russia in the 1990s,” said Jordan, who helped with the controversial privatization programs of the Boris Yeltsin era (1991 to 1999) that “turned well-connected speculators into billionaire oligarchs practically overnight,” reports Bloomberg Businessweek.
“We’re talking about an industry in its infancy that needs to be built up from scratch, legislation and all,” said Jordan.
Agencies, such as Arcview Market Research, are keeping track and say the industry could generate $55 billion within the coming decade, citing last year’s record earning of $6 billion.
Jordan told Bloomberg that Sputnik Group, his private equity company based in Moscow, and its partners, have spent more than $100 million to prepare PalliaTech Inc.—a Massachusetts-based medical devices company—to become a national chain of dispensaries.
“Our dispensaries look like Walgreens,” said Jordan. “They’re filled with oils, pills and creams.”
Sucher, the former head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Russian operations, co-owns and is CEO of Tikun Olam USA, a venture with Israel’s largest supplier of MMJ.
“The only thing that qualified me to be CEO was my Russian experience of taking an idea and building it into a real business in volatile, even anarchistic conditions,” said Sucher.
Sucher said with support for pot growing, early investors stand to gain a first-mover advantage.
“It’s a modern-day gold rush,” he said. “It makes me nostalgic for what it was like starting Troika 25 years ago. But this time nobody’s getting hurt.”