Russia, oil and email wars

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Sep 22 07:45:19 MDT 2003

New Yorker, Issue of 2003-09-29

Jim Rogers, the so-called Indiana Jones of finance, is among those 
businessmen who, though not exactly hard-knocks graduates (Rogers 
attended Yale and Oxford), feel that the important lessons for achieving 
success are more apt to be gleaned from, say, a motorcycle ride across 
Siberia (Rogers holds two Guinness World Records for travelling around 
the globe) than from any formal schooling, least of all an M.B.A. 
program. Nonetheless, Rogers, like many moguls, is a happy participant 
in the B-school lecture circuit, on which C.E.O.s, studio executives, 
and authors get paid essentially to recount their own achievements, and 
perhaps to promote their latest projects—in Rogers’s case, a new book, 
“Adventure Capitalist.”

It was during one such appearance, at Harvard Business School the other 
day, that Rogers, wearing his usual bow tie and employing his Alabama 
drawl, first encountered Dmitry Alimov, and set off a chain of 
correspondence that future students would do well to examine. It is a 
case study in making a name for oneself, or making a fool of 
oneself—depending on your point of view. Dmitry, who is twenty-nine, is 
a native of Russia and a former employee of Gazprom, the Russian 
conglomerate. Like Rogers, he is an inveterate international traveller; 
unlike Rogers, he dresses the part of a post-Soviet European (white 
jeans, big collars, “Armani-type stuff”), and has chosen to enroll in 
business school. (He’s HBS ’04.) Dmitry is also the type of business 
student who raises his hand a lot, as he did when Rogers hammered on one 
of his favorite themes—that Russia, though full of adventure, is devoid 
of real capital (“It’s a disaster spiralling downward into a 
catastrophe”), and unworthy of investment.

Dmitry stood and aired his disagreements. Rogers more or less dismissed 
them. So that night, Dmitry wrote Rogers an e-mail. “I am the ‘lad’ who 
disputed your factual claims with regard to Russia today,” it began. He 
identified three specific allegations that Rogers had made: people are 
leaving Russia (“wrong”); Russia’s oil production is declining, and oil 
companies are not reinvesting (“wrong and wrong”); investors are 
abandoning Russia (“wrong again”). “Many people, including future 
leaders at Harvard Business School, listen to you,” he concluded. “It 
would be very unfortunate if they were misled by your inaccurate 
statements. Finally, if nothing else, it is not good for your own public 
image.” He added a postscript: “I took the liberty of sending a copy of 
this e-mail to my fellow students so that we can set the record straight.”



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