Riches Among the Ruins: Adventures in the Dark Corners of the Global Economy

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9780814410608: Riches Among the Ruins: Adventures in the Dark Corners of the Global Economy
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Today, Robert P. Smith is a legend in the world of finance. Part adventurer and part economic warrior, this Indiana Jones of the financial world was an advance man for the forces of globalization, having spent more than thirty years traveling through five continents, buying and selling high risk securities in the world's most downtrodden economies. So tenuous was his operation and so covert the transactions, that an overnight fluctuation in a country's currency rate could mean the difference between a spectacular profit or a devastating loss. Today, the trade in emerging market debt is worth more than five billion dollars a day, but it was virtually non-existent when Smith, a one-time collections lawyer, pioneered the business in the late 1970s. "Riches Among the Ruins" is the extraordinary story of Robert Smith's search to make money doing the riskiest kind of business. We are at his side as he travels through the treacherous and exhilarating world of the debt trader, dodging bullets and roadside bombs in post-Saddam Iraq, and risking his life on the chaotic streets of Nigeria. As he engages in a battle of wills with businessmen in Istanbul, and loses millions overnight in the ruins of the post-Soviet Russian economy, we experience all of the thrill and terror that accompanies making big money in emerging markets. At once adrenaline-fueled and utterly compelling, this is the gripping story of one man's quest for fortune where others fear to tread.

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Book Description:

Selected by Strategy+Business magazine as one of the best business books for 2009 in the Globalization category

  • Selected by The 800-CEO-Read Business Book Awards of 2009 in the Biographies & Narratives category – short list

Today, Robert P. Smith is a legend in the world of finance. Part adventurer and part economic warrior, this Indiana Jones of the financial world was an advance man for the forces of globalization, having spent more than thirty years traveling through five continents, buying and selling high-risk securities in the world’s most downtrodden economies. So tenuous was his operation and so covert the transactions, that an overnight fluctuation in a country’s currency rate could mean the difference between a spectacular profit or a devastating loss. Today, the trade in emerging market debt is worth more than five billion dollars a day, but it was virtually nonexistent when Smith, a one-time collections lawyer, pioneered the business in the late 1970s.

Riches Among the Ruins is the extraordinary story of Robert Smith’s search to make money doing the riskiest kind of business. We are at his side as he travels through the treacherous and exhilarating world of the debt trader, dodging bullets and roadside bombs in post-Saddam Iraq, and risking his life on the chaotic streets of Nigeria. As he engages in a battle of wills with businessmen in Istanbul, and loses millions overnight in the ruins of the post-Soviet Russian economy, we experience all of the thrill and terror that accompanies making big money in emerging markets. At once adrenaline-fueled and utterly compelling, this is the gripping story of one man’s quest for fortune where others fear to tread.

From the Inside Flap:

In the mid-1980s, Robert P. Smith, a young, brash economic mercenary, traveled to war-torn El Salvador looking to make money trad­ing dollar-denominated government bonds. As an American, he had to remain innocuous and virtually invisible while traveling the danger­ous streets of San Salvador. Then one morn­ing, he was shaken out of bed by an explosion at the Sheraton Hotel, just blocks from where he was staying. Not only did he escape with his life, he had just managed to make a killing—within a matter of days, he was able to buy and sell $3 million of these bonds at an impressive mark-up. But there was a catch. Smith’s buyer would only pay in colones, the local currency. To realize his profit, Smith would then have to enter the shad­owy word of the cambista, or money changer.

Today, Smith is a certified legend in the world of finance. Part adventurer and part economic war­­rior, this Indiana Jones of the financial world has spent more than thirty years trav­­­el­ing through five continents buying and sel­ling high-risk securities in the world’s most derelict and down­trodden economies. So ten­u­ous was his operation and so covert the trans­actions that an overnight fluctuation in a coun­­try’s cur­rency rate could mean the differ­ence between a spectacular profit and a devas­tating loss. Throughout his career, he has made and lost tens of millions of dollars by investing in economies wracked by war, revolution, and cor­ruption. Today, the trade in emerging mar­ket debt is worth more than five billion dollars a day, but it was virtually nonexistent when Smith—a one-time collections lawyer in a rumpled, cheap seersucker suit, bow-tie, and bad toupee—pioneered the business in the late 1970s.

Riches Among the Ruins is the extraordinary story of Robert Smith’s ability to utilize his impec­cable instincts and incredible knowl­­edge of the global economy to make big money doing the riskiest kind of business. As he races through the streets of Baghdad after the fall of Saddam, wheels and deals on the streets of Vietnam, and loses more than $15 million dollars in one day in post-communist Russia, we travel with him through the precarious, treacherous, and exhilarating world of the debt trader. As he negotiates with unseemly businessmen on the streets of Istanbul, ducks shakedown artists in Nigeria, and alternately charms and infuriates corporate big shots in Guatemala, we experi­ence all of the thrill and terror that accompanies making big money in the third world. At once adrenaline-fueled and utterly compelling, this is the gripping story of one man’s quest for fortune where others fear to tread.

Robert P. Smith is the founder and managing director of the Boston-based Turan Corpo­ration, which specializes in trading emerging markets’ sovereign debt and evaluating creditor claims against for­eign governments. Smith is a noted authority on developing-world debt and has been cited or quoted in numerous pub­lications including The Wall Street Journal, Africa Economic Digest, The Financial Times, International Business, and various publications of Euromoney Publications of London. He is a sought-after speaker and has addressed numer­ous professional groups on matters relating to emerging markets. He and his family live in Boston and New York.­­

Peter Zheutlin, a freelance journalist, is the au­thor of Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie London­derry’s Extraordinary Ride and co-author, with Thomas Graboys, M.D., of Life in the Balance: A Physi­cian’s Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss with Parkinson’s Disease. He lives in Needham, Massachusetts.

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