Chapter 6: Ice and Flame Commentary: VimpelCom’s Founders
6. Ice and ﬂame: building a NYSE company in Wild Russia An unusual group was having dinner at Le Carré Blanc, the best French restaurant in Moscow, one evening in May 2002. Other patrons gazed at them with undisguised interest. The youngest of the group, an American impeccably dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and designer tie, leaned back in his chair and slowly sipped his wine. With the help of an interpreter, he was listening intently to an older Russian man. The Russian, in an open-collared, short-sleeved blue shirt, dominated the conversation. His energetic gesticulations were hard for other diners to ignore. The two men were the founders, and for many years had been senior executives, of VimpelCom, a Russian cellular operator that had grown in less than 10 years from conceptual idea, to small family-like company, to $2 billion NYSE-quoted corporation with 5.5 million subscribers. These two men had had countless conversations since their ﬁrst meeting in October 1991, but this one, in the Moscow restaurant, was different from all the others: it was their ﬁrst meeting as former executives of VimpelCom. A few hours earlier, Augie K. Fabela II, the young American, had stepped down as VimpelCom’s chairman of the board. His dinner companion, the Russian Dr Dmitry Zimin, had resigned as CEO a year earlier. Both had cut their ties to a company that had been the center of their lives for more than a decade. Zimin leaned across the table towards the younger man...
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