The Russians Are Here And They Want To Make Money

Dressed in a well-tailored suit, crisp Dior shirt, and fashionably bold tie, Andrei A. Stroyev looks like any other successful real estate developer. But rather than discussing depressed U.S. property prices, the chain-smoking chairman of Perestroika Joint Venture is enthusiastically selling luxury townhouses in Moscow.

Stroyev's is the new face of Russian capitalism. He and some 70 other budding entrepreneurs joined Boris Yeltsin at the Washington summit, a showcase for the country's emerging business class. They carried a political message, too. "We want to convince the U.S. that Russia is firmly on the way to a market economy," says Valeri I. Biryukov, head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' new business promotion department.

Russian organizers chose the entourage from a herd of 400 hopefuls. Although Yeltsin sees them as examples of his business reforms, many are stewards of rusting state enterprises. Most came to make money. While Yeltsin and President Bush were announcing their arms-control deal, Stroyev, for instance, was setting up meetings with Salomon Brothers Inc. and Morgan Grenfell Capital Management Inc. He wants financing for his growing real estate empire. So far, he's having a tough time. "There's definitely a huge cultural gap," says Stroyev of his dealings with middle-aged American executives raised on cold war mistrust.

That hasn't been a problem for Nikolai V. Mikhailov, general director of Vympel Corp., maker of the Soviet version of Star Wars and such other high-tech goods as radar and medical equipment. He recently inked a deal with Plexys International Corp., a Naperville (Ill.) telecommunications outfit. They will cooperate on cellular phone networks in Moscow. Mikhailov has already surrounded himself with a phalanx of lawyers from Steptoe & Johnson and consultants from Booz, Allen & Hamilton Inc.

TREASURE BOX. The Russians aren't the only ones angling for a few bucks. Vympel's U.S. partners see "a treasure box of technology" in the company, says Booz Allen's Jeffrey P. Winbourne. The partners already have a few baubles--they will be paid up-front, in dollars, for advice. Later, they will pocket a slice of future revenues from the high-tech wizardry.

And therein lies Russia's first lesson in business, American-style: If you want to play, you gotta pay.

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