July 5, 2001

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Casino Moscow

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 9:38 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Casino Moscow: A Tale of Greed and Adventure on Capitalisms Wildest Frontier by Matthew Brzezinski, The Free Press, 300 Pages, $25.00, Hardcover, July 2001, ISBN: 0684869764
When the galley of Casino Moscow came across my desk, I had hopes that this book would be fun. I put the book in a place of honor, the spot that I look to whenever I am on the phone and put on hold. I was right. This is the BEACH read of the summer. Last year, I told you about a book called The Informant, later featured on Dateline, which was about the ADM price fixing scandal. This book is an equally compelling read about what it was like to live in Moscow in the last years of the twentieth century.
The author, whose uncle is Zbigniew Brzezinski (for you young uns, he was Jimmy Carters national security advisor), tells of beginning his career as a Wall Street Journal stinger in the Ukraine. While in the Ukraine, he was sent by his bosses to report on the opening of the Ukrainian stock exchange. Capitalism was slow to take hold and the total volume the first day was one transaction for $7,340. There, he was almost being killed because a thug thought he had money because he was a foreigner. Ultimately, the article he wrote about the attack got him noticed by his bosses and he was then offered a job in Moscow. The author tells amazing and irreverant stories of wealth (or the lack thereof) and how a small group of bankers controls much of the Russian economy.
He tells an especially humorous story about constantly being stopped by the police for traffic offenses where fines are paid on the spot. There are four cops in Moscow for every cop in NYC and make only $150 a month. His favorite reason for one fine was a fifty thousand ruble fine for an improperly stored tool kits. Of course, there is great seriousness behind these funny stories, the corruption and violence and disregard for all citizens but the rich. On the whole, this is a fun read following in the footsteps of Liars Poker. You wont believe what you are reading, but the author writes so well that you are forced to believe it. Get out that lawn chair, pour an iced tea, and dig in!