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You're reading: Honorable Mention: Michael Bleyzer

Michael Bleyzer, 59

Michael Bleyzer was born in Kharkiv, and seemed destined for a high-flying Soviet scientific career before he left for America in 1978 as a Jewish emigre.

His career in the United States blossomed, turning him into a successful capitalist.

Yuriy Kryvenko

Based mainly in Texas, he worked for Exxon and then Ernst & Young accounting firm in executive positions.

“Then in 1993, I returned to Ukraine for a visit, and I saw the opportunities that were opening. I realized where I fit in. There were great opportunities, but no one in Ukraine knew how to access capital markets. I knew this very well, so I decided to act as a bridge between capital and opportunities,” he recalled.

In 1995, Bleyzer founded his private equity institution SigmaBleyzer, which now has more than $1 billion in assets under management.

“The most important thing when operating in Ukraine is patience.”

– Michael Bleyzer.

“The most important thing when operating in Ukraine is patience,” he said.

“It’s a very difficult environment. A number of times I considered throwing it all in, in 1998 after the Russian financial crisis, and in the early 2000s.”

The 1998 crisis, however, killed off many competitors, leaving Bleyzer’s fund one of the few major surviving private equity fund operating in Ukraine.

“It’s important for investors to realize that Ukraine is an emerging market, and is not all that different from other emerging markets. There are great people here and the long-term strategic outlook is excellent.”

Bleyzer recommends investment in the consumer sector as most promising, even after the end of the credit boom. “It’s going to be slower, but people still have money and need to spend it.”

While his fund does restructuring work on company level, the Bleyzer Foundation, his charity launched in 2001, lobbies government for improvement in the business climate. Bleyzer sees serious free-market reforms as the only way forward for Ukraine, now that credit-driven and export-driven growth has dried up.

“It’s important for investors to realize that Ukraine is an emerging market, and is not all that different from other emerging markets. There are great people here and the long-term strategic outlook is excellent.”

– Michael Bleyzer.

In this respect, he says he is pleasantly surprised by the President Viktor Yanukovych administration – especially Iryna Akimova, economist and deputy head of the presidential administration: “They were saying the right things, now it’s a question of implementation,” Bleyzer said of the team’s performance recently in Washington, D.C.

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