People in the News: Capital Flight

Airline prez Ang delivers typhoon relief, investor Kazarian champions Greece and Indonesian tycoon Thohir scores an Italian soccer club.


Paul Kazarian, Greek Champion

“Greece is A+.” More interesting than the words themselves, splashed over a November full-page ad in the Financial Times, was the identity of their author: Paul Kazarian, founder and CEO of Providence, Rhode Island–based investment firm Japonica Partners. Kazarian, 58, who rose to prominence as a corporate raider in the late 1980s but has since largely kept a low profile, returned to the spotlight this past June after his firm announced an offer to buy up to €2.9 billion ($3.8 billion) of Greek government debt from hedge funds such as Greylock Capital and Paul Singer’s Elliott Associates. With that tender now expired, he’s embarked on a flashy PR campaign to push the EU’s “irrational and anachronistic” accounting standards to recognize that recent fiscal adjustment has made Greece an A+ credit. Exactly what Kazarian means, and what he plans to do with whatever Greek debt he does hold, no one yet knows. — Aaron Timms

The Loan Wolf, Hou Jianhang

China Cinda Asset Management chairman Hou Jianhang is hoping that history will repeat itself. Hou joined Beijing-based Cinda in 1999, the year it launched to assume 350 billion yuan ($42.3 billion) in bad loans from state-owned China Construction Bank and China Development Bank. The firm has since grown to 284 billion yuan in assets by collecting pennies on the dollar and restructuring and selling debt. Cinda shareholders earned 4.06 billion yuan for the six months ended June 30, 2013, a 36 percent year-over-year increase. In December the so-called bad bank raised $2.5 billion through Hong Kong’s biggest-ever IPO. Next up for Hou, 57, who’s been chairman since 2011: Cinda may capitalize on China’s slowdown by purchasing as much as 100 billion yuan more worth of distressed assets over the next two years. Backing him are ten global institutions, among them sovereign wealth fund manager Norges Bank Investment Management and U.S. hedge fund firm Och-Ziff Capital Management, that committed a combined $1.1 billion to the IPO. — Allen T. Cheng

Steven Drobny’s House of Money

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System must think Steven Drobny is onto something: He recently addressed $277 billion CalPERS’s investment committee. Long known for the research and conference operation he co-ran from Manhattan Beach, California, Drobny relaunched his own investment consulting business, Drobny Global Asset Management, in early 2013. The firm advises institutions on an atypical investment approach that emphasizes the macroeconomic environment, forward-looking thinking and risk management. Drobny, 41, began developing this framework after 2006, when he spun his connections into a book called Inside the House of Money featuring interviews with 13 top global macro managers, many of whom rarely speak publicly. In December he announced his third book, The New House of Money; before its late-2014 publication, he’s letting registered visitors download monthly interviews from his firm’s website. The first is with Kyle Bass, founder of $1.5 billion, Dallas-based hedge fund firm Hayman Capital Management. — Imogen Rose-Smith

Super Danièle Nouy

If anyone knows where the bodies are buried in European banking, it should be Danièle Nouy. The 62-year-old economist helped draft much of what became the Basel III Accord as secretary general of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision in the early 2000s and later served as France’s top banking supervisor and president of the Committee of European Banking Supervisors. In January she will take charge of the European Central Bank’s Single Supervisory Mechanism, a critical piece of Europe’s new banking union that aims to put to rest doubts about the region’s banks. Nouy is soft-spoken but revealed real teeth at a nomination hearing in the European Parliament in November, indicating she wants banks to hold capital against their government bond portfolios. “I’m delighted she is talking about abolishing the zero percent risk weighting,” says Graham Bishop, an economist and consultant on European affairs. “That is key to a stable financial system.” — Tom Buerkle

Erick Thohir: Good Sport

Erick Thohir is no amateur sports investor. In November the Indonesian media tycoon bought 70 percent of Italy’s Inter Milan soccer club for €250 million ($340 million) through the International Sports Capital consortium he heads. It’s just the latest high-profile athletic deal for Thohir, 43, the son of automotive magnate Teddy Thohir and co-founder of Jakarta-based Mahaka Group, whose properties include magazines and TV and radio stations. In 2012 he became the first Asian to own part of an NBA team when he and an investor group including Hollywood couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith took control of the Philadelphia 76ers. The new Inter Milan president, who has also launched or acquired several pro basketball teams at home, is a U.S. soccer fan too. Shortly after his 76ers investment, he and U.S. partners bought a majority stake in Major League Soccer franchise D.C. United. — A.T.C.

Tom DiNapoli’s Animal Attraction

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli wants to see cute pictures of your cat. More precisely, DiNapoli, sole fiduciary of the $160.7 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, is betting that animal-focused Internet start-up The Dodo will prosper. Launching the website is venture capitalist Kenneth Lerer, co-founder of Huffington Post and chairman of Buzzfeed, another high-profile online media property. Kerry Lauerman, former editor-in-chief of web magazine Salon, will head a team based out of the New York office of Lerer’s firm, Lerer Ventures. In November, DiNapoli, 59, announced that New York Common would invest in The Dodo as part of its $1 billion In-State Private Equity Program, aimed at making money for the pension fund and bringing jobs to New York state. — I.R.–S.

Wing Man Ramon Ang

When Typhoon Haiyan ravaged his native country in November, Ramon Ang, president and COO of food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp., dispatched a fleet of Philippine Airlines planes to bring rescuers and aid to the ruined city of Tacloban and its surrounding Visayas region. Ang, 59, is also president and COO of PAL, a post he assumed in 2012 after helping San Miguel, the Philippines’ biggest company, acquire a 49 percent stake. One of the first things he did to rebuild the struggling carrier, which lost $95 million that year, was to order 65 new aircraft. Led by billionaire chairman and CEO Eduardo (“Danding”) Cojuangco Jr., the San Miguel empire escaped damage in the recent typhoon, but it could use Ang’s help too. The Manila-based conglomerate’s net profit for the first nine months of 2013 fell 60 percent year-over-year, to 7.5 billion pesos ($172 million). — A.T.C.