By John Helmer in Moscow
According to the Chinese tradition, the original Budai (aka Laughing Buddha) was an eccentric Zen Buddhist monk. He lived in the Fenghua province during the Late Liang Dynasty in the first years of the 10th century. His name translates into English as “Promise this”.
It is said about him that he used to collect pennies from adults to put in his bag, and then invest the money to buy sweets for children. As no audited financials or bankruptcy court records survive from the time, there is no telling what Budai promised, how much he spent on himself or salted away, and whether he took in more than he gave out. There is a fragment of a contemporaneous parchment, in which a confectionery manufacturer appears to be complaining that someone he trusted had taken his goods, but not paid for them.
In Chinese folklore Budai’s reputation is untarnished. It is believed that rubbing his belly brings wealth, good luck, and contentment. This also carries a religious idea that was hardly Zen in Budai’s time – take the money, feel good.
Ever since Budai’s time, it has been customary for the rich to make statues of themselves with the invitation to others to rub the belly spot if they too want good fortune. The Hong Stock Exchange is one of many markets around the world where the idea that picking and rubbing the right belly will make a lot of profit, a lot of contentment. Of course, you can’t blame Budai for one of the classic public relations devices that preceded him, and succeeded him – the idea that fortune is earned by skill or luck, and not by deceit or crime.
Among the Russians who have amassed famously large bags of pennies and jars of lollies, there have been security issues with the belly-button rubbing invitation. Endowing public games, like football teams, has been one of their substitutes. Others have endowed business schools and pseudo-religions.
One well-known Moscow banker transformed his early tendency towards organic food fetishism and Swiss mountain water into a full-blown scientological-type doctrine. This requires the bank’s senior managers to believe that success and wealth are indicators of moral superiority, the keys to which are inside the boss’s pocket. A certain cleansing of the bank’s top management has resulted. “Those who do not share my views can quit”, the scientological bank owner has declared. “We can do without them.” He treats the bank’s interim financial reports as a regular sign that they can be done without. Nonetheless, he takes care not to let the bank’s public shareholders get an inkling of what’s going on, in case they might believe differently.
In the early days of Oleg Deripaska’s indebtedness, one of the City of London banks was doing its standard due diligence on what title to cargoes of aluminium it could take as security for the loan that Deripaska was applying for on behalf of his Sibirsky Aluminy (later to become Rusal), just in case he defaulted — and pressing his belly button failed to return the money. That was when the London bank discovered that Deripaska moved his metal between a great many companies, some with almost the same names, but differing from each other by their place of registration. If Deripaska had defaulted, the bank’s Risk Committee decided, catching the metal as it moved might be very difficult.
The names and purposes of these parallel companies can be found in the court dossiers of a great many litigations of claims against Deripaska and the companies in the Rusal group. One of the more complicated schemes of these companies is known in court testimony as the Radom Scheme . The testimony in the court cases in the UK, Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands and other places has been that the parallelism is intended to confuse, possibly deceive. Deripaska responds that he is innocent of everything but the envy of those less successful than he is.
In Hong Kong, where Deripaska sells his Rusal shares on the Hong Kong stock market each day, he has applied his skill at parallelograms in announcing a lecture he is giving today at the University of Science and Technology. According to the leaflets, Deripaska has been invited to speak on the lessons of his life by the Institute for Advanced Study.
That’s the name of one of the most famous research centres in the world. But it is located in Princeton, New Jersey – and Deripaska has not been allowed a US visa to be there. Today’s Institute for Advanced Study is in Hong Kong; it is the creation of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. In June, Deripaska presented the university with a check for $1.5 million — American, not Hong Kong dollars. As the illustration indicates, the money is be handed out over five years, making each year’s payment $500,000.
This Institute for Advanced Study has agreed for this money to provide scholarships for exchanges of Russian and Hong Kong students; conduct research into the possibilities of a “pre-insulated fibre reinforced aluminium envelope and roof system”; and in conjunction with Rusal’s “President’s Forum”, to invite “some of the world’s most renowned speakers to Hong Kong. International politicians, businessmen, scholars and scientists will give a series of lectures, sharing their success stories and solutions for global challenges.” So long as noone flies business class, $500,00 may just about be enough for the yearly costs.
And the first inaugural lecture comes free – it’s Deripaska’s personal presentation entitled: “THE POWER OF FOCUS: Turning Opportunity into Success”.
So what are the principles of the man the Rusal website describes as having “built a multinational diversified industrial holding across 25 countries with 250,000 employees”? You don’t have to be a student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to find out. Rusal has arranged for you to apply for a live webcast , and even to rub the golden belly for good fortune by asking your own questions.
Here for the first time in public, untainted by lawyers, journalists, public relations agents, lobbyists, security agents, or by the rules of evidence  of the UK High Court are the six principles of Deripontology:
1) Set your target
As a student from a small, distant Russian village, Mr Deripaska navigated his way in a country that was going through tumultuous transition and radical change. That change resulted in the collapse of ideology, a centrally planned economy, and ultimately people’s dreams and ambitions. But with that came new opportunities, particularly for those who dared to think independently.
2) Think globally and be ambitious
Is it possible to turn one production unit into a global leading multinational company in 12 years? It was determination that enabled Mr Deripaska to transform the Russian aluminium industry from its moribund state of the early 1990s into the largest, most competitive, aluminium producing region in the world.
3) Learn from others, create your own path
Application of the world’s best management practices, introduction of foreign technologies and the development of Russia’s own production tools helped to transform a decaying car plant, GAZ, into the home of the country’s leading diversified car manufacturer. This holding now produces a diverse range of vehicles and sets the benchmark for the Russian automotive industry.
4) Choose the right people and trust them
Trusting those to whom you must delegate is essential for a successful business. Mr Deripaska will explain how he transformed the mindset of his staff, who were born in a deferential era and lacked the understanding of a free-market economy, into a competitive and efficient team.
5) Always look forward and create opportunities
Energy is a key driver for those growing economies that provide a high standard of living. Access to a renewable energy source will help you to lead the world and being a force for innovation in this sector will multiply your opportunities. Oleg Deripaska is a Physics graduate from the Moscow State University and has a dream to develop peaceful nuclear energy. He and his team are working on the creation of a 4th generation nuclear reactor – a revolutionary development in power which would open new horizons for industrial development in regions currently cut off from traditional power sources.
6) Measure your success by what really matters
When setting out to achieve your desired results and when setting new goals one must consider the social mission and heritage that you leave for future generations. It is through investment in new technology, science and culture, through constructing production facilities, through creating new cities with high living standards and new opportunities for their residents, charity and social investments that you will be proud of your achievements and your historic legacy.