How RenCap reflects Russia’s rollercoaster

Elliot Wilson
Published on:

The outrageous swings in fortune of Renaissance Capital over the past 20 years are the stuff of Hollywood legend. But what’s the next instalment for the Moscow-based investment bank? Out of Africa? Or just back to being The Russia House?

Has there ever been an investment bank quite like Renaissance Capital? Over the past two decades, the Moscow-based outfit has gone from zero to hero and back again twice, ploughed a (not always profitable) furrow in Africa, and entertained grand ambitions of being a truly global emerging-market operator.

It flirted – or was flirted with – on a regular basis by larger suitors, regularly rebuffing their advances until, at the height of the financial crisis, Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Group made the hobbled brokerage an offer it couldn’t refuse. Its return to form in the mid-2000s and its subsequent decline neatly mirrors the waxing and waning of Russia under its president, Vladimir Putin.

Through it all, the bank has remained committed to a pair of dynamics ever-present since its formation in 1995. First, a sense of adventure shared with old-style merchant banks that still lingers. Second, an identity crisis almost...