People: The privatization club
They are politicians, bankers, bureaucrats and academics. They range from British cabinet ministers, to Hungarian lawyers, to Wall Street investment bankers. But the number of individuals who have had a decisive influence on the course of world privatization since 1980 is surprisingly limited. Steven Irvine and other Euromoney journalists pick out 14 stars of privatization and visit its spiritual home, NM Rothschild.
"I was the founding father," says John Redwood, the former government minister who fought UK premier John Major in a Conservative leadership election last summer. "I was the pioneer who told them it could be done."
It's privatization the one-time Oxford university historian claims to have invented. Drinking a cup of coffee in a couple of quick gulps, he offers some evidence. "I wrote a series of articles in the 1970s setting out why we had to introduce private capital and I took the case to Margaret [Thatcher] who was then leader of the opposition." He explained his ideas to her at a lunch in 1978: "She combined a gleam in her eye with profound caution," he recalls.
After teaching at Oxford, Redwood had joined investment bank NM Rothschild where he wrote Public Enterprise in Crisis, published in 1980. Researching the book crystallized his thoughts and steered his course towards politics. He was appointed an adviser in Thatcher's Number 10 Policy Unit after she came to power in 1979.
Redwood's research on state-owned industries in the UK pinpointed trading performance, costs of external financing to the government, what bits could be privatized, and the attitude of the government.