Euromoney gets through to Simon Murray, executive chairman of GEMS Management & Investment, while he's pulling tyres behind him over the French countryside two hours east of Bordeaux. It's not, as one French joker suggested, because he has lost his car. Murray is in training to walk unaided to the South Pole. At 64, the former French Foreign Legion paratrooper is hoping to become the oldest man ever to do so.
Striking out on his own is not something new for Murray. The former chairman for Deutsche Bank Asia and ex-group managing director for Hutchison Wampoa decided to go it alone in 1998. With Asia in turmoil and investors punch drunk it was perhaps not the most obvious time to set up a private-equity fund-management group. Other private-equity players had ploughed millions into the region only to see it quickly evaporate. And as Murray himself puts it: "I was battling against the thought process of those who were saying 'we just poured $2 million into Asia and now we are broke'.