tv Studio 1.0 Bloomberg January 3, 2015 12:00pm-12:31pm EST
he is one of russia most passionate cyclists. he is also one of its most prolific, patriotic, and outspoken businessman. you have to go. >> he is happy to weigh in on the extreme of russian business. in the u.s., he would have died already. even in an aggressive environment. we finally got him in the chair. >> you are american, i am russian.
we will never get along anyway. ask your provocative questions. my conversation with a siberian tycoon. >> you are american, i am russian. we would never get along anyway. up on electric -- eclectic set of businesses. now you have a bank. where did you get the idea to start a bank? idea.lways have an the first time i got my credit card, it was in singapore. i got a citibank gold card. i was shocked at the plastic. it was so sexy. a credit card was more than a credit card. >> status symbol. it because of the car.
i was originally declined. i said, i have a credit card. the police officer was like, you have a credit card, wow. all of us thought the credit card business was very lucrative and interesting. russia is huge. it is 40% integrated. >> what is your background? siberia, was working in the mine. my mother -- father was working 40 years and i was working for one year. i went to the army and was in kgb for two years, but i was a soldier. i used the opportunities. do.e were a lot of forms to
it.y to help them to sell that's where my business started. you have to be really stupid in russia if you are 20 and you don't make money. anybody can make money, because the government collapse. you can take profit off of something and make money on it. i was in the right time at the right place. >> is it still that way in russia? it seems like it is a very different time. >> that's why my kids are now in the u.k. collegeter is in king's . my boys are in oxford school. now in russia, it is much more difficult.
>> it is still easier to make money in the u.s.? >> much more. you have to have capital now. you have to have an idea. you have to have courage. there is still a lot of opportunity. maybe three or four or five times easier to make money in russia than elsewhere in the west. it is already more challenging. >> you are one of russia passed biggest businessma -- russia's biggest businessmen. >> as a businessman, -- as an entrepreneur, maybe i am top 10. >> when people think about russia and business, they think of oligarchs. >> and that's the difference between entrepreneur and businessman in russia.
there are oligarchs and businessman. -- businessmen. there are entrepreneurs that have nothing to do with the budget or the government. there are not a lot of them. in this respect, i am big. >> when you were talking about the 1990's and saying it was so easy to make money, the impression most people have the 1990's, it was the wild west, chicago in the 1930's, russia in the 1990's. were you ever threatened? >> i was. i think there are a lot of generations on this. especially in st. petersburg.
was the capital of the criminal -- criminals in russia. you couldgh, but avoid it. there are certain businesses you don't have to go, like oil, prostitution, drugs. i was in trading always, so who cares. it is still the same. >> people talk about the guardians of the state -- private business. >> when you talk about big business or sources of easy money, drugs, prostitution, whatever -- before, it was criminals or gangs. now it is the government, in a way.
money toshould pay the do business. , ever pay the money. i never paid bandits or gangs. >> you've never paid a bribe? >> never. i pay my taxes and do my business. there are two businesses in russia. there is great business -- gray business and real business. in real business, you don't have to do that. >> why would you go there? we would never do it. >> is it harder for a foreigner to make money in russia than for a russian? it can change so dramatically. this is a very difficult place to do business. that's why it is profitable.
that's what it is. that's russia. >> it means unpredictability for business. what does it mean for russians? >> it doesn't mean much. they are in a great ruble environment. not much has changed, unless they are importing foreign product. in russia, they do not consume a lot of foreign products. it is more or less ok. ones who hits the travel abroad for holidays or to europe. russians and italians -- what happened? it is a tiny fraction of people that are traveling abroad. huge when you see them in the supermarket in milan, but
very tiny for russia. 10% of the people traveling abroad. >> what bothers you about the decline in the price of oil? >> before, there were sanctions. it doesn't really matter for us. we had nothing to do with it. and then it was economic slowdown. now, it is a real threat. because oil price, i think, will cause unemployment, because russian economy, especially, is tied to the oil price. a lot of export companies. , thenk that people now ones that love the job, they start to default on their credit. that's my business. defaultsifficult -- and bad loans go up.
i think that will price really could affect my bank -- built will price -- i think the oil price could really affect my bank. we will get away from it will needle -- from the oil needle. >> we have seen the price of oil all before -- will fall -- the price of oil fall before. >> but i didn't see changes in the russian structure of the economy. some people believe the structure of the russian economy will change because of the oil price. -- i think we will just suffer for a couple of years, we , as the russian economy. >> it's interesting you mention unemployment. unemployment is something russia hasn't had very much of at all
since the collapse of the soviet union. price, i'm sure it will happen. we will make a decent amount of money this year and next year, price will make unemployment, and unemployment will create further pressure on the russian consumer sector, including banking. in such an environment, it is very difficult to work as a businessman. you cannot make a business plan in this climate. things change so quickly and dramatically. this is a very difficult place to do business. that's why it is profitable. there is risk-reward. it is much more risky, but it is much more rewarding. there is more competition, plus, it is unpredictable. >> it sounds very negative.
>> it is normal for russia. if it would have been in the u.s., you would have died already. we live in an aggressive environment. >> you said you don't care about the sanctions. what do you think about them? >> it looks stupid. i don't know what they want to achieve from it. >> they say they want to punish president putin to change his policy in ukraine. >> i think they punish more .usinesses than president putin i think he's got even greater support in russia. i think his popularity went up after those sanctions. the businesses suffer. maybe less american businesses,
but still. i don't think it is a smart idea, but i'm no politician. >> do you buy the idea that we hear a lot of in russia, that the sanctions are actually good for russia, because it forces russian businesses to make all the stuff that russia was buying from other countries? >> i've heard of this opinion, but i don't like it. i don't like this idea. i think russia deserves to be integrated to the world. now it's a global economy. we are in the global world. i cannot understand -- i see the soviet union part from the world, but how can you see russia to be separated? microsoft offices or whatever. all of the major companies, like coca-cola, we are so much integrated now, the world and russia. i cannot see how we can separate those. forme, it is sort of absurd
a politician to try to play -- i don't understand. i think it is too late. russia got so much integrated into the world. how can you now punish russia economically without -- without punishing yourself? >> do you think things are actually going to get better? everything we've seen in terms of the relationship between russia and -- >> i am very optimistic. i was a bit negative on the economy, on oil price, but i am still very positive. a lot of my colleagues in russia are very pessimistic about russia. we have to go to london in all this. i don't share this opinion. i think russia is a huge market and a great place to make money. it is unpredictable, sure. it is bumpy, but it is good.
maybe isan government not the most sophisticated government in the world, but i don't see any crazy things going on there. >> what is it that the west doesn't understand about vladimir putin? >> there are some people that think russia wants to go to baltic countries and the balkans , poland. myth.s such a it is impossible. you talk to anybody in russia. we don't even think about that. we would never even go to ukraine, not talking about the other countries. >> that is a very arguable point. >> that russians would go to baltic countries -- americans -- it is a myth. land.e enough
we have the biggest country in the world. we have so much land. ukraine.ntioned certainly, the west is very concerned about russia going into ukraine. what is it the west doesn't understand about russia and russia, >> moscow and we don't need to occupy ukraine or make it part of russia. nobody wants that. we want them to be neutral. they speak our language, they are our brothers. we want them to be neutral. we see them as a buffer between the western world and the russian world, like finland. we want them to be like finland, that'sutral, befriends, the way russian elites see them, ukraine. it is neutral. it is a buffer. you have poland, the baltic countries, but you put nato and missiles -- this is ukraine.
>> maybe they want to be americans. >> they want to have the same roles. they want to have the same lives when they go to europe and see the beautiful life, but that's not what they're going to have. they want to have the same picture in ukraine, but it's not going to happen. estonia is part of e.u. thanare even more poor they used to be as part of the soviet union. the mother of my wife is getting a pension of 200 euro per month as a pension. the finland pensioner would get 1000 euro. countryld be the same -- why would be the same country
in the e.u. get five times the pension? [indiscernible] i agree with you they don't want to be russian, and that is clear for many reasons. is not as good as american pr. russia is not the best country, but our pr is terrible. >> when you sit on facebook that you were ready to sign up as a soldier and go to crimea, was that a joke? to beit comes that i need signed as a soldier to defend my own country, i will do that. >> but crimea is part of ukraine. >> it is all part of russia. it is russian territory. >> coming up, we talk professional cycling. of -- are a proud owner
the bicycle? >> it is much more than that. >> and you're going to do it cleanly? >> i have owned the team for years. i owned the team now for two years. i was a sponsor one year, and now i own the team. i've never had any doping cases on my team, none, zero, nil. and again, listen, we are talking about the sanctions. further and me share prices climb even more and then tcs bank, tinkoff bank suffers, then i cut my sponsorship. as owner of the team, i can find substitute sponsors in europe. if not, i would have to shut down the team.
there is a direct impact. i have 80 employees. 14 nationalities, 80 people getting high salaries right now because of me and because of the tinkoff bank in russia. so, you see how we are -- >> interconnected. >> 80 people in europe would lose their jobs because of the sanctions. i don't know what they are doing. we are all connected now. >> they don't seem to care, do they? they seem to be convinced that this is an important point to make, even if it is economically painful. we are constantly hearing them say that they understand this is not good for the german economy, but they are going to do it anyway because they don't like russia's policies. >> they are nobody. they are so american. they follow americans.
[indiscernible] it is russia and the u.s. who cares about germany? >> most people would put china into the mix. >> china is there. china is obviously there and it is growing. americans, i would be more concerned about china's in russia, but they try to put russia -- about china than russi a, but they try to push russia. >i am so much obsessed, or so much in love with obama and his administration, for their internal policy. it is genius. gdp is growing. you have recovered from the credit cycle. brilliant. but what they do externally is a sort of disaster. and the russian administration -- it is so good for the external policy, but he is disastrous for the internal economy.
>> he wrote one of the most famous lines in hollywood history. >> i want the truth. >> you can't handle the truth. >> "a few good men" catapulted aaron sorkin from starving actor to celebrated screenwriter, producer, truth-teller, and conflicted character creator. he went on to bring us "the west wing," "moneyball," "the social network," and, most recently, "the newsroom" on hbo. with a steve jobs biopic coming soon. joining me today on "studio 1.0," emmy, golden globe, and academy award winner, aaron sorkin. aaron, thank you so much for being here. >> it's my pleasure. >> it's great to have you.