A prominent European private-equity executive has quit the advisory board of a Russian-owned investment fund, increasing the pressure on his peers to do the same.
Kurt Björkland, the co-managing partner of Permira, left the board earlier this month, the firm said. The Russian Direct Investment Fund still boasts a number of industry titans, however, including Apollo Global Management’s Leon Black, Blackstone Group’s Stephen Schwarzman, TPG Capital’s David Bonderman, Apax Partners’ Martin Halusa and Warburg Pincus’ Joseph Schull. Former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who now runs a hedge fund, is listed as a member of the RDIF’s supervisory board.
In spite of pressure from U.S. leaders and sanctions against Russia in the wake of its annexation of the Ukraine’s Crimea region earlier this year, the p.e. chieftans have resisted stepping down, possibly for fear of antagonizing Russia and imperiling their investments in the country. RDIF’s parent company, Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank, is among the firms subject to western sanctions.
“I’d be surprised if there are any Western private-equity fund managers on the board by the end of the year,” William Browder, CEO of hedge fund Hermitage Capital Management, told The Wall Street Journal. Browder, whose arrest is sought by Russia over alleged tax fraud—charges he says were brought on by Hermitage’s own allegations of official corruption—added, “nobody in the West wants to align themselves publicly with Vladimir Putin anymore, and I am sure they are looking for an elegant way out.”