As John Connor describes it, there have been two basic tracks in his life that led to his current gig running the Third Millennium Russia Fund (TMRFX). “One was Russia and the other was kind of mainstream corporate,” he explains. The Russia began in high school where Connor was required to study a modern language. After rejecting the big three (French, Spanish, and German) his only choice was to join a small group of students who were tackling Russian. He continued with Russian studies at Williams College and then went on to graduate school at Harvard, where his professors included Henry Kissinger.
After grad school, Connor took a job with the Nixon administration and served as deputy director of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of East-West Trade. His next career move was to Moscow, where he headed up an office of the U.S.-USSR Trade and Economic Council. “Of course, that all came to an end when the Russians invaded Afghanistan and d?tente died,” he recalls.
The sudden freeze in U.S.-Soviet relations sent Connor back into the U.S. corporate world and he became general counsel to the New York Stock Exchange Company.
When the Gorbachev regime and its policy of perestroika came to the fore in the Soviet Union, Connor was able to get back on the Russian track.
In 1993 he founded an insurance company called Rosgal, which translates as “Great America Life of Russia.” He also ran a hedge fund in the ’90s that invested initially solely in Russian government T-bills. “It was called the Tchaikovsky Fund,” Connor says. “I had a couple of partners who were pros. For a number of years it was the number-five hedge fund. I’m almost ashamed to tell you about it because ultimately it collapsed when Russia collapsed in 1998. Everybody began to buy the Russian government T-bills and the government kept relying more and more on foreign capital to finance the deficit and people were not paying their taxes, so ultimately the thing collapsed along with the economy in Russia.”
In October 1998, less than three months after the implosion of the Russian economy, Connor launched the Third Millennium Russia Fund.