By Robert P. Smith '62
with Peter Zheutlin
In the mid-1980s, Robert P. Smith, a young, brash economic mercenary, traveled to war-torn El Salvador looking to make money trading dollar-denominated government bonds. As an American, he had to remain innocuous and virtually invisible while traveling the dangerous streets of San Salvador. Then one morning, he was shaken out of bed by an explosion at the Sheraton Hotel, just blocks from where he was staying. Not only did he escape with his life, he had just managed to make a killing -- within a matter of days, he was able to buy and sell $3 million of these bonds at an impressive mark-up. But there was a catch. Smith's buyer would only pay in colones, the local currency. To realize his profit, Smith would then have to enter the shadowy world of the cambista, or money changer.
Today, Smith is a certified legend in the world of finance. Part adventurer and part economic warrior, this Indiana Jones of the financial world has spent more than thirty years traveling through five continents buying and selling high-risk securities in the world's most derelict and downtrodden economies. So tenuous was his operation and so covert the transactions that an overnight fluctuation in a country's currency rate could mean the difference between a spectacular profit and a devastating loss. Throughout his career, he has made and lost tens of millions of dollars by investing in economies wracked by war, revolution, and corruption. Today, the trade in emerging market debt is worth more than five billion dollars a day, but it was virtually nonexistent when Smith -- a one-time collections lawyer in a rumpled, cheap seersucker suit, bow-tie, and a bad toupee -- pioneered the business in the late 1970s.
Riches Among the Ruins is the extraordinary story of Robert Smith's ability to utilize his impeccable instincts and incredible knowledge of the global economy to make big money doing the riskiest kind of business. As he races through the streets of Baghdad after the fall of Saddam, the wheels and deals on the streets of Vietnam, and loses more than $15 million dollars in one day in post-communist Russia, we travel with him on the precarious, treacherous, and exhilarating world of the debt trader. As he negotiates with unseemly businessmen on the streets of Istanbul, ducks shakedown artists in Nigeria, and alternately charms and infuriates corporate big shots in Guatemala, we experience all of the thrill and terror that accompanies making big money in the third world. At once adrenaline-fueled and utterly compelling, this is the gripping story of one man's quest for fortune where others fear to tread.
- From the jacket.
Model #: WBA155