Bruce Misamore was sitting around in his Houston home in late 2000, taking what he calls a "mind-career break." He had been senior vice president/finance at PennzEnergy Co., which had been acquired by Devon Energy Corp. in 1999, and considered himself semi-retired. He knew he wanted to resume working, but the jobs he was looking at--"CFO-type jobs in the oil industry"--didn't get his juices flowing.
Then he fielded a call from the former CEO at PennzEnergy, telling him about a CFO job in, of all places, Moscow. Not Idaho--Russia. Most American executives probably would have laughed off the idea--the vodka and caviar are the world's best, but actually living there?--yet Misamore was intrigued. The more the veteran oil company finance guy heard, the more interested he got.
"Our kids were grown, and my wife and I thought this would be very interesting," he said in a lengthy interview from the Moscow office of YUKOS Oil Co., a huge Russian company where he is CFO and deputy chairman of the management committee. "I wanted something very dynamic and interesting, frankly, to get me back in the workplace. YUKOS was a turnaround company, but management was focused on Westernization, and it had a very clean balance sheet with very little debt."
And so, in February 2001, Misamore and his wife packed up and moved to Moscow--prompting considerable fretting from people who knew them. "When I first came here, all of our friends and family were saying, 'How are you going to survive?' They had images of bread lines, but let me assure you, Moscow is far, far from that. It's one of the most dynamic and sophisticated cities in the world, and it's in a very obvious growth mode. It compares favorably to other capital cities of Europe.
"It's also a very easy place to live. I lived in London from 1979 to '83, and it compares more favorably than living in London."
YUKOS was Misamore's first CFO post, but he had worked in senior-level finance jobs for many years. Prior to joining PennzEnergy, the 52-year-old was vice president/finance and treasurer at PennzOil Co., and had spent 17 years before that at Marathon Oil Co., including a stint as treasurer of its United Kingdom operations.
Not only did Moscow seem hospitable, he says, but YUKOS was in many ways on par with a European company. An amalgam of former state-run oil companies pieced together in the early 1990s and then privatized--its name derives from a lengthy and almost unpronounceable series of place names...