In this interview with John Houghtaling, we jump right into the deep questions.
What is it like to work with a Russian oligarch?
Few people know the answer to this question, especially when you consider how few true oligarchs there are in the world.
But ask renowned lawyer John Houghtaling this and you might as well have asked him what he had for breakfast, because for a man as well connected as Houghtaling is, working with powerful and influential people is just another day at the office for him.
Throughout his lengthy and successful career as an attorney, Houghtaling has negotiated some of the most lucrative international deals of all time.
This includes brokering deals between the United States and Russia, as well as representing American Ethane, a company that is the largest producer of ethane in the United States.
Of course, Houghtaling has a different perspective than most.
Instead of receiving his information regarding U.S. and Russia relations from a biased news source, he is at the heart of the action. This is why he asserts that most people are ill-informed on the international dealings between the two massive nations.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding with America and Russia,”
Houghtaling says, whose family is coincidentally half-Russian.
“Some of it is true and some of it is propaganda. Like everything, the truth is usually in the middle. The businessmen that I am associated with are extreme entrepreneurs.”
Houghtaling then adds that there is a lot that people don’t know about Russia, especially as it pertains to oligarchs and how they accumulated their vast estates.
“There is a misunderstanding about what happened in Russia. When the country fell down, there were coupons. People were entrepreneurial and bought up coupons. They bought companies, got loans and became very wealthy as a result of it,”
Houghtaling shares, making it a point to emphasize the tireless work ethic that is ingrained in so many Russians who grew up without many of the modern comforts Americans today experience.
“The Russian businessmen that I know are very hard-working. I happen to be partners with not just the wealthiest men in the world, but also the smartest men I have met in my life. They didn’t get there by accident. They got there by being very smart and working very hard.”
As mentioned, this level of work ethic is not foreign to a Russian populous that for years has dealt with abject poverty among many of its constituents.
There are some who denounce the level of wealth that Russian oligarchs possess while others are mired in financial strain, but there is little denying that the individuals who have amassed considerable wealth put in quite the effort in order to scale the economic ladder.
“Countries and populations have different traits, but there is a hard-working trait that runs through a lot of Russian people, in part because of how difficult it has been. In Russia, there are more women than there are men because of all the wars that have been fought,”
These same oligarchs are also the innovators who are seeking new opportunities, which partly explains how the New Orleans-based Houghtaling began to run in such elite circles.
“In my case, I became partners with some of these people because of the oil and gas industry, and the shale formations that we have in the United States,”
“There have been lots of reports of me being partners with former chiefs-of-staff of Putin. Some of this is true, but the investment that they were looking to do was an investment in America. I have been facilitating taking money from Russia and investing it into critical infrastructure that helps the security of the United States.”
Houghtaling’s words may come as a shock to those who hear that the United States is engaged in such affairs, but it should be noted that for more than sixty years the cost of energy has been the driving force of national security.
“The cost of energy is what makes economies grow or not grow. The United States now has the cheapest energy in the world, and we are making alliances with different countries and emerging markets on the export of that energy, and export of gas in particular,”
“This is a new thing because we used to be a net importer of oil and gas, and now we are in that exporter [category]. We are now the largest supplier of natural gas in the world.”
For all this to be possible, it took keen foresight from some of the most influential tycoons in Russia, some of whom saw opportunities that not even the moguls in the United States were able to predict.
“My partners in Russia realized that some of the stuff was changing before companies in America did, and they had a very big insight as to how the ethane portion of this works,”
“They looked at the macro markets in a way that was different. When I first became partners with them, a lot of billionaire oil and gas people from Houston looked at them [skeptically]. My partner saw things that the people in America didn’t, and I wondered why.”
That answer wouldn’t come until years later, after which Houghtaling became better-versed on the business philosophies exhibited by some Russian oligarchs, particularly in times of great duress.
“In the United States, we had a similar thing [economic shift] where the entire oil and gas industry changed with shale. All the old rules had to be thrown out, and so it was an analogous situation that my partner saw,”
Houghtaling says, in explaining how some of his clients have been able to pivot when poor circumstances arise and transition to other ventures.
While this has lined the pockets of many Russian oligarchs and also brought energy to the United States, these decisions have had a negative impact on the Russian economy back home.
Still, that hasn’t stopped the United States government from conducting business with the oligarchs.
“We’ve worked with the United States government,”
says Houghtaling of his clients.
“They [United States government] were happy that Russian oligarchs were taking money out of Russia and investing it in the United States, and in critical infrastructure that would then supply China.”
“Somebody is going to supply China. It’s either going to be Russia or it’s going to be the United States. We’re going to be supplying the energy of virtual pipelines to China.”
To hear more from John Houghtaling regarding a variety of topics, watch the video at the beginning of this blog, and don’t forget to subscribe to every Roofing Insights social media platform so you never miss any of their upcoming content!