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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Murder Stuns Business Community

Moscow's expatriate business circles reacted with shock Monday, as the news of maverick American entrepreneur Paul Tatum's gangland-style slaying spread through the capital.


"The incident sends a chill down the spine of anyone trying to do business here," said Peter Charow, president of the American Chamber of Commerce.


Though contract killings of business figures are fairly commonplace in the murky world of Russian business, Charow said he did not know of any cases of an American investor being killed in a similar fashion.


Tatum, who was mowed down by machine gun fire near Kievskaya metro station Sunday, had been locked in an ugly five-year dispute with his former joint venture partners at the Radisson Slavjanskaya complex.


The activities of the dead man evoked mixed opinions, but most people interviewed were of the opinion that daring to stick around and fight out his case, instead of leaving as most foreign partners prefer to do in a dispute, had cost Tatum his life.


"It's a terrible shock of course, but looking at it in retrospect, one is not really very surprised," said George Marquart, general director of Svetozor, Polaroid's joint venture in Russia.


"I think what he was doing was a very brave thing -- he was trying to make a change, a statement," said the American manager of a small business operation in Moscow. "But I think fighting the Russian mafia is almost impossible right now."


Tatum's killing has once again turned the spotlight of the business community onto the ignominious fate of many joint ventures involving Russian partners.


In the past, many jointly run enterprises, including high profile ones such as the Irish House, have fallen by the wayside, prompting speculation about the overall advisability of joint ventures.


"Right now, joint ventures are not a very popular way to do business here," said Charow, who said that while the Radisson was one of the better known instances of a JV gone wrong, "there are so many cases that haven't been so widely publicized."


Though Charow cautioned that it was too soon to conclude that Tatum's death had been the result of joint-venture operations, much of Moscow's business community believed the two were directly linked.


"You never know to what capacity Russian business is corrupt," said an accountant with one of the "Big Six" firms in Moscow. "This is an atrocity. ... The Radisson shouldn't continue their relationship with the Russian partners."


The accountant, who asked not to be named, said the incident would definitely affect foreign investment in Russia, at a time when the country's economy desperately needed foreign investment and business experience.


"Why would a foreigner want to come to Russia when not only their investment is at risk but also their life?"


Marquart, who said Polaroid had also faced problems in the past, agreed.


"Joint ventures are not the best way to do business here," he said, adding: "My advice to any foreign investors would be not to have Russian partners." But while some people viewed Tatum's defiance as a an effort to stand up for his rights, others said the businessman's flamboyant lifestyle and questionable business methods could have had a share in the tragedy.


"He was certainly never a typical case," said Peter Ekman, professor of finance at Moscow's American Institute of Business and Economics. "The high visibility and all his complaining certainly made him a lot of enemies."


"It is not just the question of a joint venture falling apart," said Charow, voicing the general opinion. "The tragedy is that a man has been killed." By Erin Arvedlund


and Sujata Rao