blog: Childhood business runs into trouble |

blog: Childhood business runs into trouble

Vitaliy Katsenelson
Vail CO, Colorado

When I was in the third grade, growing up in Murmansk, a city above the Polar Circle in (then) communist Russia, my buddy and I decided to start a business.

We pooled our modest funds (mostly lunch money), bought photo paper and chemicals, and borrowed my older brother’s photo camera and photo development machine. This was in the early 1980s, a time before scanners, laser printers and copying machines. We took pictures of music record covers from the likes of Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull and Kiss, developed those pictures and sold them in school during breaks.

The business was going well, we were onto something, there was nothing like this available. We recouped our costs, and had a small profit, until one dark day (it was always dark during long sunless winters in Murmansk). My buddy and I were taken into the principal’s office. We were told a student stole money from another student, and when he was caught he said he stole money to buy our pictures. Suddenly, with this twisted logic we were at fault. Never mind that we were breaking copyright laws. There was no way in early 1980s to obtain copyright, even if we wanted to. We created the incentive to steal.

My father unapologetically told the principal that we were as much at fault as the movie industry and toy retailers ” the creators of incentives. Of course, none of that mattered. To appease the school authorities I donated my profit to the World Peace Fund (still not sure where that money went, maybe ended the Cold War? Nah, I doubt it). My buddy and I received an “F” for the behavior, which was not a big downgrade for me since I rarely got a grade much above “C” for behavior.

Bank of America – The Contrarian

I welcome the Bank of America (BAC) acquisition of Countrywide (CFC), as for the first time as I can remember BAC acts as a contrarian investor. I really don’t know what CFC is worth but I know it is worth more in BAC’s hands than as a standalone company. BAC will be able to provide CFC with liquidity and staying power to survive through the current crisis. In other words it brings continuity to the table (customers and partners that were having second thoughts about dealing with CFC are likely to stick around now).

I am applauding this deal because typically these are done at the top of the market, but BAC found a restraint to wait till things went to hell. Yes, it was early with its first purchase, but picking bottoms is not easy, even for almighty BAC.

Kindest regards,

Vitaliy Katsenelson’s blog can be seen at

Note: I was interviewed by BusinessWeek, here is a link .

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