Peter Owen Edmunds
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Posted 17 October 2016 - 12:24 AM
"Peter Owen Edmunds, who has died aged 57, was a former Welsh Guards officer, Falklands veteran and royal equerry who became an intrepid dealmaker in the Russian telecoms industry.
Owen Edmunds was chairman of Russian Towers, a business he established with partners in 2009 to build and own mobile phone towers, chiefly on railway land across the country from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka but also on Moscow lamp posts.
The objective was to lease the towers to network operators on monthly terms, saving them the capital costs involved. The venture overcame formidable obstacles of logistics and international capital-raising, eventually erecting more than 800 towers and signing deals with all the major players of the Russian mobile market.
Owen Edmunds’ introduction to the challenges of doing business in Russia came in 1992 when, after leaving the British Army, he became project manager and marketing director of Peterstar, a venture launched by the entrepreneur Rupert Galliers-Pratt as the first commercial mobile phone operator in St Petersburg.
He helped the company to achieve a listing on the American Nasdaq stock exchange – the first Russian-based business to do so – and to weather Russia’s financial crisis of 1998, staying with it through several changes of ownership and strategic direction.
He was Peterstar’s chairman from 1999 to 2002 and Russian regional director for Peterstar's then major shareholder, Metromedia International. Thereafter for some years he ran his own consultancy, helping to raise capital for Russian telecoms companies and advising British investors on Russian interests.
He had chosen to build a career in a business milieu in which negotiation was tortuous and contract law was far from sacrosanct – and to make a home for his young family in an apartment in St Petersburg’s historic Millionnaya Street.
In the “cowboy capitalism” phase of the Yeltsin era, St Petersburg attracted a colourful cast of Russian wheeler-dealers and expatriate venturers – among whom Owen Edmunds stood out for his soldierly straightforwardness and decency, as well as knowledge of his industry and a network of high-level connections.
As a member of the governor of St Peterburg’s committee on investment, he served alongside several future ministers and was the only non-Russian delegate in its mission to London in 1998.
Some years before that he had accompanied another up-and-coming city official on a visit to British sites of interest: this was Vladimir Putin, whom Owen Edmunds recalled as a monosyllabic travelling companion.
No friendship ensued, but Owen Edmunds believed that if he ever found himself under the kind of mortal threat experienced by some foreign businessmen in Russia, he might have “one phone call to the Kremlin” to get him out of trouble.
The son of a Welsh Guards officer, Peter Owen Edmunds was born in London on January 21 1959 and educated at Harrow. He was commissioned into 1st Bn Welsh Guards in 1981 after studying politics at Durham University on an Army scholarship.
The battalion sailed for the Falkland Islands as part of 5th Infantry Brigade. Owen Edmunds was with his platoon waiting to disembark from the landing ship Sir Galahad off Fitzroy on June 7 1982 when the vessel was attacked by Argentinian aircraft. Fire surged through the decks; 32 Welsh Guardsmen were among the dead, and many others suffered terrible burns."
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