I was an American running a British joint venture in the former Soviet Union with offices in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Riga, Latvia. My partners in Riga were all of Russian descent whose parents had arrived during Soviet occupation of that small and gentle country. After three years of our operation, I discovered that my partners had been taking our joint venture concepts and opening up businesses competitive to the one we jointly ran. In retribution, with the assistance of my assistant, Veronica, I engineered a Board of Directors decision to take them out of any control of our joint enterprise and folded their errant business into our own. (See “The Hostile Takeover”)They were not happy.
My office was the company’s largest and included a conference area which I invited my associates to use whenever I was away.
One morning, I arrived late from the overnight train from Saint Petersburg and our elderly Latvian building engineer asked to see me, but on the street outside.
I joined him and he explained the reason for his unusual request.
His son, who lived with him in the basement of the building, the afternoon before, had been fiddling with his ham radio trying to find a particular elusive frequency, when he heard familiar voices speaking in Russian and, as he stopped the tuning to hear what was being said, heard, “I think we should put Jack Byrne in the hospital for 6 months and rape Veronica.”
Investigation uncovered a radio bug in the wall of my office, one that would be picked up within a range of 200 meters from the source. I recalled that the husband of one of my Latvian partners had served as a KGB spy for 20 years until the break up of the Soviet Union. We never found the pick up point but it could have been in-house or in a van parked outside the building.
We simply removed the bug and never called those engaged in the bugged conversation and, when I called Veronica who was to follow me to Riga the next day, and asked her if she would, for safety’s sake, rather not come to Riga, she replied, “If we Russians fought as brutally as we talked, we would have conquered the world.”
She came. Life went on. Nobody was fired.