Emory Report
January 22, 2008
Volume 60, Number 16

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January 22, 2008
Republic of Georgia draws top official from Emory rolls

By Carol clark

Lado Gurgenidze was a standout student when he earned his MBA at Emory in 1993. His academic mentor, Jeff Rosensweig, believed that big things lay ahead for the ambitious young man from the Republic of Georgia, and he was right. After making his mark in international business, Gurgenidze was chosen as prime minister of Georgia in November.

“Lado not only picks up things very quickly, he thinks very deeply,” says Rosensweig, associate professor of finance in the Goizueta Business School. “He could research, analyze issues and write more quickly and productively than most students. This is serving him very well now, because he stepped into a crisis situation in Georgia and has had to draft many speeches and policy documents in real-time.”

A former member of the Soviet Union, Georgia is located on the Black Sea and bordered by Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. While Georgia is small and has limited natural resources, the country enjoys a rich culture and a strategic position in the Caucasus: pipelines across Georgia connect huge oil and gas reserves to ports on the Black Sea.

Emory’s long relationship with Georgia includes an exchange program with Tbilisi State University dating back to 1989. Among the early participants were Tamuna Mosashvili Shengelia, a Robert W. Woodruff Scholar and granddaughter of former President Eduard Shevardnadze, who received degrees in anthropology and law from Emory.

Gurgenidze also came to Emory through the exchange program. After graduating, he worked in New York and London before returning to his homeland to direct the Bank of Georgia, a private-sector institution.

“Lado grew the Bank of Georgia beyond anyone’s expectations,” says Rosensweig. “He established quite a reputation, not just in Georgia, but throughout Western and Eastern Europe. I had always known of his tremendous intellect but I was so pleased to see him grow into an ethical and superb leader.”

Georgia’s parliament approved Gurgenidze as prime minister in November, after political unrest moved President Mikheil Saakashvili to make changes in his government and call for snap elections. Gurdenidze promised lawmakers that he would deliver a budget surplus for Georgia in 2009, establish an international finance center and address the needs of vulnerable populations in the country.

Ken Walker, a professor in the School of Medicine, who for 15 years has directed a consortium of Atlanta institutions — including Emory — that is helping Georgia develop its health care system, believes Gurgenidze has what it takes to help the country move to the next level.

“Lado is bright, he’s charismatic and he’s committed,” says Walker, who also served as a mentor to Gurgenidze. “He’s been an immensely successful businessman, and now he’s taking all his abilities and moving into the political arena.”