As the founding president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Jacques Attali became the “lender of first and only resort” for property investors in Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Without his leadership, many real estate projects in the former Soviet bloc countries—now one of the hotspots for private equity investors—arguably would not have come to fruition. According to one industry observer, Attali oversaw an organization that was “motivated not only by money but by recreating the market and promoting technology transfer into” a region badly in need of capital.
Attali, the one-time right hand man of former French president Francois Mitterand, is often credited as one of the great financial thinkers of his generation. However, described by one person who dealt with him as “grandiose in how he operated,” Attali's extravagance also proved his downfall. Amid criticism about the money he lavished on the EBRD's London headquarters, Attali was forced to step down from the organization that was his brainchild. By then, however, the EBRD had already financed several of the earliest development projects in Central and Eastern Europe, including the Warsaw Financial Tower.
Nowadays Attali is hoping to recreate the development boom he instigated while at the EBRD, running PlaNet Finance, a not-forprofit organization that provides advice and finance to micro-credit agencies in 60 countries.