The Americans were confounded. Maksat Idenov (pictured), the Harvard Business School-educated head of Kazakhstan’s state-owned oil company, had abruptly booted Guy Hollingsworth, a Chevron Corp. executive, from a meeting and from talks over a potentially lucrative deal.
A month went by before they finally figured out what had gone wrong. The executive of the California-based energy giant had been spotted playing golf in the Kazakh capital, Astana, and sunning in Spain with Idenov’s predecessor and rival, according to a Feb. 14, 2008, dispatch from the U.S. Embassy in Astana released by WikiLeaks.
“Idenov amplified his anger with Hollingsworth by explaining that Hollingsworth does not understand how we are doing business now,” said the dispatch.
The confidential dispatches from Central Asia depict a slicked-back 21st century version of the Great Game, the 19th century battle between the Russian and British empires over Central Asia’s riches. In today’s great game, diplomats and jet-set corporate executives gather business intelligence to outsmart corrupt autocrats and navigate teetering bureaucracies and make fortunes in the energy business.