Mikhail S. Gorbachev got a cheering, backslapping reception from traders on the world's largest futures exchanges Thursday, and an invitation from one of them for his daughter, who is a doctor, to become an intern.
"Sell me 20,000 shares of Stoly," one trader shouted in joking reference to Russia's Stolichnaya vodka, as the former Soviet leader made his way through the elbow-to-elbow crowd on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
There were thunderous shouts of "Gorby, Gorby" as Gorbachev toured the exchange with his wife and daughter.
Gorbachev won a similar warm greeting at the Chicago Board of Trade, after which he waded into a crowd on LaSalle Street, the heart of Chicago's financial district.
He met privately with the directors of the Board of Trade, where one observer said he spoke at length about the importance of a free-market economy.
Gorbachev quizzed Mercantile Exchange Chairman Jack Sandner about whether he and his colleagues would help establish a similar exchange in Moscow. Sandner said his institution had agreed to help with a Moscow exchange but the project is still "embryonic."
Sandner later told reporters that after the ruble is converted in July, "then we'll take a look at trading it down the line."
Gorbachev, Sandner added, "said he had never seen so much youth and energy housed in one location and we invited his daughter (Irina) to come back and do an internship here.
"Then he said, 'What about my granddaughter, she's 5 years old.' I said she's invited to come back also."
Gorbachev joked that he might "confuse the issue" if he tried his hand at trading "and that will cause your collapse."
Sandner said exchanges similar to Chicago's are inevitable in Eastern Europe. "Risk travels around the world. There isn't one commercial center that will maintain its viability as an international commercial center without a risk management center," he said.
Both exchanges presented Gorbachev with Steuben crystal sculptures. The Mercantile Exchange gave him an honorary membership and a red jacket with "Perestroika Futures" emblazoned on the back and a blue and white "MG" floor badge on the front.