Few people have lived through more exciting adventures than Alexei Leonov, a forme r Cosmonaut and two-time recipient of the Hero of the Soviet Union honorary title. On 18 March 1965, during a mission on Voskhod 2, he became the first man to “walk” in space, spending 12 minutes outside his ship. Ten years later, on 17 July 1975, he performed an even more astonishing stunt, docking his spacecraft Soyuz onto America's Apollo and greeting Astronaut Tom Stafford with a handshake through the open hatch.

Today Leonov, who is 73 and still lives in Space City, the famous training facility for Cosmonauts near Moscow, tends to keep his feet on Planet Earth. However, shaking hands is still an important part of what he does. As a partner at Baring Vostok, one of Russia's leading private equity firms, Leonov spends much of his time cultivating relationships with regulators and local politicians in parts of Russia where the firm's portfolio companies are based.

Says Michael Calvey, a fellow partner of Leonov's in Baring Vostok: “He is an extraordinarily famous and popular figure in Russia who can open almost any door. As a member of our advisory committee, he aims to make sure the mayors and governors he meets are with us rather than against us.”

Baring Vostok is of course not the only private equity firm to recognise the value of a good lobbyist. But we can't think of many that count a more highly decorated and widely travelled individual among their ranks.