Michel Amsalem was born in Algeria in 1947 into a proud Sephardic Jewish family. Much of the Jewish population in Algeria was able to assimilate into French culture — which became prevalent after France took control of Algeria in 1830 — further separating them from the Muslim pre-French population. In 1962, Algeria gained independence from France, making it difficult for families, such as the Amsalems, to stay. Because Amsalem’s father worked for the French government, they moved to Paris. In 1971, Amsalem immigrated to the U.S. to study in the MBA program of Columbia University; in 1972, he began his doctorate in business administration at Harvard Business School. While working on his thesis, he also began consulting for the World Bank — and, in 1975, he was offered a position as an economist for the Africa region for the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank.
Amsalem moved back to NYC in 1979, after accepting an offer to teach at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He was then approached by Citibank in 1985 to start its Structured Finance Department. He left Citibank in 1991 with a group of colleagues to start the investment bank for Latin America and Eastern Europe of Banque Indosuez, embracing the opportunity to live in France and England. But, in 1995, he decided to return to the United States because the operations of this new investment bank were seriously impaired by the impact of a French real estate crisis. Back in the U.S., Amsalem worked with Alan Patricof to start Patricof Emerging Markets. He was in charge until 1999, when the venture was sold along with other Patricof group operations to the Bank of New York. Thus, Amsalem began teaching courses in business strategy as an adjunct professor in the Executive MBA program of Columbia University.
Then, in 2002, Amsalem decided to launch his own hedge fund that focused on the financing of small and micro-cap listed companies in the high technology area. Through the management company Midsummer Capital, Amsalem continues to manage this fund. While Amsalem fondly recalls Algeria, he states that his country, as he knew it, is entirely different. He believes the U.S.’ strength lies in its diversity — and in its historical tolerance of this diversity. He only hopes the U.S. and its people continue to embrace such diversity.