The disappearance of a Russian hedge fund founder -- and the missing $20 million in fund accounts -- has those he left behind seeking answers.
Employees of Blackfield Capital CJSC -- once one of Moscow’s hottest hedge funds -- want to know the whereabouts of founder and CEO, Kim Karapetyan, 29, who vanished sometime in October.
It was mid-October when three men charged into Blackfield’s offices in a luxury complex in Moscow, former employees told The Wall Street Journal. The unidentified men said they were looking for Karapetyan, who was not in the office that day, and has not showed up there since.
Senior executives of the fund had to explain to the 50-person staff that all the money in company accounts -- some $20 million, including investor cash -- was gone, so there was no way to pay their salaries.
It’s not clear whether investors in the fund were all Russian or from other countries.
“Our CEO just …disappeared,” Sergey Grebenkin, one of the firm’s software developers, told the Journal.
Karapetyan had received attention in the investment community for his expensive taste and spending habits. He hosted glitzy parties, reportedly rented a $15,000 per month Manhattan apartment in 2013, and had recently asked his U.S.-based staff to purchase a $300,000 Aston Martin sports car.
The ambitious CEO had plans to expand his business to London and the U.S., renting office space in New York’s financial district. As recently as October, the firm planned to start trading on the London Stock Exchange and Chicago Mercantile Exchange, according to former employees.
The Journal's efforts to reach Karapetyan by phone, email and through associates and friends were unsuccessful. His Facebook, LinkedIn and Google mail counts have been closed, and his cellphone has been disconnected.
To add to the mystery, a person claiming to be Karapetyan contacted top staff members and investors several days after his disappearance, with a cryptic message from a temporary email address. He wrote that he was on the run because he was being threatened, according to several people who received the message. He also promised to return all funds to investors but gave no further contact information.
Karapetyan told former employees he had worked at Morgan Stanley as a portfolio manager and graduated with a master's degree from the London School of Economics. But The Journal determined neither institution has any record of him.
Blackfield was launched in 2009 aimed at conquering the modern markets. Several former staffers said Karapetyan told them the firm once managed as much as $300 million.
According to the paper, the first signs of trouble came in the spring of 2014 following the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, which led to international sanctions against Russian businesses and individuals. Shortly after, Blackfield’s U.S. entity ended its lease and let its staff go. The firm blamed the shutdown on a lack of financing related to “the economic slowdown in Russia,” according to a former employee, who heard from Moscow employees that several big investors had withdrawn funds.
Blackfield employee Danil Krivopustov came to work expecting a regular day on October 8, but soon learned Blackfield was out of cash and the firm’s founder was missing.
“I left at 5 p.m. without money or a job,” Krivopustov said. “We haven’t heard anything since.”