In October 2014, LeapRate broke the news that Blackfield Capital, one of Russia’s most promient hedge funds and algorithmic trading firms had gone bankrupt after attracting investment from high net worth investors and establishing entities on the Cayman Islands, with its CEO, Kim Karapetyan, untraceable.
At the time, the firm’s website displayed a very direct message on its website, stating ““Dear clients, Blackfield Capital is bankrupt. Kim Karapetyan has fled to the US. Look for him there!!!”
At that time, the incredibly direct and somewhat flippant message also redirect to forbes.ru, which first broke the news of the problems around the company.
Today, almost three months on, further information surrounding the internal operations of the company have emerged in a report by the Wall Street Journal, stating that not only is Mr. Karapetyan still missing, but so is all of the firm’s assets, which according to former employees had vanished along with the errant CEO.
The Wall Street Journal’s report states that Blackfield Capital operated its business in a somewhat flamboyant fashion which included expensive and glamorous parties, abstract media campaigns, luxury premises and high performance cars.
As recently as October, the company was making plans to start trading on the London Stock Exchange and Chicago Mercantile Exchange, according to former employees. The company also took steps to expand in New York City.
Mr. Karapetyan directed employees to form a U.S. company, Blackfield Capital LLC, and rented out 18 offices on the 46th floor of 7 World Trade Center, according to a report in trade publication Real Estate Weekly and people familiar with the matter. The U.S. firm had hired several employees at the time but had no assets under management.
Mr. Karapetyan also rented a 1,625-square-foot penthouse at 15 William St. at a cost of $15,000 a month, then a price-per-square-foot record for the Financial District, according to documents and real-estate broker Adam Mariucci.
“He rented it sight unseen,” said Mr. Mariucci, who represented Mr. Karapetyan. “A check was written, wired and cut. I never saw him in the building once.”
Mr. Karapetyan also had U.S. employees buy a 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish, a car that retails new for nearly $300,000, according to a former employee and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Karapetyan had told employees he previously visited the city while working as a portfolio manager for Morgan Stanley after graduating with a master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics, according to former employees.
A spokesman for Morgan Stanley said the bank has no record of anyone named Kim Karapetyan working at any of its offices around the world. A spokeswoman for the London School of Economics said the university had no record of anyone with his name obtaining a degree.
The first signs of trouble came in the spring of 2014 soon after the conflict in Ukraine escalated, leading to a raft of international sanctions against Russian businesses and individuals. Not long after that, Blackfield’s U.S. entity ended its lease and laid off all its staff. The employees were told the shutdown came primarily because of a lack of financing related to “the economic slowdown in Russia,” according to a former employee, who heard from staffers in Moscow that several big investors had withdrawn funds.
In October, Mr. Karapetyan stopped showing up at the firm’s Moscow offices, as did brothers Henry and Haik Mkhitaryan, according to former employees. Henry Mkhitaryan was Blackfield’s chief operating officer and Haik was a senior employee.
The whereabouts of Mr Karapetyan remain unknown.
Pictorial history of the company courtesy of The Wall Street Journal