Musk gave a $ 5.7 billion fund to manage a Russian-speaking employee: now he has problems with the FBI

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According to a new report, the FBI was investigating the role of a Russian-born professional poker player in Elon Musk's charitable foundation over concerns about potential foreign influence, according to the DailyMail.

Musk gave a Russian-speaking employee a $5.7 billion fund to manage: now he's in trouble with the FBI

< p class="wp-caption-text">Photo: Shutterstock

Igor Kurganov, 34, briefly became a key figure in Musk's inner circle, controlling huge amounts of donations until the billionaire's top middleman Jared Birchall demanded he be fired in May, according to a July 16 report by the Wall Street Journal.

Referring to an interview with more than a dozen people close to and involved with the Musk Foundation, the report chronicles Kurganov's unusual rise to the position of Musk's chief adviser, until his rivalry with Birchall apparently escalated.

The final straw for Birchall, who manages Musk's $219 billion fortune and officially heads his charitable foundation, was that an FBI agent started asking questions about Kurganov.

An agent tasked with investigating potential foreign influence in US companies , became interested in Kurganov's rapid ascension into Musk's inner circle, and Birchall was concerned that Musk might be dragged into the expanding investigation, according to the Journal.

Kurganov was not charged with any wrongdoing and failed contact for comments.

Born in Russia, Kurganov moved to Germany with his engineering parents at the age of 4, he said in an interview with poker podcasts.

Kurganov rose to fame as a professional poker player in his 20s, winning huge pots in tournaments in Las Vegas. His total winnings are reported to be in excess of $18 million.

But in recent years, he has retired from professional gambling and turned his attention to philanthropy, co-founding a group called Raising for Effective Giving.

The group has a utilitarian philosophy it calls “effective altruism” whose goal is to maximize the lives saved by every dollar donated.

According to the magazine, Kurganov first met Musk through his longtime girlfriend Liv Boeree and became close to the billionaire through their shared love for Burning Man.

Bori, a fellow poker player, is close friends with singer Grimes, who began dating Musk around 2018. Kurganov and Bori began spending time with Musk and Grimes, and they soon followed when Musk moved to Texas. Musk was apparently intrigued by Kurganov's philosophical musings on philanthropy, and assigned him the task of reviewing grant applications for the Musk Foundation. By last year, Kurganov's influence in the foundation had apparently grown so much that potential grant recipients considered him “the day-to-day decision maker”.

At the foundation, Kurganov oversaw $5.7 billion worth of Tesla shares, which the CEO pledged to donate to charity late last year.

Burchall, however, remained the legal head of the Musk Foundation and may have been furious when in February, Bloomberg publicly exposed Kurganov's growing influence for the first time.

Burchall, a 47-year-old father of five, has been with Musk since 2016.

Birchall is known as Musk's top aide behind the scenes, running his family investment office, philanthropic foundation, and even being the CEO of Musk's brain implant startup Neuralink.

He also seems willing to meddle in non-profit matters as a sort of Musk's universal intermediary.

For example, when Musk called a British caver a “pedophile” during an argument on Twitter, the caver sued him for defamation.

During the ensuing trial, it turned out that Birchall, who acted under the pseudonym James Brickhouse, hired a private detective to unearth dirt on the caver. Burchall said in court testimony that he had “an instinct to defend Musk.”

Pious Mormon and teetotaler, Burchall – grew up traveling the West as part of a family troupe dubbed The Bichall Family Singers.

After graduating from Brigham Young University, he immediately took a job at Goldman Sachs in New York and worked as a financial analyst, according to his LinkedIn .

In 2000, he joined Merrill Lynch in Los Angeles, having served for about ten years as a wealth manager.

Merrill Lynch fired Birchall in 2010 for “behavior that led to a loss of confidence from management”, which included ” sending correspondence to a client without management approval,” according to reports from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Less than a month later, Burchall joined Morgan Stanley as an asset manager.

A spokesman for Morgan Stanley told Reuters that Burchall was well respected while working at the bank and left on good terms after six years to join the Musk family office.

In recent months, Birchall has consistently supported Musk by speaking at as top advisor in his stormy bid to buy Twitter.

Birchall demanded in May that Kurganov be removed from his position at the foundation, and Musk agreed.

A foundation spokesman confirmed that Kurganov had been fired, stating that Musk's money was ultimately not spent on projects related to effective altruism.

Musk is the richest person in the world, but his charitable giving pales in comparison to other big-time billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

Musk's personal foundation donated $23.6 million in fiscal 2020, the most recent 0.02 percent of his net worth, the documents show.

His November donation of $5.7 billion in Tesla stock to his foundation represents a significant philanthropic move for Musk , but he didn't say which charities would end up supporting those funds.

Musk has previously said he doesn't do philanthropy because his business ventures, like Tesla and SpaceX, “benefit the future of humanity.” ”.

In 2012, Musk signed the Giving Pledge, a pledge by some billionaires to give at least half of their wealth to charity in life or death.

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