Elon Musk's Twitter bid leans on financier linked to Russian tycoon

Vy Capital has committed US$700 million to finance Mr Musk's bid for the social network. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Elon Musk's bid for Twitter, which has been upended by the billionaire's threat to walk away, attracted a bevy of big-name backers and Silicon Valley mainstays.

But there were some notable exceptions.

High on that list is a Dubai-based investment firm whose assets have surged to more than US$5 billion (S$6.9 billion) under its secretive founder Alexander Tamas, according to regulatory filings and people familiar with the matter.

Vy Capital - whose main website consists of one page, with no address and no contact details - has committed US$700 million to finance Mr Musk's bid for the social network, making it the third-biggest outside equity investor in the deal that's drawn money from billionaire Larry Ellison and Sequoia Capital, securities filings show.

The ability of Vy to help finance one of the largest leveraged buyouts in history - if it goes ahead despite a dispute over fake accounts - is noteworthy for a firm with few public records showing its funding sources or the nature of its investments. Vy, whose equity commitment to the US$44 billion deal topped those by Brookfield Asset Management and Qatar, has also backed companies such as Mr Musk's Boring Co. and crypto exchange ErisX, according to PitchBook data.

Mr Tamas, a German national, has a history of connecting himself to big-name investors. Before setting up Vy, he worked closely with Russian-Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner and now appears to be cultivating links to Mr Musk. He's also put money into the Tesla boss's rocket company SpaceX and brain-machine maker Neuralink. And according to LinkedIn, one of Vy's summer analysts is currently Benjamin Birchall, a son of Mr Musk's key aide Jared Birchall.

A 2020 document from blank-cheque company Vy Global Growth said that Vy has more than US$2 billion in assets under management. Those assets have since more than doubled and consist of a limited number of funds with about US$1 billion in money to deploy, according to people familiar with the firm's operations. Backers include large American endowments, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private.

A Twitter account for Mr Tamas has existed since March 2009. It has the same picture as his LinkedIn profile and a banner image showing Lego figures of Star Wars Stormtroopers, but no posts. The account liked an April 21 tweet from Mr Musk that called on the social-media platform to authenticate "all real humans" as part of the bot dispute.

While Mr Tamas might be obscure, his connections are not.

After working on technology deals for Goldman Sachs Group in London, the German national joined Mr Milner's investment firm DST Global as a partner in 2008, where he led lucrative bets on companies including Airbnb, Facebook before it became Meta Platforms, as well as an early investment in Twitter.

'Human supercomputer'

Mr Tamas and former Goldman colleague Mateusz Szeszkowski set up Vy in 2013 with a vision to "invest in some of the world's leading companies and own them for decades", according to a regulatory document.

He now runs the fund with John Hering, founder of cloud-software company Lookout, who doesn't mention Vy on his LinkedIn profile. Mr Tamas and Mr Hering have the biggest individual holdings in Vy Global Growth, according to a securities filing. One of the other investors is Javier Olivan, who will become Meta's chief operating officer this fall.

The company's public assets have included holdings in Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify, audience tracker ComScore, online lender LendingClub and gamemaker Activision Blizzard, according to regulatory filings. It appears the holdings were wound down by 2018. The firm has also backed private technology companies like Blockchain.com and Reddit.

Mr Tamas' expertise and investment acumen prompted venture capitalists Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen to dub him "Milner's human supercomputer." Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum appointed him to an advisory council focused on the digital economy.

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