Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Madoff Fund Operator De La Villehuchet Found Dead

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- A New York-based money manager who may have lost $1.4 billion of client funds invested with Bernard Madoff apparently killed himself in his Madison Avenue office, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

“Our investigative premise is that it was a suicide,” Kelly said today in an interview. The body of Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet, 65, a co-founder and chief executive officer of Access International Advisors, was found today. The company raised money mainly from wealthy European investors. Madoff was arrested on Dec. 11 for allegedly running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

The death of de la Villehuchet, who founded Access in 1994 with Patrick Littaye, came as lawsuits mounted in connection with investors victimized by Madoff. Fairfield Greenwich Group, a hedge-fund firm that had $7.5 billion invested with Madoff, has been sued for allegedly failing to protect their clients’ assets. A New York woman who says she lost most of her savings is seeking $1.7 million in damages from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for Madoff losses.

The tally of investors hurt by Madoff continues to grow. Pedro Almodovar, the Spanish film director known for movies such as “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” has about $280,000 at risk, El Economista reported.

Credit Lyonnais

De La Villehuchet was found “with his feet propped up on his desk, a trash pail nearby to collect blood,” and no sign of a second person, Kelly said in the interview.

The money manager had “multiple stab wounds” to his arms and wrists, and a box-cutter and pills were found nearby, Kelly said at a news conference. No suicide note was found.

Before he founded Access, De La Villehuchet was chairman and CEO of Credit Lyonnais Securities USA, the U.S. investment banking arm of the French bank, according to Access marketing documents. Prior to joining Credit Lyonnais in 1987, he ran Interfinance, an international broker firm specializing in French, Belgian and Italian stock markets that he founded in 1983.

Access managed $3 billion and had 26 employees according to marketing documents dated September, and its LUXALPHA SICAV- American Selectionfund invested solely with Madoff. Access said last week that it was working with lawyers to assess the situation. UBS AG was LUXALPHA’s administrator until this year, and is no longer involved with it, said Karina Byrne, a UBS spokeswoman.

Clients of Madoff had at least $36 billion with his firm, according to a Bloomberg tally that may include some double counting. Before his arrest, Madoff, 70, confessed to employees that his “giant Ponzi scheme” may have cost as much as $50 billion, according to an FBI complaint.

His misconduct may have stretched back to at least to the 1970s, two people familiar with the government’s inquiry of Madoff said last week. Madoff is now under house arrest at his New York apartment.


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