Marc Lasry, the founder of investment firm Avenue Capital in New York and the supposed-to-be next ambassador of the US to France has withdrawn his name from consideration because of ties to an alleged Russian mob-run poker ring, sources told the New York Post.
According to the Post, the Wall Street billionaire has ties with individuals who were busted a few weeks ago by the Department of Justice for allegedly running an illegal credit betting business. Lasry, in particular, is close friends with Illya Trincher, who was one of among 30 individuals indicted by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York on charges of racketeering, money laundering, extortion, running an illegal sports betting business plus UIGEA and Wire Act violations.
Lasry’s name wasn’t included in the list of indictments but his relationship with some of the people on that list would, as a source told the Post, “open a can of worms” in the event he was interviewed by the Senate as part of the approval process to become ambassador. In addition to the 27-year old Trincher, who was accused of running the $100 million betting and money-laundering racket in New York, a slew of other names were also included in the indictments. Among them include world-renowned Manhattan art dealer Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, Alimzhan ‘Taiwanchik’ Tokhtakhounov, Vadim Trincher, the father of Illya Trincher, and “Poker Princess” Molly Bloom.
Avenue Capital, though, is painting a different picture on the reasons behind Lasry’s withdrawal. A spokesman for the company told the Post that “Marc withdrew because it was becoming difficult to receive a waiver of the ‘key man’ provision from Avenue Capital’s investors, and he would have had to divest himself of his Avenue Capital business holdings.”
Lasry followed that statement with his own involving the “recent speculations regarding the possibility that I might be asked to serve as the next US ambassador to France. “I am very grateful to have been considered, but I would like to put the speculation to rest and let you know that I will be remaining at Avenue.”
But sources told the Post that Lasry’s decision to withdraw the position came to light after word spread that President Barack Obama wanted to appoint him as ambassador to France. It was a position that he supposedly wanted, but after the FBI did a background check on him and discovered his love for playing exclusive high-stakes poker games, he surprisingly pulled his name out of consideration.
Lasry is a well-known high-stakes poker player, having gone on record on Bloomberg TV last year for his love of the game. “Poker is math, so I enjoy playing it because I think there’s a lot of math involved,” he said. “And it’s fun. It’s fun to play with others.”
He’s also known to host informal high-stakes games in his Upper East Side mansion where betting normally goes up as much as $20,000 per hand. But the potential of being interrogated over his relationship with the men indicted by the DOJ a few weeks ago if he did decide to accept the appointment of ambassador to France, despite not being charged of anything, could lead to a whole new mess that he probably doesn’t want on his hands.
Whatever his true reasoning is for declining the post, we do know now that he won’t be the next US ambassador to France.