Bankruptcy, Suicide and a billion-dollar Tech Dream
On the evening of Dec. 18, 2015, Daniel Kurgan met Alex Salavrakos for dinner, an unremarkable event, or so it would have seemed, for the two had been the best of friends going back nearly 40 years and met not infrequently in Brussels, where both businessmen lived. As children they had attended the same secondary school and formed a fast bond. After high school, they attended the esteemed Solvay business school together, where the multilingual Salavrakos was known for his quick intelligence, his charm, his sense of humour. His skills at mathematics and physics were especially pronounced, and he graduated from Solvay with distinction. He had a penchant for burying himself in his books. He could be something of a loner.
Salavrakos’s family had successful businesses in Greece and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, operations run out of the family firm’s corporate headquarters in Brussels. Alex didn’t brag about the family’s financial well being and he didn’t have a reputation as a snob. He wasn’t arrogant. But it wasn’t every kid who drove a spanking new BMW to school.
Kurgan believed his friend’s future fortunes were limitless. “With the skill set he had he could have become, you know, he could have joined a big corporation, become a banker, gone to McKinsey,” he says, referring to the global consultancy. “God knows what.”
The chums never fell out, but they did drift — into marriages, becoming busy with offspring, the usual. And then, a decade ago or so, they came into more frequent contact. In 2008 — or perhaps 2007, Kurgan cannot precisely remember — Salavrakos started talking enthusiastically about a Canadian company with exciting developments in 3D technology. He said the upstart firm would seek a listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange and offered his friend an early port of entry. “He said to me ‘We have this business, Spatial View. Do you want to invest before we list it?’ ” Kurgan remembers. “ ‘Then you can invest in good conditions when things are going well and you can make an upside.’ ”
Kurgan is a successful businessman in his own right — he has occupied the CEO’s chair at a large Belgian telecom company since 2007. And he certainly understands the risks inherent in investing in startups. He conducted virtually no due diligence on the Spatial View investment. “I never checked with anybody else. He was my friend. I trusted him, right?” Kurgan says in a long telephone interview from his home base in Brussels. “He explained to me the technology was fantastic and there was a lot of traction, and of course I tried to research a bit on that but, I mean, I’m not in that type of business so it was more his enthusiasm and the fact he was a friend.”
Kurgan purchased shares in the fledgling company. His good friend Salavrakos was chairman of the board, while the company’s other corporate officers were based in Toronto, including the CEO, Beat Raemy. The bifurcated operation placed the financing initiatives in Europe under Salavrakos, and the operational focus in Toronto, under Raemy.
To early investors, a veil of credibility settled upon the company as a result of the prospective TSX listing. “Canada, in terms of compliance and how to say, business climate, you know business environment is considered extremely safe and trustworthy, right?” Kurgan continues. “If you want to list a company in Canada it doesn’t look fishy, right? … The fact that it would be listed in Canada — it was all positive except for the potential of a foreign exchange risk for me because I’m Euro-based and of course you never know, right, if you list it in another currency and the currency goes bad. In the Euro you can lose money. So that was the potential downside, but the fact that it would be listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange was for me a huge upside. It was very reassuring, right?”
The two friends would spend hours talking about what Salavrakos termed this “extraordinary, extraordinary technology” and the dream to make Spatial View a billion-dollar company. Not for the first time, 3D appeared to hold enormous promise. There was the advance Hollywood buzz for Avatar, James Cameron’s science-fiction epic, and renewed interest in bringing 3D into the home, with electronics makers Samsung and LG promoting 3D-enabled televisions. Spatial View had a distinct offering: proprietary technology that allowed the viewer to experience 3D without glasses.
Beat Raemy oversaw a small staff at the company’s headquarters on Front St. W. “We see in 3D, so why is our media 2D?” he asked in a Toronto Star feature late in 2008. In an article he penned in 2009, Raemy explained the technology this way: “Spatial View has developed proprietary lenticular lens technology and software that directs a left image to your left eye and a right image to your right eye. The brain takes over and through the process of stereopsis you see the image in 3D — without a special viewer, without special glasses. The effect is natural, comfortable and stunning.”
Mobile applications were in the company’s sights. In the fall of 2010, a Business Insider columnist tried out the company’s 3D screen on his iPhone. The effect wasn’t as compelling as watching 3D on the big screen with glasses, he wrote. But, he added, “it was real, live 3D right there on the phone. And that was awesome.”
Beat Raemy echoes the optimism. “It was a real story, a real opportunity,” he says. “For sure.”
In recent years, Salavrakos and Kurgan kept in closer contact. By the autumn of 2015 the connection was particularly frequent. “We had contact at least once a day,” Kurgan says, adding that he noticed a change in his friend, a descending depression that he put down to family troubles.
The day after the dinner — Sat., Dec. 19 — Kurgan spoke with Salavrakos by telephone. That evening, the two exchanged text messages, concluding with Salavrakos announcing that he was going to disappear for a couple of days. It was the weekend before Christmas.
“I said ‘OK, take care of yourself,’ ” Kurgan recalls.
Salavrakos worked out of corporate quarters on Boulevard Adolphe Max in Brussels. The office would have been empty that weekend in the pre-Christmas flurry. No one was there to observe the moment when Salavrakos stuck a note to his office door, advising that no one enter, advising instead that the police be called. Perhaps he was thinking of protecting Monique, his long-time assistant.
According to a woman friend familiar with the events of that weekend, Salavrakos removed his items of clothing and folded them neatly. He was clearly prepared for what came next. He secured a helium hood, perhaps just a plastic bag, around his head. Next, he would have turned on the gas from the helium canister, which, according to the friend, had been rented for this purpose. Perhaps the result Salavrakos sought took only a few deep breaths.
The single-page note he left behind was, as he wrote, short and cold. “I carry all the weight of my guilt,” he said. “The reason for which I ended my life is that I have come to believe that I must take responsibility and pay for the misdeeds of my life.” These misdeeds he did not specify.
He expressed regret for all the betrayals. To his family. To his friends. He did not sign it with love but rather, simply, Alex.
In the late 1960s, Alanna McGuire accepted a working transfer that took her from her hometown of Montreal to Brussels. She was soon bored with corporate life at the multinational firm where she worked and jumped at the chance to join Merrill Lynch, starting as a secretary and making her way up the ladder to broker. From there she leapt to Prudential-Bache Securities, which was growing its presence in Europe. She would stay with Pru-Bache for two decades.
“I did commodities, I did stocks and bonds … I used to do American municipal bonds,” she says, speaking from her home in Brussels. She included among her clients psychotherapist and author Anne Kearns, whom she met through a mutual friend in London. Kearns had inherited some securities; McGuire became her broker. The two became close friends.
Alex Salavrakos was also a client of McGuire’s, and a confidante. “He was young, dynamic, charming, very well accredited, had his own company,” McGuire says. “Well, it was his father’s company, but he was running it and he seemed to be successful and comfortable.”
Alex’s father, Constantin, was Greek-born, but spent three decades in the Congo before founding a company called Remaco in Brussels in 1962. The family firm had two primary interests, both in the DRC: machinery — fittings and rolling stock for the clapped out Congolese railway system, by example — and luxury wax-printed fabrics. Alex was born in Léopoldville, now Kinshasa, in June 1964. After graduating from Solvay he did not, as Daniel Kurgan imagined, join a multinational firm, but rather joined his father and stepbrother in working at Remaco.
Salavrakos saw private investing as a way to make his own mark away from his father, even as he continued to work for Remaco. Alanna McGuire thinks it could have been 2004, or possibly earlier, when she accompanied him to Dresden, Germany, at the time Spatial View was first being formed. German inventors Frank and Torsten Baldeweg held a patent on a 3D invention, dating back to the late ’90s, which included an application for autostereoscopic 3D display. “In this instance,” the patent states, “the image generating means is a display screen, in front of which the three-dimensional representation appears to float in the image space.”
As envisioned by the inventors, one application lay in the field of health. The localizing and measuring of brain tumours, by example, could be greatly advanced by three-dimensional display.
Twice, Alanna McGuire advanced cash to the company, which had adopted the branding line “Opening New Dimensions.” “Well, you know, this was a startup company and it looked interesting and I had some money and, of course, I trusted Alex,” she says. The first sum, in 2006, was for 150,000 Euros; the second was for 100,000 Euros. McGuire describes these sums as “operating cash” and adds that repayment was to be made within a couple of months.
McGuire had enough experience under her belt to appreciate that there are never any guarantees in venture startups. “What actually assured me in my investments was that it was a Canadian company,” McGuire says now. “I figured, you know, that the Canadians are quite stringent on reporting and things like that.”
But there were red flags from the get-go. A blazing one was the lack of records, specifically share certificates. Eventually, Salavrakos issued a “share certificate” for the first investment, for 22,060 Class A shares. There’s no certificate number, no company registration. The “certificate” has been typed up on Spatial View letterhead, complete with the Opening New Dimensions marketing line. Salavrakos signed the note as president of the company, which he wasn’t.
“You say to me now, ‘Well, why didn’t you say something at the time?’ Because whenever I brought anything up with Alex it was always yes, yes, yes,” McGuire says. “He was incredibly convincing, exceedingly convincing.”
McGuire’s main objective, naturally enough, was return on capital. But where, exactly, had her investments been made? “I was getting very, very unhappy about the way things were going,” she says now. Sometimes Salavrakos would simply hand her cash when she needed it. One time, he forwarded funds to her drawn on the account of Remaco, the Salavrakos family firm. “I wanted assurances that if something were to happen to Alex I wouldn’t be left completely without anything.”
Pressed, Salavrakos gave her a second Spatial View share certificate, this one for 119,868 shares. In this instance, however, the shares were not registered in McGuire’s name, but rather Arcadian Securities Anstalt, a firm domiciled in Liechtenstein. Salavrakos promoted a number of investments through Arcadian, including a hotel in Greece, a tomato processing operation, also in Greece, and a solar farm in Bulgaria. Arcadian, described in a Spatial View release as a “cutting edge investment company,” became the largest single shareholder in the tech company. Jacques Dubois, who offered tax, legal and financial advice out of an unprepossessing building in Lausanne, is listed as the Arcadian addressee.
McGuire describes Salavrakos as the perfect door-opening gentleman. He could be immensely considerate with those to whom he was close. Yet he exhibited a surprising lack of empathy to those in need. He was a student of history and read the classics. He also gobbled up the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child.
She recalls quite clearly his mounting frustration over the progress at Spatial View. “Alex told me he wanted to get rid of Beat,” she says. “That he was the one who was blocking their way to stardom.”
Through 2015, McGuire says she saw less and less of her good friend. She did observe in the last months of Salavrakos’s life that he wasn’t spending money the way he used to. “He seemed to be not well a lot of the time,” she says. “But he was also a very dark horse in that he didn’t reveal anything.”
In November 2015, the two spoke by phone. Salavrakos was in Dubai. He said he was meeting people from the Congo. She believes now that the meeting was regarding a loan extended by a Congolese bank, BIAC. During the phone call Salavrakos told McGuire that “it didn’t work out.”
Still, McGuire says she was utterly shocked to hear of the suicide. She quickly learned that her funds had vapourized. “I wrote to Anstalt and said this is what happened. They said they had no control over that.”
Over the course of their years-long association, McGuire invested 1.2 million Euros with Salavrakos. The bulk of that, she says, exists now only in the form of a promissory note for 850,000 Euros (roughly $1.1 million Canadian dollars), now, to all appearances, worthless. Today she has a lot of friends helping to support her.
Her mind jumps to that space where the victim attempts to understand what just happened. “I would never even have thought it. You think you know somebody and everything he says is a lie. It’s quite incredible.”
“He has destroyed people emotionally,” she adds. “He certainly ruined me.”
She has no clear views on the psychological profile of a man she thought she knew intimately, only to find out she didn’t know him at all. “You have to talk to Anne about that,” she says. “I’m not a psychotherapist.”
It was likely February, or possibly March of 2005, when Anne Kearns met with Alex Salavrakos and Alanna McGuire at the Brussels Hilton. Kearns had entrusted a small portfolio with McGuire some years earlier, an inheritance she had received when her mother died. In 2005, the sale of a New York building that she owned with other family members was sold, and Kearns had $1.5 million (U.S.) to invest. McGuire suggested she invest it with Salavrakos.
McGuire had earlier mentioned that Salavrakos, whom Kearns had not previously met, “was doing the startup for a company called Spatial View. That’s when I first heard the name,” Kearns recalls in a telephone interview from her home in France.
During dinner at the Hilton, Salavrakos explained that Spatial View was working on a 3D scanner for medical use. Says Kearns: “That was the thing they were most excited about because they had a hands-free screen so that a brain surgeon, for example, could turn it around and see any part of the brain he wanted to see while he was operating.”
Salavrakos said that the next step was for Kearns to open a bank account in Switzerland. Kearns flew to Geneva and established an account with the opening sum of about $1.2 million. “He was to be my personal wealth manager,” Kearns says of Salavrakos. “I gave him power of attorney to use my account to invest … I said I wanted to put three ($300,000) into Spatial View … He said I should invest twice that and I said ‘No, I’m not going to invest more than a quarter of what I’ve got’ … I wasn’t prepared to take a bigger risk than that.”
Kearns’s objective was to double her investment. “I can’t remember whether I said five or 10 years,” she says of her intended investment horizon. “He said you will get at minimum 10 times your investment in five to 10 years.” Part of the pitch was an envisioned takeover. “He did mention that they were in negotiations with Dell and with Samsung, I think.”
Kearns did not know then that McGuire had started investing with Salavrakos long before. “She had invested with him and this guy Jacques Dubois and Arcadian Securities rather a lot of money,” Kearns says. “I didn’t realize she had made other investments with him and I wish I had … I’ve seen the things that she signed and they’re basically, you know, the contracts are worthless.”
According to paperwork later provided to Kearns, the first flow of funds to Spatial View from her account occurred in May 2005, when $300,000, plus commission, was transferred from her account with ING Bank in Switzerland to Spatial View’s account with the main branch of the Royal Bank of Canada in Toronto. What Kearns did not know was that a further $500,000, plus commission, was transferred out of her ING account to a separate Spatial View account, also with the Royal Bank, in November. Kearns gave no authorization for the second transfer. The instructions for that transfer, with Kearns’s forged signature, were faxed from the offices of Remaco, the Salavrakos family firm, to Kearns’s account at ING, and from there to Toronto.
And there the trail stops. While Spatial View is listed in RBC’s system, the bank has no active accounts under that name, nor any retained documents on the company. Further, RBC does not have a record of Alex Salavrakos being a client of RBC.
Kearns is unable to time stamp when Salavrakos spoke of the plan to take Spatial View public. “It was going to be the German stock exchange, and that didn’t happen. Then it was the Bulgarian stock exchange.” She thinks it was 2008 when she reminded Salavrakos that she had never received any share certificates. Salavrakos told her certificates could not be issued because of the pending IPO. Her name does not appear on the list of registered Spatial View shareholders.
Emails from Salavrakos to Kearns attempt to address any concerns she may have had about investing methodologies beyond Spatial View. “As far as investment procedures are concerned, I think I detected a slight twinge of insecurity as to how I actually manage to get the returns I arrive at,” he wrote in October 2009. “Well, there’s no mystery to it. Sophisticated financial engineering hand in hand with sophisticated stock picking.” The bulk of the assets, he added, were held by a holding company, Greyfox, “whoch (sic) is a Panamean (sic) trust company.” The legal side, he continued, “is managed by Jacques Dubois, who is in possession of all the instructions should harm come to me.”
Kearns didn’t just entrust the investment side of her portfolio to Salavrakos. She also ceded control of such day-to-day matters as credit card and rent payments. In January 2011, a long note from Salavrakos attempts to allay Kearns’s concerns that she was depleting her capital. “Right now you are living above your means,” he wrote. But good news was in the offing. “When I say wait it out for circumstances to change significantly better, that has mostly to do with Spatial View, as this has the most potential right now … by the end of spring (I’m talking late April) we should have enough contracts in hands (sic) to be able to predict exactly what the revenue generation will be longer term, and to push for a listing of the shares.” Revenue, he wrote, was “rolling in.”
The reality at Spatial View’s headquarters on Front St. W. was starkly different. Like many a startup, Spatial View was continually gasping for funds. According to an internal memo written by Salavrakos, a $15-million (U.S.) injection from Dubai promised for the spring of 2010 had failed to materialize by the end of that year “due to an internal reorganization within the funding group.”
The timing jibes with conversations Daniel Kurgan had with his old friend. Kurgan sees this now as a key turning point in the tale. “He told me, ‘I found an investor, I have a convertible loan from a Dubai sovereign fund. It’s OK,’ ” Kurgan recalls. “Actually, that’s not true.”
According to the internal document, the go-between for the Dubai financing was Hari Venkatacharya, “a very respectable person in Canadian circles. We looked him up and he had a very good reputation as a deeply connected entrepreneur in Ontario, with numerous directorships.”
Serial delays in the hoped-for financing are noted through the third quarter of 2011 when “the situation had grown extremely difficult in terms of liquidity.” Cash injections were made by existing unnamed shareholders.
The stalled financing allegedly continued until March 2013, when Venkatacharya informed the company that the funds had been postponed once more. Or so the memo states. “At this point, the Board decided that it had had enough and that the funding process would not happen.”
In truth, the Peel Regional Police Fraud Bureau had charged Venkatacharya with fraud two months earlier. The “very respectable person” had held himself to a number of Canadian firms as a conduit for investment monies from the United Arab Emirates. One of those companies was Complex Sportivo Inc., which had paid Venkatacharya a due diligence fee to secure, allegedly, a $235-million loan from the royal family of Dubai, a loan that never materialized. Venkatacharya was convicted in November of this year and awaits sentencing on Feb. 21.
Alex Salavrakos titled his memo “Report for the January board of directors meeting: history of the financing scam and current outlook.” It was dated Dec. 31, 2013.
The outlook was bleak. Brussels-based David Vanhove was the company’s chief financial officer. “Each months (sic) we were looking for money,” he writes in an email. “Spatial View was very often very closed (sic) to a deal with HP, or Qualcom, or others that could transform Spatial View in a profitable company … but at the end, it was always a reason to postpone a deal.”
The Salavrakos memo states that Beat Raemy was fired, as was top management. “There had been some differences about the direction of the company,” Raemy says. “It was felt it would be better if I stepped down.”
Salavrakos raised the name of yet another imagined saviour, this time a Bulgarian-based technology company called Mayfair Globe, traded on the Sofia stock exchange. “As of today, this is the situation of the company — even though times are hard and we are battling every day, hope still persists.”
It all gets a bit dizzying.
Anne Kearns has a doctorate in psychotherapy from the U.K., a Masters in Social Work from Columbia, a history of working in academia and private practice since the early ’90s and a list of publications including The Seven Deadly Sins: Issues in Clinical Practice and Supervision for Humanistic and Integrative Practitioners. She has spent the past 12 months trying to analyze the charming businessman she thought she knew. “He clearly was a sociopath, if not a psychopath, and he would have got tremendous kicks out of conning people, particularly out of conning somebody like me because I know he respected my brain.”
She has a hard time accepting the suicide. “Somebody like Alex wouldn’t kill himself. He’d disappear.”
Perhaps that extreme thought keeps some sliver of hope alive. Remaco, the Salavrakos family firm, declared bankruptcy in June of this year. Daniel Kurgan is a debtor in those proceedings, though he declines to quantify how much working capital he advanced to the firm. “It was a 40-year-old company and he was my best friend, so it didn’t look suspicious to me. You see what I mean? So I’ve been fooled like many other people.”
The Belgian receiver in the Remaco affair can’t yet quantify the size of the Remaco bankruptcy. Some individual claims rise into the millions, “but we are not sure yet if we will accept these claims because we are not yet sure what the role of Remaco is,” says receiver Maarten Bentein. There is a criminal investigation now ongoing in Belgium. “Knowing the Belgian police a little bit, the investigation will probably take years,” says Bentein. “It’s a very difficult case for the police because it has so many international connections. Apparently now in Canada, but there are also connections in Greece, Bulgaria, England — everywhere.”
Kearns has become an amateur sleuth. For a time, she posted on a wall a relationships map of all the players and their interconnections, but she took it down because “it was doing my head in.” She has been devastated financially. “I’m doing OK,” she says. “Some of the time I’m very depressed. Lots of time I wake up in the morning and nothing has changed. You know, you only know you don’t have money when you need some. And I’m doing everything I can to get it back.”
In the lobby of a high-end Toronto hotel, an executive swipes through a string of emails between himself and Alex Salavrakos, going back years. The day is turning to dusk. A pianist plays through a set list of Christmas tunes on the nearby baby grand.
The Toronto executive asks not to be identified, as the company of which he is CEO has nothing to do with this story. Privately, however, the businessman invested a total of $150,000, now written off, in Spatial View. He knew the investment risks, had a belief in the technology and, ultimately, had little faith in Beat Raemy. “I would have changed the CEO immediately,” he says. “He didn’t have the salesmanship to bring the company to the next level.”
The executive recounts 11th-hour discussions as to how the company could be made to realize its potential. He remembers that after Raemy’s departure, Salavrakos said that a newly appointed director, Kimbell Duncan, would be one of the so-called rainmakers for the company. Duncan, a former banker who married CNN White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski in the summer of 2015, did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Duncan and Ihor Petelycky, who had been general manager of core technologies and applications at Spatial View, then formed a board triumvirate with Salavrakos. “It was all under the assumption that Alex was going to get some kind of funding,” says Petelycky. Needless to say, that funding did not materialize. Last spring, Alanna McGuire received a “Dear Shareholder” letter signed by Duncan and Petelycky. “As many of you have learned, Alex Salavrakos, Chairman of Spatial View, passed away in December of last year. Since that time, we have received queries from several shareholders whose expectations seemed to be greatly different than what we believe are the realistic prospects. We have attempted to obtain the books and records of the company and relevant email trails from Mr. Salavrakos’ business managers and family, but we have been unable to do so.” The directors recommended that shareholders vote in favour of dissolving the company.
Were this just another failed startup, the Toronto executive would have no interest in sharing what he knows. But Salavrakos’s suicide and the financial suffering of other burned investors have changed that view.
And then there’s this: he invested in Arcadian.
“Alex was a financier par excellence,” he says. “I knew him quite well. I was very close to calling him a friend.”
According to an undated document sent to him by Salavrakos, Arcadian was a private investment fund run out of Lausanne. “Its vocation is to remain a vehicle for enhancing returns on private wealth,” the document states. “Members are industrialists, coming from all kinds of different background, be it jewelry, shipping or industrial producers.” The Swiss Piaget jewelry family, it goes on to state, had agreed to have its name released in the context of the document. (The Piaget company did not respond to a query from the Star.)
According to this document, the value of the Arcadian fund at the end of June 2012 was 56 million Euros. “We currently hold participations in six companies, verging on 8 as we are closely studying 2 new prospects. Some of our past investments: Expedia, Cryptologic, Softwork …” According to a list of Spatial View shareholders, Arcadian held more than 4.3 million shares in the Toronto-based 3D company.
The Toronto executive invested in one of the Arcadian propositions, on a five-year term with scheduled annual dividend payments due each September. In an interview, the executive said he had no suspicions as three payments arrived as scheduled. After checking his records, however, he was reminded that the first of those was paid by Arcadian. The second and third were paid not by Arcadian, but by Remaco. The fourth payment, due three months ago, never materialized.
“I usually smell it,” the executive says of his investment sense. “I usually can tell a bad apple from a good apple.”
The obvious question: was Salavrakos using funds from Remaco, the family firm, to keep his financial obligations afloat? Did money move in a circle, a cash carousel, until it inevitably stopped? The name Ponzi has been cited. And Madoff. Charles Ponzi of history and Bernie Madoff of the contemporary era, con artists who drew in funds from new investors to meet promised returns to earlier backers.
The Toronto investor did think it odd that Jacques Dubois operated out of undistinguished premises beside a convenience store in Lausanne. In a September 2012 email, Salavrakos tried to allay his concerns. “Arcadian is all managed from the same group of consulting/fiduciaries/accounting firms located there (Jacques Dubois being our legal head in Arcadian),” Salavrakos wrote in an email. “We just don’t advertise its presence for obvious reasons … Just so we have full disclosure here, Arcadian is also registered in Vaduz, Liechtenstein for specific tax on investment purposes.”
Arcadian Securities is now in bankruptcy. Enrico Somma, senior trust officer at First Advisory Trust in Liechtenstein, informed Kearns by email that “the only assets of Arcadian are the investments in a Canadian Company, which filed, unfortunately, for bankruptcy.” He is referring to Spatial View. As of this writing, Spatial View has not filed for bankruptcy. The company’s filing with the federal government states that Alex Salavrakos is a director.
In the same email, Somma offered Kearns a suggestion. “I regret to inform you that Arcadian is not able to recover your payment to Mr. Salavrakos and we strongly advise you to contact again Mr. Dubois, as he was always involved in these transactions and agreements.”
Fiduciaire Dubois & Cie entered liquidation in March 2015. Neither the notary public in that case, nor the liquidator, responded to queries from the Star as to the whereabouts of Jacques Dubois. In a note to First Advisory, given to Anne Kearns by a relative of Salavrakos, Dubois said that he was living in Morocco. In a brief phone conversation, Enrico Somma said he was unable to assist in clarifying the relationship between First Advisory and Arcadian, nor the whereabouts of Dubois. “I can’t give you any information about that,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
On July 5, 2012, Alex Salavrakos arrived for a lunch meeting at Chez Michel, a popular Parisian bistro on the Rue de Belzunce. There he met with Nicholas Routhier, CEO of Sensio Technologies Inc., a Montreal-based 3D company. Sensio had developed a formatting technology that, embedded in HDTVs, could convert 2D movies into a 3D at-home experience. Vizio Inc. had signed on, but pushing agreements with other manufacturers was proving an insurmountable challenge. “It was very challenging,” Routhier recalls. “The issue we had back then was that our service was only available on Vizio 3D TVs. So we had to figure out a way of re-encoding movies to make them compatible with other TVs.”
By the beginning of 2012, Sensio was focused on the launch of 3DGO!, a content platform that promised a library of Hollywood movies and documentaries. The company’s financial fortunes were slim. In the months June through August, Sensio booked gross sales of $110,864. “We were looking for partners and investors and they were looking for content,” Routhier says.
It was Beat Raemy who made the connection to Salavrakos. “You have to understand Alex was an investor, he was not the main business guy,” Routhier says. “We had tonnes of follow-ups with Beat … He was the one running things on a day-to-day basis.” In a subsequent email, Routhier explains that the possibility of buying Spatial View had come up in discussions, “which we declined as this was not aligned with our strategic plans.”
Routhier is deeply familiar with the rising and falling fortunes of 3D, and the non-stop scramble for infusions of capital. Sensio went bankrupt in the spring of this year. “When you surf a height you have a certain time to get it right and afterwards you go down to oblivion,” he says. As for Spatial View, “they never had a solid commitment from anyone to provide them with a big chunk of cash.” But he adds, “From everything I saw, I think they were genuinely trying to figure out a way to make this a commercial success.”
Beat Raemy doesn’t care to talk about it much. “I’m just getting involved in some startups here in Toronto,” he says. “I just don’t want to jeopardize things moving forward.”
Spatial View was legit. At least in its intent. “We had some real technology,” he says. “We made the Deloitte list of the Fast 50 to watch … There were 30 or 40 guys here in Toronto. They worked their asses off. They believed in what they were doing.”
One former employee, who asked to remain anonymous, says that through the winter months of 2012, employees were well aware that the company was going downhill. “They told us there was supposed to be some funding coming in, but that it was frozen in the States,” he says. “In my opinion, management was kicking the company in the wrong direction. They were too focused on selling (3D) content that nobody would ever buy. I don’t think they understood where 3D streaming was really headed.”
The name Arcadian comes as no surprise to Raemy. “The money came in through Arcadian,” he says. “Alex represented them, right? … He was the CEO and administrator of that, that’s how he always signed. So we pitched a story to him and they invested in Spatial View in several rounds.”
The funds from Anne Kearns, however, were directed from her personal account to the Spatial View account at the Royal Bank. “I don’t even know if it made it to us,” he says of those funds.
He is aware of the straitened circumstances that Kearns and McGuire find themselves in. “It’s one thing if you knowledgeably invest in a company and say you know you buy shares from a startup,” he notes. “I might make money or I might lose my shirt. Then you only have yourself to blame. But if the money gets taken away from you and it does not get invested or you didn’t OK it, that’s not right.”
Daniel Kurgan has gathered up bits and pieces of information as best he can, a jumble of clues that has yet to come together into a coherent whole. Out of respect for Salavrakos’s widow and daughters, he is understandably wary of saying much. “One of my main assumptions now is that part of this whole drama is that it didn’t go as he hoped and everything collapsed around him,” he says. “At some point he was looking for money to refinance and then the thing collapsed and he was completely caught, right? It was a spiral.”
He does not quantify the size of his financial loss. “It’s enough for me to care and take action,” he says. “It’s not immaterial but it’s not in millions, certainly not.” Seeking answers sounds more like a moral quest. “It’s more of a question of principle towards my children,” he says. “Some people are in deep trouble. It is certainly worth an article,” he says. “If there is a bit more noise perhaps it can create some more activity.”
The receiver for Remaco in Brussels says their investigation is at its early stages. “We’re still trying to gather as much information as possible,” says Maarten Bentein. “We need to know where, I mean, there was a flow of funds as you mentioned. Where did these funds come from? Are these legal or illegal funds?”
Prior to speaking with the Star, Bentein had never heard of Arcadian Securities. “This is the first I hear from this,” he says, adding later, “This Alex Salavrakos is a very clever guy it seems.”
Beat Raemy says he, too, is out funds — he held more than 800,000 Spatial View shares. “For my own sanity I would like to know, who was Alex? What happened? What’s true of this? What’s not?”
Alanna McGuire is looking for a way forward. “Somehow I’ve got to reinvent myself,” she says, adding that she needs a means to supplement her state pension. “Nothing makes sense,” she says of the drama she has found herself in. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Anne Kearns sees the story as one might view the world through a kaleidoscope. “You can look at it in so many ways,” she says. “It’s incredibly confusing, and although it happened to me and it’s a nightmare, I’m riveted by it.” She wonders if a screenplay might be one way to realize some revenue from financial devastation. “I can see it as an eight-part drama, I really can,” she says. “The problem is, I can’t see the end of the story.”