Poker Link May Have Sunk Lasry's Ambassadorial Ambitions

Apr 30 2013 | 11:54am ET

Avenue Capital Group's Marc Lasry said he dropped from the running to serve as U.S. ambassador to France due to difficulties separating him from his hedge fund. But Lasry's ties to an illegal poker ring may have been the real reason.

Lasry unexpected withdrew—after having been tipped for the post by former President Bill Clinton, and having restructured Avenue to accommodate his exit—last week, just a week after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided an art gallery at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, which was allegedly used to launder money from an illegal poker ring run by the Russian mob.

According to the New York Post, Lasry is friends with one of the 31 people arrested, 27-year-old Illya Trincher, who is accused of running the New York ring. And the Avenue co-founder is known as a fan of poker.

"Poker is math, so I enjoy playing it because I think there's a lot of math involved," Lasry told Bloomberg TV last year. "And it's fun. It's fun to play with others."

It's not clear that Lasry participated in Trincher's illegal games or thought the link might lead to an unpleasant nomination hearing before the U.S. Senate.

"It's not that he committed a crime, but it opens a can of worms," a source told the tabloid.

Avenue insisted that Lasry's decision stemmed from his difficulty in getting approval from investors to leave the hedge fund.

"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," a spokesman told the Post.

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