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The unsolved murder of an unusual billionaire (bloomberg.com)
167 points by BerislavLopac on Oct 29, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 103 comments

This whole case has been crazy. I live about 4km from the home. It went from murder/suicide to murder/murder to maybe the kids did it? to no wait they've hired all these extra detectives to... Anyone's guess really.

At this point, short of a confession from someone I doubt we'll ever know.

As someone who works in the pharmaceutical industry, Apotex is a HUGE player and Barry was very well known for being an aggressive and shrewd businessman.

His death came as a shock to a lot of people.

I wonder if he had spent more money on security, drivers, personal assistants, etc., whether that would have protected them more from unsavory people in their lives and these extra staff might have given the police more leads in the case. And why wouldn’t they have invested in better security and monitoring of their home? Crazy.

The lack of a serious security system is the craziest part of all of this imho.

Not only were they extremely rich, but they splashed money all over the place in various charitable events and business dealings.

It seems almost irresponsible to at the very least place a security camera system that monitors the grounds of the home and offices where they spent the most of their time.

Yeah, I was about to say that, but decided not to, since it sounds like victim blaming. But it is true, though: you can get a bloody Wyzecam ($25) which has motion alerts, etc.; put a dozen of them all around the house and you still come in under $500. Why would you not do this?

Maybe because it's Canada, and people have a reasonable expectation of not being robbery victims? I don't know.

This one struck a little close to home as less than three weeks earlier I had met them at a fundraising event. At the time I really didn't know who they were but the names came back when the news broke a few weeks later. They just seemed like a nice couple in the admittedly very short few minutes I spoke with them.

Interesting fact about this case:

At first, the police made statements that there was no signs of forced entry and they were not seeking suspects. This led numerous media outlets to report it was a murder-suicide. After the family conducted a parallel private investigation which discovered contrary evidence, the police finally ruled it a double homicide.


That's all in the original article.

I am kind of surprised billionaires and CEOs don't order each others' killings more often.

I was doing homework one night and the building next door's top 2 floors were blown up because some banker had a hit placed on his head. So perhaps I have pretty low expectations on what powerful people without morals can do.

My observation is that elites tend towards keeping around multiple forms of mutual blackmail in their pockets so that they stay in a cease-fire arrangement: e.g. all the conspiracy/cult stories where everyone is made an equal participant in some crime or disturbing ritual.

This allows them to avoid simply killing each other(too risky) while still allowing credible threats to power, and gatekeeping contenders who won't play by the same rules. "Civil" society is an expression that alludes to making that ruleset ethically responsible and cooling down the competition. It's tested constantly by anyone who wants to get ahead.

The behavior is everywhere once you look: If you have a poorly regulated sport, match fixing, cheating, dangerous play, and exclusionary collusion all become rampant. If you have a labor force with few protections and high competition, they start to climb over each other to pump up their image. And when organized crime structures break down, violence erupts.

Democratic structures, coalition-building, collective bargaining, and other tactics that negotiate rights and protections solve most of these issues temporarily, at least until a majority are satisfied enough to stop participating, by which time someone ambitious will have found a new angle for changing the rules.

If it feels like this era is more unstable or more violent, it's because there are some very broad changes hitting. Disruption worked.

This is your observation about elites, or your theory? Saying that you've regularly observed elites keeping blackmail on each other in their pockets seems...deserving of elaboration.

Have a study at legal cases of elites. Just the things proved in courts. You'll get a good idea about how the world works without fearing you're a "conspiracist".

Do it for a place like Italy as well, if you want to get really scared.

Well, if I had observed all of it, I would be implicated, wouldn't I?

Most of the material comes second-hand. It's not hard to open up a biography of a powerful figure and dissect it.

It seems more likely that at certain times elites have found they have more in common with each other than the lower classes even across religious or ethnic boundaries.

This was certainly true for at least part of the Middle Ages. As Saladin famously said to Guy of Lusignan, "kings do not kill kings." [0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_of_Lusignan

It's not just "elites" (or I'm not clear on what you mean by that). For example, if you're a cop around dirty cops it's not enough just to not be a snitch. If you are around dirty business they will force you to accept bribes so you are in on the mutually assured destruction.

See also gangs, etc.

Pablo Escobar famously employed this tactic - you we're either on his payroll and accepted his cash or you were killed. "plata o plomo" - "silver or lead".

Yes, but it's wrong. Kings kill(-ed) kings all the time. For instance check out what the Saudis are doing these months.

That makes it a big question, why it's not happening more often then they can reproduce. And it's not like they are writing on their own wikipedia page "hey, I, prince Saudi XYZ don't kill Saddam Hussein's nephew because <reason>". So of course it's some guessing involved.

And I have yet to see a more convincing one than that they have dirt on each other. It makes a lot of sense. And while you might think that getting killed is worse than getting bad press or going to jail, for them it means losing power, and that's all they have.

So let's not get too romantic here and try to discuss the facts. If you have a really good reason they don't kill each other more often, then let's hear it. But morals or an "understanding" can't be it.

It really depends on the era and the type of nobility. Most of the European royal families were related in the 18th and 19th centuries--I can't think of too many instances of them killing each other with the gusto of, say, the leaders of the French Revolution. Exceptions like the killing of the Duke of Enghien blackened the reputations of the perpetrators, in this case Napoleon and Talleyrand.

The more interesting counter-examples are cases like the succession struggles in the Ottoman Empire, which after a couple of generations ran on the Highlander principle. The last brother standing became the Sultan.

>As Saladin famously said to Guy of Lusignan, "kings do not kill kings."

And yet, most kings were killed by other kings or elite wannabe kings.

Some rather limited parts of the Middle Ages, perhaps. The Burgundians and Valois were pretty hard on each other.

It depends on the location and time. In the great English victories of the Hundred Years War many ordinary soldiers were killed whereas the French nobility were often spared. It did not hurt that the latter could pay fat ransoms, of course.

p.s., I'm reading up on the Burgundians. They do seem like a bloodthirsty lot. Thanks for pointing them out.

>I was doing homework one night and the building next door's top 2 floors were blown up because some banker had a hit placed on his head...

Wait. What?

Did this really happen somewhere? (Sorry for the question if it's stupid, I just was unaware of all of this.)

> Did this really happen somewhere?

It was in Eastern Europe. I was about 15 at the time based on remembering the friend I called after it happened. Assassinations were pretty common, granted not using bombs like that especially in a busy residential area.

When I lived in Sofia, Bulgaria for a few months, I stayed on the ground floor of an apartment building with a wealthy family on the top floor. The place was constantly surrounded by plain-clothed armed guards: four or five stood outside on the road, more in the lobby. I used to chat with them when I went onto the balcony for a smoke. As a British person, it was quite an eye-opener to see all these guys wandering about with pistols on their belts.

> Did this really happen somewhere?

> was in Eastern Europe.


Of course it happens, less in USA and only because FBI will send 500 agents to find the killer.

Killing a billionaire or a politician it's hard and risky but that only increases the price. Boom or bust

Yeah, but where did this happen?

I mean, what city? and when?

I'd just like to read about what happened.

Not gonna say the exact place and city not sure it matters. But seeing people's couches, tables, kitchens, toys all exposed via a big hole in the building was pretty surreal and kind of hard to forget. Pretty sure I didn't dream that, as you seem to be wondering.

The amazing thing is nobody got killed, many people in the surrounding apartment were lucky, or not home. Even the banker was not killed.

I would guess Russia.

Aluminum wars https://www.google.com/search?q=+Aluminium+Wars

Almost certain that there's a market: want X killed? It will cost you this much.


I don't understand why you'd choose to believe something like this. Assassinating the leaders of #occupywallstreet was simply unnecessary, hence why it didn't ever happen.

I think it has been sold, but only to the extent and the legislature itself has been. Which is still a worrying amount.

It is indeed surprising because the profit motive is there and it is not limited to just rival billionaires.

Any random guy with enough capital can short the company stock and then place a hit on the CEO.

I would expect stuff like that to happen super often but I don't think I have even heard of one real case like this.

One factor is that it’s really hard to find loyal henchmen to perform hits who won’t later blackmail you or squeal to the police in return for a plea bargain. You need an organization to enforce loyalty down a chain of command, like any crime syndicate, and it’s hard to keep that a secret.

It’s better to apply your energies to creating things.

Which boils down to that there must be a police worth squeling to.

I would expect stuff like that to happen super often but I don't think I have even heard of one real case like this.

At the risk of stating the obvious: did this realization that reality fails to match your predictions cause you to question your model or your predictions?

Yea it did but editing the original comment makes it boring.

I looked up the percentage swings caused by CEO deaths and it's actually not that big and not always a definite drop. So it wasn't as surely profitable as I thought. A murderous whitecollar sociopath probably has tons of other lower risk crimes he can commit instead. A typical insider trade would probably make him more.

Also I am not really sure hitmen exist outside of movies... I can't verify this without putting myself on some list though.

(Hello FBI! This is just morbid hypotheticals. I am not advocating serially murdering CEOs for profit)

Not a CEO, but the Borussia Dortmund bus attack with a bomb on the way to a Champions League game was made by a shorter. Certainly killing a few players would have made the stock fall a whole lot.


Law number 5. not a hit on the CEO, but close. Those trades are hard to pull off. the SEC is looking for successful out of the money options trades.

Can you explain that trade precisely? Like with example orders/prices? I’d also be curious about how one gets reliable hitmen & deniability and the like.

Explain what trade? If the CEO dies the stock will go down due to the uncertainty of the future for the company.

Right. Give me literally the orders you put in, with a timeline for the hit. Then explain the price points, liquid capital & risk stats you need to make a particular profit.

This is basic stuff for actual short sell trades so I presume it is easy to produce in the “hit a CEO” fund space.

The problem is not the difficulty of the trade, the issue is that the SEC watches for people who profit off of unexpected events like this and unless you have a large track record of trading against companies it's going to put you right at the top of the suspect list.

In your other comments you try to make it seem difficult but when you are in control of a hit at a specific time the risks can be heavily mitigated. The bet is not that the stock will fall, it's that it will underperform it's historic correlated stocks during that time frame.

So the trade looks like this, find a stock with a very high correlation to the target (usually a competitor in the same space). At 9:55AM go long that stock equal dollar value you go short the target stock. This eliminates most risks induced by market-wide or even sector-wide price appreciation. Schedule assassination at 10:00AM. Close out the position when news breaks at 10:15AM or whatever. Even if the attempt fails, you will likely be close to even. Use margin or options to lever up.

The trade is not the hard part of these schemes at all. The hard part is not getting caught because the trades are so easy that the SEC knows exactly what to look for.

Well that and you are scheduling a murder for hire at a specific time & also the price movements of a share price at a specific time.

While also managing the risk of either of those times being off even a little & not accounting for the risks of the criminality of the trade.

Let me make this easier for you. Pick a share price now. A range of share prices post news event. A % chance each of those prices happen given the outcome you know will happen and an optimal execution path. Show your work on the Greeks.

What does that look like for shorts? What happens when you add the risk pricing of “go to prison forever for being stupid” to the mix?

>While also managing the risk of either of those times being off even a little

The correlation trade buys you a big enough window to easily coordinate that. We're not talking about seconds, more on the order of hours.

>not accounting for the risks of the criminality of the trade.

Yes, I already told you that.

>Let me make this easier for you. Pick a share price now. A range of share prices post news event. A % chance each of those prices happen given the outcome you know will happen and an optimal execution path. Show your work on the Greeks.

I'm not sure what your issue is. The trade is trivial and I already gave it to you. You can't assign percentage chances to the prices after the event because there isn't enough data on reactions to unexpected deaths to assign any meaningful volatility values to them.

There is no optimal execution path in an event like that because it's predicting the size of what will be an emotional reaction programmed into headline analysis traders. Headline hits, stock price dumps from automated trading, close position 5 mins later and be happy with the money you make.

> What happens when you add the risk pricing of “go to prison forever for being stupid” to the mix?

This is what I already told you the actual problem is. The trade is trivial to make money on but it's going to be impossible not to get caught unless you do something a lot more clever to have it hidden in someone's constant trading pattern of shorts. But the trade that makes money itself is trivial.

It's the same thing with any insider information really. If you know an announcement is going to come out at 10:00AM that a company is being investigated for fraud by the SEC, you just short it immediately before 10:00AM and then close the position 5 minutes after the headline or whatever. Any % chances you assign to various prices will be a meaningless exercise because price declines are all about the public's perception for that particular company.

I'm no trader, so I couldn't confidently craft a good strategy to exploit an opportunity even if there was a good one. How about you explain why you don't expect this to be workable instead?

Sure. The first rule is that no trade is a good one without specific entrance & exit points. Saying “I can predict a share will go up/down” independent of that specificity & risk profile is a classic example of someone who isn’t realistic in their trading behavior.

The second rule is that shorting is much much harder to get right than going long. Small procedural errors or day long mistimes of the market turn trades unprofitable.

Third, the market for this trade is exceptionally non-desperate people. If you have the money to make this trade happen you have virtually risk free access to trades that keep you fat & happy.

Finally, the riskiest part of this trade is the most hand wavy “hit a ceo” is not a thing I can get a counter party to hedge. It’s quite literally impossible for the vast majority market participants. Even before we talk about the very real likelihood of going to jail let’s talk about the risk of not being successful. See above about short timing.

All told the answer to “why don’t rich guys hit other rich guys to short their assets” can easily boil down to “cause that’s stupid”

It could work, but it would be easier and cheaper to introduce uncertainty in other ways.

Bad skynet.

How does this theory fit when this company was privately held?

If you want to go with a more Marxist interpretation, it's because they all know they can squeeze the lower classes for now. Once capitalism eats up all the growth they will turn on each other and capitalism will eat itself.

Three centuries and seven billion people later, we're all still waiting for that day the market-based systems run out of growth. Any century now.

And that's after the Marxists were forced to abandon their original premise: that it would deliver superior materialist results for the masses. When that spectacularly, entirely failed to come true and Marxism proved to be an economic and social disaster in every instance it has ever been attempted, the goal posts had to be endlessly shifted, decade after decade. Now it's nothing more than a fairytale, its adherents are told to patiently wait in faith until Capitalism finally dies off.

Generation after generation of Marxists have come and gone, waiting for the market system to collapse globally. Instead, it has gradually spread all over the planet, resulting in the greatest uplifting of the global average and median standard of living the planet has ever seen.

Is the only thing holding you back from murder lack of funds?

If not, why do you think billionaires are any different?

Large companies and those who run them can be both ruthless and amoral. I think it’s a mistake to think the average person’s intuition would apply here.

Beside moral grounds which you seem to give people little credit for, highly educated people who have been financially successful know how to make money by legal means. The risk benefit ratio is just not worth it particularly in a western country where the chances of getting away with murder are pretty slim (there aren’t many unsolved high profile murders).

I think you are right. As the return on passive market investments go down you should expect to see more of this as the “return” for extralegal tactics will proportionally rise.

That said, I think it’s fairly impossible to spot a successful murder as distinct from accident/natural causes. Consider the death of Michael Hastings. Do I think that was murder? Probably not, but there’s no way to firmly put that thought to bed either. It certainly wouldn’t be marked as an “unsolved murder”.

Exactly. "Accidents" can happen. Some families have more of them. You'll never know.

This is it. If you tell a typical senior executive at a company that their actions will lead to the death of 10 million people, their primary concern will be if the company will still make money one the deal, then how they can hide their actions from regulators in order to maximize their return.

You might think they would consider whether or not they'd be jailed, but that thought never crosses their mind.

I disagree. Very, very few people, CEOs included have that little disregard for human life. Most CEOs aren't that different from you or I.

I've seen enough evidence of senior leadership of major companies disregarding human life. Car manufactures are particularly bad in this respect, lots of major safety issues in vehicles wouldn't be fixed if not for regulators, since wrongful death lawsuits are cheaper than fixing the issue.

You can look at cigarettes companies for trying to deflect from medical evidence that they cause cancer. Similarly with asbestos and black lung. There's so much evidence that senior leadership at large companies are more than willing to let people die rather than pay out.

Down vote me all you want, but there's plenty of evidence to convince me.

FWIW I agree, but the CEOs that do fit the mold of ruthless and amoral are extraordinarily well suited for large scale business.

Likely in societies with more corruption and low labour costs, using gangsters as intimidation and to assassinate your opponents is more frequent.

Happened in China, underground gangsters would phone up rich local businessmen asking if they needed their services. As well, debt collection agencies in certain countries are opaque enough that their practices border on near-criminal.

Presumably a billionaire would be better suited to both get away with and profit from such a murder.

In places where the rule of law is weak and corruption is rampant it is easy to literally get away with murder just by paying off the police. But that doesn't protect you from retribution from associates of the people you had killed. You have to either wipe out the entire enemy tribe, or make it look like a very convincing accident, or very convincingly pin it on someone else. Sometimes you combine those with the assistance of the corrupt police.

If television is to be believed, detective work is discovering means, motive and opportunity.

By that measure, billionaires are in any given instant 2/3rds of the way there.

If the only thing holding you back from murder is a lack of funds, you are probably more likely than average to become a billionaire.

If I had near infinite funding + the opportunity to be above the law, I'd definitely be tempted to act as some sort of vigilante.

Bill Gates realized he could save a lot more kids from the heartache of losing their parents by curing malaria in millions permanently, instead of stopping the Joker from robbing individuals a few nights a week.

He probably assumes becoming mega rich requires a certain form of sociopathy that ditinguishes the group from the rest of us.

A billionaire has a lot to lose if he ever gets caught. Why risk even a small chance of spending the rest of your life in prison with the common criminals you detest so much? Unless the stakes are extremely high, it's better to forget about the few tens of millions you didn't make and just chill in your yacht.

Meanwhile, the modern legal system offers a much better way to destroy your rivals, take their money, and publicly humiliate them if that's what your ego demands. It suits a billionaire's style to send lawyers, not hitmen.

A billionaire has as much to lose as almost anyone else. You don’t perceive wealth as “more to lose”.

Yes, they do. Poverty creates desperation. They also have less to gain. Most any billionaire likely understands that earning a few more billion will not change their life that much.

I can’t disagree about people living at or below poverty line, even from the materialistic view. The average HN reader, though? Philosophically, I believe what I wrote is generally true. Having a bunch of money isn’t going to change how happy someone is. You aren’t any freer. You are still bound by the human condition like everyone else.

A guy working for McDonalds and living in a small run down apartment in a bad neighborhood definitely has less to lose by going to prison then a billionaire.

I think this takes a narrow materialistic view of things. People don’t suddenly get any happier when they have billions of dollars. At the very bottom, sure, there is something there. But the average HN reader and poster has as much to lose as any billionaire or millionaire in the abstract. Freedom is an extremely undervalued asset.

Once you're a billionaire, maybe the Nash equilibrium suggests that you don't go too far to upset the cart for other billionaires.

If I ever become one, I'll make sure to come back to this post and let you know what's up.

Risk management :) It is more effective to burn someone to the ground through legal system (layers, tax reports) than risk everything using something illegal.

This is how large corporations cleans up competitors - either they buy you for the price they set or slowly destroy you through lawsuits.

Probably because they are not the comic book villains that Hollywood routinely portrays them as.

> I was doing homework one night and the building next door's top 2 floors were blown up because some banker had a hit placed on his head.

Wow. What country was that in?

Billionaires might be too big at that point. I think you'd be more likely to find hits taken out on the regional couple dozen millionaire businessmen.

On the other side of this, I am surprised that people kill each other at all.

MAD. It's the same reason political leaders aren't assassinating each other all the time. If you go around assassinating other billionaires, there's a fair chance you'll get assassinated in response by others.

Moreover, if you normalize assassinating billionaires, it's not just other billionaires you need to look out for.

erm...Osama was rich. His target was Wall St.

Maybe because it was harder to bypass local laws before? Untraceable money (crypto) is great way to "incentivize" removal of one of your rivals.

They are doing/attempting it all the time (in 2nd/3rd world countries where the law can bought) this is why there are security firms equipped better than most of the special forces out there. In 1st world countries the law can be fought instead and still it happens (just a recent "New trial for Sydney property developer Ron Medich over murder of former business partner"). But I am certain most of the time it is (like with the regular folks) just hatred and personal revenge for theft/insult rather than "just business".

Interesting timing with this articles release.

The family lawyer just accused the Toronto Police of not doing a thorough job just a few days ago.


I don't think there's a place on Hacker News for this kind of crackpot conspiracy theorizing.

Now that there's been some time to see all the comment threads, there was nothing crackpot about the straightforward question about a Clinton connection.

Conspiracy theorists allege a connection because Canada's largest generic drug company donated drugs to some aid projects in needy countries. Barry Sherman founded the drug company and some of the aid projects were Clinton Foundation projects.


Apotex worked with Direct Relief, which has Clinton Foundation connections I believe.

Why was he unusual? (I didn't read the article.)

I read the entire article and I still don't know why they called him an "unusual billionaire".

Probably because he didn't seem to live a very lavish lifestyle, had some dealings with some shady people and was labeled as erratic by some while being a popular and loved figure in Toronto.

Off topic but this cover is just so poorly designed.


Less so now, but in the early half of the decade Businessweek was known for its unorthodox, and often lighthearted style of graphic design. This still survives on in the Businessweek 404 (When will Businessweek get its sh!t together?!), but the corresponding 404 for Bloomberg itself has been replaced by something more sober.

I think I tend to trust outlets more if they don't pay so much attention into keeping up with the design style of the day.

Overfocus on this shallow surface quality has a correlation with a lack of underlying quality in the actual content. It's not that you can't have both or that I don't appreciate surface quality. But if something is ugly or simple or doesn't follow trends and has great content, it tends to remove a certain sort of person as consumer and perhaps lowers the temptation to cater to shallow desires because not many are around to get hooked.

That is, many things are better because certain parts of them are objectively worse and turn away certain people.

Looks like a "Brutalist" design, which is becoming more popular. A sort of reaction against standardized design patterns (Material, iOS). some examples here: http://brutalistwebsites.com/

I think that's completely purposeful...gives off a "Pepe Silvia" conspiracy theorist vibe https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/pepe-silvia

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