DST International letter to LPs denies impropriety in Fb, Twitter investments

    DST International, the funding agency led by Yuri Milner, has despatched a letter to its restricted companions blasting media shops for “insinuations” that it used its holdings in Twitter and Fb as something aside from monetary investments, after it was revealed that the Russian authorities was not directly an investor in DST International.

    The letter, supplied to TechCrunch by a supply, comes within the wake of a heated interval for each firms, together with Google. The three are being questioned by the U.S. Senate, the UK authorities and most of the people over what position Russians could have performed in utilizing their platforms to affect outcomes in elections and different democratic processes.

    Dated November 6, the letter was written in the future after the New York Times and the Guardian printed articles concerning the connections between the Russian authorities and DST International’s LPs primarily based on knowledge from the Paradise Papers, leaked offshore account info compiled by the Worldwide Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

    The letter underscores how charged the local weather is correct now for Russian relations with Western international locations; how that’s taking part in out on social media platforms with extra consideration paid to the cash that’s channeled by them within the type of promoting and investments; and the way the media is attempting to find extra connections between all three.

    DST International is among the tech world’s most outstanding international funding companies, with some $7 billion at present invested in a variety of tech firms, together with client web giants Airbnb and Spotify. Sending out a letter to LPs stating its place was an important transfer to shore up help from any LPs who could be questioning what’s going on, preserving any chilling results at bay; and likewise to be sure that LPs perceive that their identities will probably be protected, as fund LPs will not be repeatedly disclosed.

    “There have been plenty of media articles printed in the present day which have sensationalized some older and long-ago exited investments in Twitter and Fb, omitting many related information in addition to the historic context,” the letter notes. “In some publications, DST International was accused of not disclosing its restricted companions to Fb and Twitter. That is customary within the non-public fairness and enterprise capital industries, and DST International didn’t disclose its LPs to any of the 30+ portfolio firms during which we invested, together with Fb and Twitter.”

    We now have embedded the total letter beneath.

    Earlier this week, the media reported that DST International, the funding agency run by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, had acquired cash from the Kremlin by state-backed companies, together with the publicly listed monetary establishment VTB Financial institution, which is majority owned by the Russian authorities. That cash was in flip used to finance early investments rounds in Fb and Twitter, stakes during which Milner’s firms owned greater than eight p.c and 5 p.c, respectively, at one level.

    Milner and DST International divested shares in each Twitter and Fb after their public choices. It had bought the final of its Fb holdings in 2013 and its Twitter shares in 2014. Notably, it isn’t unlawful for overseas, state-owned establishments to put money into U.S. firms, both.

    Nonetheless, even a touch of additional Russian interference is a more-than-prickly topic proper now in gentle of earlier revelations that Fb and Twitter each showed thousands of ads planted by faux Russian accounts to foment division throughout the U.S. through the 2016 Presidential election. It’s broadly believed that the advertisements — along with a a lot wider disinformation marketing campaign that included faux Fb accounts and bogus information tales — performed a task within the political rise and eventual election of Donald Trump because the 45th U.S. President.

    It stays to be seen how Milner’s ties to the Kremlin are taking part in with Washington regulators. One massive query is whether or not the publication of those connections may spur questions from authorities. However Milner — a preferred determine in Silicon Valley who settled part-time right into a $100 million home in Silicon Valley’s Los Altos Hills in 2011 and who attended Mark Zuckerberg’s yard wedding ceremony in 2012 — appears to proceed to benefit from the help of his fellow buyers.

    On the Internet Summit convention in Lisbon yesterday, famed investor Jim Breyer, who led Fb’s Sequence A spherical whereas managing the enterprise agency Accel Companions, and who remained on the board of Fb till 2013, mentioned of Milner: “I’m a fan of Yuri. I’ve identified him since 2010. I simply don’t know greater than that. He’s an excellent investor.”

    Requested if the Instances story would have an effect on Breyer’s willingness to work with Milner proper now, Breyer merely shrugged and mentioned, “I don’t know,” as if to counsel he’s ready to see what occurs subsequent however isn’t involved by it.

    In response to the Instances piece, DST International provided a statement to the outlet, echoing comparable messaging that DST has issued up to now, which is that it doesn’t take a board seat or voting rights in any of its portfolio firms. Its Instances assertion additional added, “It’s value remembering that Russia-U.S. relations have been significantly better in 2009 and 2011 when these investments have been made following Secretary of State Clinton urgent the ‘Reset Button‘ in Moscow in 2009.”

    DST International notes “majority” of its investments have been non-U.S. firms, and that lower than 5 p.c of that funding has come from VTB Financial institution, which it characterizes as “the one Russian authorities establishment that invested in any DST International fund.”

    The letter from DST International’s administration workforce to its restricted companions appears designed to assuage buyers that DST will shield their identities regardless of coming underneath scrutiny itself.

    “Whereas sure assertions made by the press are inaccurate or incomplete, DST International isn’t at liberty to disclose info concerning its buyers and won’t achieve this with out their consent,” the agency writes.

    DST additionally appears to take pains to distance itself from Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek-Russian oligarch who’s reportedly near the Russian prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev, and has ties to Kanton Providers, an outfit that reportedly acquired a whole lot of hundreds of thousands of in loans from Gazprom, a state-controlled natural-gas big.

    Kanton, the Instances had reported, owned one of many DST funding autos used to purchase shares of Fb.

    Maybe most pointedly, the letter notes that Usmanov was however considered one of 50 restricted companions within the DST International entities that invested in Fb.

    DST additional says it had “no data of any business lending relationships of Mr. Usmanov, together with with any governmental counterparties, to finance any portion of his DST International investments.” Not final, DST notes that whereas Usmanov was an LP in its first two funds, “neither Mr. Usmanov nor every other Russian investor (aside from Mr. Milner and a few DST International workforce members) [is] an LP in any of DST International III (2012), DST International IV (2014) or DST International V (2015).”

    You possibly can learn the remainder of its letter to buyers right here:

    We reached out to DST International, Fb, and Twitter for touch upon this story. We now have but to listen to again from DST or Fb. Nonetheless, Twitter despatched us the next assertion:

    “DST International is a well-known entity in Silicon Valley and a big investor in tech (they’ve invested considerably in Fb, Groupon, Zynga, Spotify, Airbnb, Alibaba, Slack, Field, and many others.). We introduced through an August 2011 blog post that DST International led a spherical of investments in Twitter. They’ve since divested their curiosity from Twitter in Could, 2014.

    “We will affirm that DST Investments three was a Twitter investor and was one of many funds of DST International. We disclosed that DST Investments three was an investor / social gathering to our pre-IPO Investor Rights Settlement and Voting Settlement and filed these agreements here and here. As a matter of coverage, Twitter performed critiques of all pre-IPO buyers. After our IPO in November 2013, we reviewed all potential buyers in accordance with FCC rules.”

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