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SoftBank and Wirecard both paid German middleman to broker $1.1bn deal


A German financier who evangelises for bitcoin investing and psychedelic drugs received €13m for brokering SoftBank’s controversial $1.1bn investment in Wirecard.

Christian Angermayer was paid by both sides in an intricate deal, where the reputation of the Japanese conglomerate as the world’s biggest tech investor helped to deflect allegations of accounting fraud at Wirecard while generating large profits for SoftBank executives.

The payments specialist, a Dax 30 member, collapsed in June owing at least €3.2bn to banks and investors, including €900m ($1.1bn) of convertible bond debt issued to SoftBank and then sold on to outside investors in September 2019 in a deal structured by Credit Suisse.

The following month Wirecard paid Mr Angermayer a €11.25m “success fee”, equivalent to 1.25 per cent of the €900m raised, according to people familiar with the arrangements.

SoftBank Investment Advisers, which manages the group’s $100bn Vision Fund, also paid Mr Angermayer around €2m for his role as middleman, according to people familiar with the deal.

The capital committed to Wirecard came from a side fund managed by SBIA on behalf of SoftBank senior executives and Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund.

Those investors made a profit in the tens of millions of euros from the onward sale of the debt but expected to reap hundreds of millions of euros more thanks to exposure they retained to Wirecard’s equity. However, much of those potential profits were wiped out following Wirecard’s share price collapse in June.

The €900m debt, and a separate €500m bond issued at the same time to generate an investment grade rating for Wirecard from Moody’s, the credit rating agency, is now the focus of litigation by investors nursing losses of almost 90 per cent of their capital.

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The agreement with Wirecard detailing the success fee for Mr Angermayer’s firm, Apeiron Advisory, was dated 20 April 2019. Days later the group announced SoftBank’s investment, alongside a “strategic co-operation agreement”. The deal provided a vital vote of confidence as Wirecard fought whistleblower allegations of accounting fraud reported by the Financial Times.

Wirecard, SBIA, and Mr Angermayer declined to comment.

The 42-year-old Mr Angermayer is a serial technology investor and a vocal believer in the benefits of psilocybin — the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”. His efforts to commercialise psychedelic substances for medical purposes have drawn investment from Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel and US cryptocurrencies investor Mike Novogratz, who have both partnered the German financier on several other ventures.

Mr Angermayer also played a key role in helping China’s HNA Group become Deutsche Bank’s largest shareholder in 2017. His firm, Apeiron, formally advised the enigmatic Chinese conglomerate as it used derivatives to build a near 10 per cent stake in Germany’s biggest lender, owning the shares through a chain of offshore holding companies.

That deal saw his friend and business partner Alexander Schütz, an Austrian financier, elected to Deutsche’s supervisory board. HNA subsequently unwound its stake as the Chinese group struggled to cope with the towering debt load it amassed in a series of international acquisitions.

Mr Angermayer has also backed a number of business ventures in Africa, forging a particularly close bond with Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame. “Having done business in more than 15 African countries, there is no country like Rwanda: zero corruption, an amazing leadership and citizens committed to the future,” the German investor wrote in a 2018 social media post.

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Mr Angermayer is also a shareholder in Germany’s Northern Data, whose shares plunged by a third this month after an anonymous blog post questioned its business and valuation. Northern Data strenuously denied the allegations.

He is also a 13 per cent shareholder in Cyan, a small Frankfurt-listed digital security group. It signed a strategic partnership agreement with Wirecard in July 2019, then in December sold the payments group €5m of software, representing a fifth of the sales Cyan reported for 2019. No payment for the software was made before Wirecard filed for insolvency.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Mr Angermayer was paid by SoftBank for introducing the group to Wirecard.

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