A former Credit Suisse banker’s wealth firm is closing down after soured investments left him saddled with debt in a rapid downfall for one of London’s feted money managers.
Francis Menassa’s JAR Capital, a wealth manager for rich individuals and families, was recently ordered by a court to wind up operations because of unpaid debts, partly resulting from problematic bets on crypto and leisure assets along with a failed bid to buy a bank, according to registry filings.
A holding company for the onetime banker’s investments — including London-based JAR — owed about £8.8 million ($11 million) to unsecured creditors through late April, the filings show.
JAR’s closure is a significant setback for its founder. Menassa ranked among the UK’s top private client advisers and started his career at Merrill Lynch before moving to Credit Suisse.
His firm previously disclosed assets totaling more than $1 billion across its wealth and asset-management divisions and had an office on Savile Row in London’s well-heeled Mayfair district. The Lebanese native, who lives in the UK, describes himself as a venture capitalist outside of his wealth management duties and has written blog posts on everything from blockchain to the U.S. economy.
Menassa, 50, didn’t respond to requests for comment. JAR Capital has exited its premises in Savile Row, and a committee was set up last month to assist with the liquidation of the wealth manager’s holding company, JAR Financial Management.
The investments that helped to spark JAR Capital’s unraveling include The Wave, a roughly £25 million inland-surfing destination in southwest England that launched shortly before the start of the pandemic.
JAR entities provided an undisclosed sum in 2018 to help fund the project, which Menassa described as “one of a kind.” The Wave’s temporary closure during the pandemic created “significant pressures” for its investors, according to documents for JAR Financial Management, where Menassa is listed as the major shareholder.
The holding company also reported costs of at least £100,000 in 2018 from a failed takeover bid for an unidentified bank in Gibraltar, where Menassa’s wealth firm had operations. In addition, the firm invested more than £2 million in a crypto trading platform called BlockEx that Menassa later struggled to offload after prices for digital currency assets tumbled.
These soured investments led to JAR Capital taking an “indirect hit” as its own clients had allocated capital to them, filings show. Meantime, the firm previously reported shrinking revenue each year between 2017 and 2020, the last year it reported full financials, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Menassa founded JAR Capital in 2014 along with Fadi Sarandah, who exited the firm in 2017 but served through a holding company as the creditor petitioning to wind it up, filings show.
The pair were previously directors of Plurimi Wealth, another London-based wealth firm Menassa co-founded in 2007 after leaving Credit Suisse, where he worked for about seven years.
Sarandah, 44, confirmed his petition to wind up JAR but declined to comment further.