A prominent investor’s apparent suicide after his financial empire collapsed is being grieved as Wall Street tragedy.
Shortly before 1 p.m. Monday, Charles de Vaulx entered the posh Midtown Manhattan tower at 717 Fifth Ave. that had long housed the offices of International Value Advisers, the investment firm he founded 14 years ago, according to police.
Minutes later, de Vaulx — who built IVA into a financial empire with $20 billion in assets at its peak before it abruptly liquidated last month — plummeted from the 10th floor, according to a building employee.
Police are investigating the death of the 59-year-old Moroccan-born financier, but no foul play is suspected. And de Vaulx has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
In piecing together de Vaulx’s passing, people close to the firm say it was the final, tragic act of a brilliant investor whose life had become inextricably linked to the fate of his firm.
“This is a Shakespearean tragedy on a lot of levels … ironically many of the stocks he owned have appreciated significantly in the past few months,” a source close to de Vaulx told The Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Charles was a complex man with a lot of hubris who felt he failed in his mission of value investing and lost his raison d’etre,” this person added.
A month earlier, IVA had liquidated after a turbulent year that included the abrupt departure of de Vaulx’s longtime business partner Chuck de Lardemelle — a respected money-manager in his own right.
Leading up to the liquidation, investors had been withdrawing their cash in droves as IVA’s strategy of value investing — or scooping up undervalued stocks — had gotten hammered by a pandemic, which boosted growth stocks.
Still, the brisk liquidation surprised and puzzled some investors as de Vaulx still boasted a loyal group of clients. De Vaulx founded IVA in 2007 after abruptly leaving the helm of First Eagle, an iconic money-management shop from the 1980s and 1990s that was founded by legendary investor Jean-Marie Eveillard.
IVA quickly became one of the fastest-growing funds in the US. As he grew the business, he brought on de Lardemelle, also a protege of Eveillard, to run it.
But over time it became clear the two fundamentally disagreed on how the firm should be run, quibbling over day-to-day details like which analysts should report to whom and how to organize workflow, according to sources close to the firm.
Even as IVA grew into a closely followed firm on Wall Street that boasted around 40 employees, de Vaulx was unwilling to cede any control or responsibility to de Lardemelle, the sources said.
“One of the main tenets of value investing is a focus on what can go wrong. Charles was fixated on this, which wealthy clients appreciated,” said a source noting that “IVA wasn’t a ‘get rich’ approach. It was a ‘stay rich’ one.”
Last July, de Lardemelle announced his departure, a move which dismayed investors and put an end to his personal and professional relationship with de Vaulx. Investors saw de Lardemelle’s exit as cause for alarm. Over the next six months, the fund dwindled to around $3 billion as investors yanked out money.
People close to de Vaulx say that even though he was a wealthy man worth hundreds of millions of dollars, it was a blow to him that some investors no longer trusted him with their money. Having emerged from Eveillard’s shadow, de Vaulx had wanted to be a legend in his own right.
(De Vaulx’s departure from First Eagle reportedly came amid a dispute with investors who had acquired the company, forcing Eveillard to come out of retirement to run it again.)
“It was never about the money,” one person close to de Vaulx said. “IVA was an embodiment of de Vaulx’s personality and when it began to unwind, he took it personally.”
A statement on the IVA web site reads, “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our Chairman and CIO, Charles de Vaulx. The entire IVA community conveys their deepest sympathy to his family at this difficult time.”
The firm did not respond to requests for further comment. De Vaulx leaves behind a wife and two children.
Additional reporting by Lorena Mongelli and Craig McCarthy