A venture capital fund backed by sanctioned Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich appears to be trying to wipe any trace of its operations since he was sanctioned by the United Kingdom and European Union as the Kremlin wages war on Ukraine.
Impulse VC, an investment fund that has offices in Russia and Germany, has wiped nearly every part of their website that identifies who they are. Their website as of the publication of this story only shows their name “Impulse.”
However, a search on the internet archive Wayback Machine shows that in the buildup to the sanctions placed on Abramovich by U.S. allies, the fund’s site showed extensive details of its operations and investors, including its portfolio, office locations and target investments in perspective companies.
Abramovich owns U.K. soccer powerhouse Chelsea F.C. The billionaire had tried to sell the team but, with the U.K. sanctions now in place, the government now has a say in the sale process. The EU and U.K. sanctions attempted to freeze Abramovich’s assets while restricting his travel. A Chelsea spokesman declined comment Friday, saying he forwarded CNBC’s questions to Abramovich’s personal spokesperson, who didn’t immediately respond.
Leaders of Impulse VC did not respond to multiple emails requesting comment. Research done by PitchBook shows Abramovich is its main investor. While it’s unclear how much Abramovich has put into the fund, PitchBook shows that the Russian billionaire has helped finance venture capital deals, both through Impulse and his separate investment vehicle Norma Investments that are worth on average $6.65 million.
A few Abramovich-linked investments through Impulse and Norma Investments are based in the United States, according to PitchBook.
Industry executives say venture capital funds tied to Russian executives will likely not be able to avoid the impact of current and future sanctions, including those by the United States.
“I don’t see how VC funds will be exempt from the current and future sanctions on Russian oligarchs,” Charles Myers, the chairman of advisory firm Signum Global Advisors, said in an interview. “So if Abramovich is sanctioned in the U.S., the VC and private equity funds will have to disgorge his capital which will be seized and frozen by the United States Treasury,” he added.
Impulse is the latest Abramovich-backed company that appears to be laying low under the public glare of sanctions. The Wall Street Journal reported that the British Virgin Islands-listed Norma Investments came under control of an Abramovich business associate hours after Russia started their invasion of Ukraine.
Data from Marine Traffic shows two superyachts owned by Abramovich have made their way to Turkey as government officials there have said they have no intention of imposing sanctions against Russia.
Abramovich, who has vehemently denied that he has any ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has yet to be sanctioned by the U.S., although Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday told CNBC that the Biden administration could target him next. The Wall Street Journal reported that Abramovich had so far avoided U.S. sanctions as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy advised Biden to hold off on sanctioning Abramovich, saying he could help broker a peace deal with Putin.
Impulse wipes website
Impulse’s archived website from February shows the venture capital fund generally invested between $250,000 to $5 million.
Their site’s investment criteria says they were looking for companies that have “$1 billion + potential value.”
The previous site also notes that Impulse’ portfolio included over 60 companies from around the world. Their investments have focused on companies in the U.S., EU, U.K. and Russia, the archived site says.
Worksuite, a San Francisco based company, saw seed investments from Impulse with Abramovich labeled by PitchBook as the “lead partner” for the deals. Worksuite is a workplace management software company that saw millions of dollars worth of seed investments from Impulse starting in 2016, according to PitchBook’s research.
A Worksuite representative did not return a request for comment before publication.
Genome Protection and OncoTartis, two New York headquartered drug research companies, saw millions in venture funding from Abramovich through his Norma Investments.
The U.S. based companies who saw early investments from Abramovich did not return requests for comment.