Grand Theory — Supp.7
This Supp.7 will dig deeper into Renaissance Technologies [hereinafter “RenTec”], Bannon and Yandex. This post draws no conclusions about the information presented. Hopefully other researchers and analysts will find Supp.7 to be useful to their own projects.
Supp.2 presented information about RenTec’s investments. We learned that RenTec was an investor in Aladdin Knowledge Systems (AKS) when it (AKS) sold Alfa Bank technology designed to secure AB’s online banking platform. That same technology, or derivatives thereof, secures websites and online platforms all over the world for companies that are household names (e.g., Verisign).
Supp.5 had a subtle reference to one of RenTec’s founders, Robert Mercer. Specifically, it linked to a March 2017 article from the Tampa Bay Times that reported that Mercer, Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica’s moneyman, and Dmitry Rybolovlev have been known to yacht next to one another.
- Note 1 — See also Supp.1, Notes 10 & 11.
In 2007, Stephen Bannon became the CEO of Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE), replacing Brock Pierce. IGE sells in-game virtual currency used in Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).
- Note 2 — Bannon was involved with the company prior to 2007, but in a different capacity. Specifically, personnel from the entertainment company known as the “The Firm, Inc.” were hired by IGE to assist with growth and management (One of The Firm’s clients was Leonardo DiCaprio). Bannon was partner in said company around that time. Personnel from Vivendi Universal Games were also hired by IGE. Vivendi became of Activision Blizzard, which makes World of Warcraft, but at one time they owned the rights to World of Warcraft.
- Note 3— Brock Pierce was a child actor who founded IGE in 2001. He’s now into Bitcoin bigly. See also this 2014 BuzzFeed article about some messy legal drama between IGE folks.
In 2006, Bannon convinced Goldman Sachs to invest $60M in IGE. Wired had a good summary in a 2008 article:
In late 2007, however, IGE’s world started to be complicated by the law. For example, and as reported by Wired in 2007, IGE got a subpoena from the Florida Attorney General about their business practices.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office of Economic Crimes has issued a subpoena to gold-seller IGE (and parent company Affinity Media) as part of an investigation under the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The subpoena seeks information regarding IGE’s sales and practices regarding virtual gold sales within Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.
- Note 4(a) — See this Wandering Goblin article from 2007 titled “Gold Selling and the Art of Disinformation” for an inside view of how Bannon’s company, Affinity Media, operated in the virtual currency space.
- Note 4(b) — A complaint related to a class action against IGE is HERE.
- Note 5 — MotherJones casually reported in 2015 that Bannon stoked GamerGate. See also:
Back to RenTec — Additional Investments
Per the SEC’s EDGAR database, RenTec’s corporate office is at 800 Third Avenue in New York.
Guess who else claims/claimed that address?
RenTec is one of the largest investors in Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI). More particularly, WhaleWisdom shows RenTec owning over .4% in ATVI. That does not seem like much, but it equates to over 3.2M shares in ATVI. At today’s prices, that’s equal to a little more than $117M.
You might recall a few really awesome twitter threads on Yandex recently.
Yandex.Money is interesting for two reasons.
First, Yandex.Money, as a payment service and e-wallet, is a major distributor of Blizzard Entertainment cards, which can be used to buy World of Warcraft gold along with other digital assets.
- Note 6 — WoW Gold is real [commodity] money if you haven’t figured that out yet from things like Goldman Sach’s $60M investment in IGE. e-Wallets are away of transacting in online. Alice might even be able to compensate Bob for real world services, even though Alice lives in the US and Bob in Russia, simply by trading gold in a WoW game. Bob can easily find a Cathy who will buy Bob’s gold for cold hard cash. This arrangement would be much more private than using Bitcoin, for example, because every Bitcoin transaction is documented on an un-hackable immutable public ledger (i.e., Bitcoin’s blockchain).
- Note 7 — Yandex.money is the most popular e-wallet in Russia:
Yandex.Money also has an e-wallet, which is the original product of the company. Yandex.Money offers consumers easy, safe, and reliable methods of paying online on its own site  and mobile app. The service hosts about 30 million user accounts with about 15,000 new accounts opened daily. Recent TNS research  showed that Yandex.Money is the most popular e-wallet in Russia: every third user of the Internet in Russia pays by Yandex.Money e-wallet. Using Yandex.Money, gamers also can pay on Nintendo, top up an account on Steam (software), Wargaming, Riot Games, buy codes for Apple (iTunes) and Xbox. Yandex.Money became the official sales operator of the popular game publisher Electronic Arts. Russian users can now buy FIFA 17 for PC and Xbox through the service. Yandex.Money also distributes Blizzard Entertainment virtual cards, which provide users with a convenient payment option for Blizzard’s online games: World of Warcraft, Overwatch (video game), Heroes of the Storm, StarCraft, Hearthstone (video game), and Diablo (series).
The second reason Yandex.Money is interesting is because the company was sanctioned in 2014 by President Obama due to its affiliation with Sberbank of Russia as punishment for Russia’s taking of Crimea.
In summary, both Bannon and Mercer are shysters. They have zero qualms about working with or investing in sanctioned companies and/or companies that do business with the same, the legality of their work or investing notwithstanding. In other words, do not expect these guys to take the moral high-road, expect them to crusade for themselves only.