Monday, April 14, 2008

A post-milkshake hire at Citadel

David Noh, a distressed-debt expert formerly with Merrill Lynch, has a new job at Citadel Investment Group LLC. This piques my interest chiefly because I've read of Mr. Noh in one of Joe McGinniss' "true crime" books.

Citadel announced this hire on Thursday of last week. And though Citadel is a Chicago based operation, Mr. Noh won't be leaving Hong Kong. He'll be the head of Asian Merchant Banking for his new employer.

Congrats to him. Now, on to why I care. At Merrill, Mr. Noh appears to have worked closely with the victim of the infamous milkshake murder Robert Kissel, who in 2003 was bludgeoned to death by his wife, after she had fed him powerful sedatives in a milkshake, thus eliminating the possibility of self-defense.

If I understand Joe McGinniss' book on the case, and if McGinniss has it right, Mr. Kissel was working on a big deal in the days just before his death -- Merrill Lynch was putting together a bid for the distressed-assets portfolio of the Bank of China.

Kissel was murdered on the very day that he was supposed to take part in a crucial conference call about this auction. His wife tried to make it into a missing-person's case, telling people "we had a fight and then he stormed out of our apartment and I haven't seen him since."

The problem with that, though, was that on the afternoon of that day, after drinking the milkshake but before it had taken its full effect, Kissel did speak to his associate David Noh on the telephone. "Noh wanted to straighten out a few details in advance of the seven-thirty conference call" McGinniss tells us.

That call didn't go well. Kissel didn't seem to be making sense, and Noh was concerned that he might be intoxicated. He said, "Listen Rob, I'm going to give you a couple of hours to clear your head." End of conversation. That was also the last time the two ever communicated.

And so it goes. I'll spare you further melodrama, except to stress the point that bugs me. I may be obsessive-compulsive but ... McGinniss never does tell us what happened to the Bank of China deal. Did Noh and the rest of the team at Merrill pull themselves together and proceed without him? Which institution ended up getting the B of C's distressed debts?

Inquiring minds want to know. So if anybody who reads this has an e-mail address for Mr. Noh at Citadel, please send him a link to this blog, and let him know I'm curious. What happened to that portfolio?


[May 29 Postscript. It has since come to my attention that Citi won that auction. I still think McGinnis should have covered this point.]

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