Time to cough it up, Paul.
After a decade of sensational courtroom allegations about his rough treatment of underlings — ranging from death threats to taunting a worker with his blingy new watch — hedge-fund mogul Paul Touradji will have to pony up as much as $90 million to two ex-employees, who claim he stiffed them out of years’ worth of bonuses.
During a two-week trial that wrapped up last month, lawyers for Gentry Beach and Robert Vollero said the notoriously brash founder of Touradji Capital Management was so livid over their demands for unpaid bonuses that he lashed out with language that would make the cast of Showtime’s “Billions” blush.
One staffer was so frightened that he filed a police report.
“I will not pay you, I will not pay you a dime, you know, and before this is done and over, your wife will be here in this office, here on her knees, begging for mercy,” Touradji ranted, according an Touradji analyst who was called to the witness stand.
“The final sentence was, ‘When I am done with you, you will never find a job on Wall Street again,’” the analyst told the jury.
During the tongue lashing, which was delivered in an “extremely unpleasant, loud, raging voice,” Touradji slammed the glass door to his Park Avenue office “so hard that the photographs — the pictures I had on my wall in my office — fell off,” the witness testified.
Later that afternoon, Touradji advised his rattled staff in an e-mail blast to “Run faster than me or be eaten” — a directive that even Touradji later admitted on the witness stand was “a pretty obnoxious quote.”
After the closed-door confrontation, Beach filed a police report later that day claiming his boss wanted him “killed” and telling cops he was “in fear of his safety,” according to a copy of the report.
“[Touradji] reminded me that I am just a puppet on a string, he controls the string, and is not afraid to cut it,” Beach wrote in a letter to the fund’s general counsel a day after the closed-door meeting.
“Most disturbingly, at one point toward the end of the conversation, he said that I better do exactly as I am told here at Touradji Capital or he would destroy me even if it meant he had to have me killed,” Beach’s letter continued.
The dustup happened in late September 2008. Lehman Brothers had collapsed a week earlier, spurring the financial crisis that sent markets tumbling. But Touradji — known for his well-timed trades in the commodities space — was riding high.
By the end of 2009, Touradji — one of the industry’s elite “Tiger Cubs” trained under legendary stock-picker Julian Robertson of Tiger Management — was listed by Forbes as one of the 20 highest-earning hedge fund managers, putting him in company with James Simons of Renaissance Technologies and John Paulson, who famously shorted mortgage-backed securities ahead of the housing crisis.
With $2.7 billion in assets at the time, Touradji earned a spot on Fortune’s “40 under 40” spread alongside up-and-comers like Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Carl Icahn protege Keith Meister, who now runs Corvex Capital.
Fortune wrote of Touradji around the same time, also noting his reputation for having a “hot temper.”
At the time of Touradji’ s alleged office tantrum, it had been three years that Beach and Vollero had gone without the bonuses they say they were promised when joining the firm. The duo say they had been promised that they’d earn a portion of the fund’s profits and were shocked in 2007 when they still weren’t paid their full share.
They still went to work believing their payday would come and that a portion of their compensation had been reinvested in the fund, as Touradji claimed.
The pot amounted to as much as 15 percent of trading profits in the funds managed by Touradji Capital — or roughly $23 million each for the two.
Touradji took the witness stand and claimed he was the one threatened by Beach: “The guy came in, ‘If you don’t pay me, me and my dad are going to take the money. You’re going to be sorry,’” he said Beach told him.
It looks like the jury didn’t buy it. Touradji’s stumbling in the face of tough questions on the witness stand likely didn’t help — including a bizarre moment when he claimed he couldn’t identify his own face.
In that awkward exchange, Touradji was getting grilled about his alleged taunting of Beach by buying himself an expensive watch in the middle of their financial dispute.
According to Beach’s lawyers, Touradji first asked Beach, a known watch enthusiast, what kind of watch he would get if he had all the money in the world. A few days later, Touradji showed up to work with the same exact watch — a Patek Philippe — and made a point of flashing it in Beach’s face.
Touradji claimed he didn’t recall the watch story. When confronted with a photo of himself wearing the watch in a Fortune profile, he demurred.
“I don’t recognize this picture. It looks like me, of course,” Touradji said in court.
Jurors were shaking their heads with a look of disbelief, according to someone who witnessed the proceedings.
After just four hours of deliberations, a New York State Court jury found Touradji had indeed stiffed Beach and Vollero out of their $46 million in bonuses between them. Since the bonuses should have been paid more than a decade ago, Touradji is also expected to be ordered to cough up annual interest payments that would double the award to $90 million, said the lawyers for Beach and Vollero, including Robert Seiden of the Seiden Group, Michael Stolper of the Stolper Group and David Greenberger of Bailey Duquette.
“Our clients simply did not owe the plaintiffs anything more than the very significant amounts that they had already been paid,” Sean O’Brien, attorney for Touradji, told The Post, adding that he planned to pursue a new trial and an appeal if necessary.
Beach and Vollero looked dazed amid the prospect of their long-awaited payday when speaking with The Post the day after the verdict.
“You experience something like this. You live through it, and it’s over,” said Beach, who became close friends with Donald Trump Jr. as an undergrad at Wharton. The two men are godparents to each other’s children.
At one point, Vollero and Beach marveled how Beach’s first child — born within days of their start at Touradji Capital — is now 14 years old.
Since filing their suit, the hedge fund industry has changed. Though it manages an estimated $3.2 trillion — roughly double its size when Vollero and Beach left Touradji Capital — the industry doesn’t draw paying clients like it used to.
Many of the industry’s biggest names like Leon Cooperman, John Paulson and David Tepper have largely converted their shops into family offices — with Cooperman telling investors he doesn’t “want to spend the rest of my life chasing the S&P 500.”
Touradji Capital appears to be a shadow of its former self, managing roughly $215 million for nine clients out of Boca Raton, Fla., according to the fund’s most recent regulatory filing.
Beach and Vollero, meanwhile, have carved out a new niche for themselves focusing on private investments in emerging tech companies, farming and cannabis.
“We’re focused on things you can put your hands around,” Beach said.