Mystery Of Byju’s ‘Hidden’ $533 Million Stuck In Offshore Trust

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Explained: Mystery Of Byju's 'Hidden' $533 Million Stuck In Offshore Trust

Byju’s has witnessed a staggering decline of approximately 90 per cent in the past year.

New Delhi:

Edtech firm Byju’s parent company, Think & Learn Pvt, has found itself embroiled in a complex web of financial mismanagement, offshore dealings, and legal disputes. At the centre of it is $533 million, a Florida hedge fund, a bankrupt shell company and Byju’s beleaguered founder, Byju Raveendran. 

Byju’s major stakeholders last month voted to remove Mr Raveendran from his role as chief executive officer and stripping him of his position on the board of the company he established back in 2015. Byju’s, once hailed as one of India’s most profitable start-ups with a valuation exceeding $20 billion, has witnessed a staggering decline of approximately 90 per cent in the past year.

The Florida Link

The story begins with a small Florida hedge fund, Camshaft Capital Fund, accused of assisting Think & Learn in concealing $533 million. This staggering amount, crucial to the ongoing financial tussle, was initially held by Byju’s Alpha Inc., a bankrupt shell company affiliated with Think & Learn. Lenders, owed $1.2 billion, took control of Byju’s Alpha after it defaulted on its loan. The $533 million, allegedly transferred to Camshaft Capital Fund, was subsequently moved to an undisclosed offshore trust by Raveendran’s brother, Riju Ravindran.

Last month, Alpha had filed for bankruptcy protection over the $1.2 billion loan default.

The lenders, seeking repayment of the $1.2 billion and the elusive $533 million, have been locked in a legal struggle with Byju’s. A court ruling in the US state of Delaware gave lenders control of Alpha, a decision now under appeal by Riju Ravindran. A US court on Friday dismissed Camshaft Capital Fund’s attempt to avoid disclosing details about the cash. 

Byju’s lawyer, Benjamin Finestone, revealed during the hearing that the $533 million was initially transferred to Camshaft Capital Fund before being moved to an unnamed offshore trust. 

Potential Sanctions

Camshaft Capital Fund has resisted disclosing information about the money, citing its “duty” to protect clients and redirecting inquiries to a Delaware company called Inspilearn, a Delaware company that allegedly received the money from Camshaft before its transfer to the unnamed trust.

However, a US judge labelled Camshaft’s reluctance as a “huge red flag.” Failure to comply with the court’s order could lead to sanctions, as the judge threatened a “show cause” hearing on Monday if the information is not provided.

Series Of Setbacks

Byju’s, once valued at $22 billion in 2022, has faced a tumultuous period since early 2023. Auditor resignations, lenders initiating bankruptcy proceedings, and a US lawsuit challenging loan terms have contributed to the company’s downfall.

Byju’s is also grappling with financial challenges that extend beyond courtrooms. Mr Raveendran informed employees recently that the company is unable to process salaries due to a legal dispute with investors, reported news agency Reuters. 

Byju’s started its venture in 2006 by offering classes for MBA aspirants preparing for the CAT exam. Over the years, the edtech firm diversified its offerings, extending its reach from postgraduate to undergraduate and eventually school students. In 2015, it launched Byju’s learning app, setting the stage for the company to become India’s first ed-tech unicorn in just four years.

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