Billionaire Took Psychedelics, Got Bitcoin and Is Now Into SPACs

It’s a strange portfolio for these strange financial times: space travel, psychedelics, movies, Covid, crypto, life extension, weed, SPACs.

Those are just some of the investments of Christian Angermayer.

On Wall Street the name rings few bells. Yet for better or worse, the 42-year-old German billionaire looks like a symbol of the age, or at least the past 12 crazy months. He’s made a fortune on the risky and faddish during the great bull market in everything.

His family office Apeiron Investment Group, has been the lead investor in seven companies that have gone public in the past 12 months, raising more than $1 billion combined. Ten more of his portfolio companies are queued up to IPO this year, according to bankers familiar with the plans.

“I just invest in what I’m very curious and passionate about,” Angermayer said in a Zoom interview early last month from his home office in London — an ancient statue of Hecate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft, in the background. “It excites me.”

Angermayer is the embodiment of the new-new era of investing, where once-futuristic concepts are landing funding and stocks surge on a whiff of hope. He’s a German version of Chamath Palihapitiya, the serial SPAC-dealmaker who views himself as the Warren Buffett of the Reddit era.

Unlike Palihapitiya, Angermayer doesn’t resonate in mainstream finance or on social media. Yet, he’s cultivated relationships with some of the world’s most influential investors, including Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. and Peter Thiel.

“He’s probably the best networker I’ve ever met,” said Mike Novogratz, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner who himself is worth $7 billion. The two co-founded Cryptology Asset Group, and have invested together in psychedelics ventures. “He’s built this amazing network of people who like and have learned to trust him because he’s made them money. As a capital raiser, he’s awesome.”

That wide-ranging Rolodex has also drawn Angermayer into two of Germany’s messier corporate deals.

His Malta-based family office, Apeiron, helped China’s HNA Group purchase 9.9% of Deutsche Bank AG stock in 2017, a move which placed his friend Gerd Alexander Schuetz on the bank’s supervisory board. The stake was soon sold after the conglomerate ran into debt troubles. It filed for bankruptcy this year.

Angermayer also received a 13 million euro ($15.6 million) finder’s fee for introducing executives at SoftBank and Wirecard AG, according to the Financial Times. SoftBank’s $1 billion investment bolstered the company’s stock the year before it collapsed in June 2020.

Schuetz now faces a criminal complaint over transactions in Wirecard shares. He’s also leaving Deutsche Bank’s board after criticism over his urging former Wirecard Chief Executive Officer Markus Braun to “finish” the FT for its critical coverage.

Angermayer declined to comment on the deals.

Listed Companies

Apeiron has $2.5 billion in assets, half of which is Angermayer’s. The fund has averaged an annual internal return of more than 50% over the past decade, according to a March presentation obtained by Bloomberg.

Among his newly listed companies are AbCellera Biologics Inc., which co-developed a combination antibody drug for Covid-19, and Compass Pathways Plc, a pharmaceutical startup developing a depression treatment based on the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.

Atai Life Sciences, a psychedelics-focused biotech he founded with backing from Thiel and through which Angermayer holds his stake in Compass, was recently valued at $2 billion. It filed Tuesday for an IPO. And naturally, he has a $200 million SPAC in the works.

Still, not all the listings have been profitable. Personalized cancer drug researcher Sensei Biotherapeutics Inc. has fallen 30% since its February IPO.

Angermayer though exudes the confidence of an investor who has yet to put a wrong foot.

“None,” he said when asked what kind of hedging he uses in his portfolio. He’s crafted a universe around his family office that’s so au courant it feels ripped from a Hollywood screenplay.

Speaking of movies, he’s into that too, having produced or executive-produced 21 including last year’s Marcel Marceau biopic, “Resistance.” Actress Uma Thurman became an investor of Sensei Biotherapeutics in January.

His curiosity “allows him to recognize trends very early or invent and create an entire sector himself,” Thiel said in an email.

Futuristic Finance

Christian Angermayer’s public investments span the frontier of tech

Source: Bloomberg data, Apeiron Investment Group

Stakes held directly and indirectly via Apeiron

Angermayer’s also tapped into a different sphere of celebrity: the power-broking kind. He says he speaks to Angela Merkel, is an adviser to Rwandan President Paul Kagame and convenes heads of states, investors and scientists several times a year as an extension of a think tank he started, the Angermayer Policy and Innovation Forum.

“He is an investor who has fully understood the importance of geopolitics for long-term strategy,” said Benedikt Franke, CEO of the Munich Security Conference.

“I understand politicians better than investors,” he said, though he rejects the idea of ever joining their ranks. “One reason I’m very happy is I’m very honest with myself. I want everybody to like me.”

Magic Mushrooms

Angermayer said his foremost goal is to make the world a happier place.

That aim turned him on to psychedelics, psilocybin in particular, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. Compass Pathways, whose stock has doubled since its September listing, is researching ways the compound could be used to help those with treatment-resistant depression.

A lifelong teetotaler, Angermayer is an unlikely proselytizer for drugs of any kind, let alone one deemed illegal in numerous countries. Yet a conversation with a neuroscientist (he won’t say who) at a dinner party eight years ago piqued his interest. The doctor agreed that Angermayer was wise to avoid harmful drugs, including alcohol, but mushrooms were different.

Angermayer cites a chart by British researcher David Nutt that ranks 20 drugs by their harmfulness to both the user and to others. Alcohol is first, while mushrooms ranked last. Hallucinogenic but nonaddictive, psilocybin was researched along with LSD as a possible medical therapy in the 1950s and 60s. But as the drugs became commonplace among the hippie counterculture movement, they were outlawed.

Angermayer’s first psychedelic trip, in 2015, changed everything. He was in the Caribbean (where it’s legal) and with a group of close friends.

“It was the single most meaningful thing I’ve ever done in my whole life, nothing really comes close,” he said.

He can’t quite pinpoint why, but he said it was a moment of profound self-insight and quieting of the ego. He said he finally understood Bitcoin.

Seeking Backers

About a year later, he tried mushrooms again, with the same life-shaking effect. On his way home, he stopped in New York where he told Novogratz about his idea to commercialize psychedelics. One day later, Novogratz rang him up. His sister Amy had just met a couple in Bali who were trying to start a psilocybin business and were seeking backers. Did he know of anyone?

The couple, George Goldsmith and Ekaterina Malievskaia, went on to co-found Compass with funding from Apeiron and Thiel. The company generates no revenue and last year lost $19.6 million, but it’s still worth $1.3 billion. The pitch to investors is that its value lies in its potential.

The son of a secretary and an engineer from a small town in Bavaria, Angermayer got his investing start at the age of 20.

At the University of Bayreuth he studied under two biotech professors, Stefan Limmer and Roland Kreutzer, whose research on RNA interference technology he found fascinating. The pair were pondering next steps and Angermayer urged them to commercialize their findings. They formed a company and Angermayer was charged with cold-calling venture capitalists to raise money. Their business, Ribopharma, later merged with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.

In addition to managing money, Apeiron markets itself as an adviser to startups seeking advice and backers, touting Angermayer’s network of artists, stars and scientists as evidence of its creativity and reach. A March presentation by the company boasts of “having the most comprehensive SPAC strategy in Europe.”

That strategy may require an exit plan if the fissures emerging in the SPAC market widen to gulfs. U.S. regulators are expressing more concern over the vehicles and deals are being delayed. After an ascendant 2020, the IPOX SPAC index is negative for the year.

Angermayer for his part isn’t worried in the least. “These companies trust me,” he said of potential SPAC targets. “We’ve built an amazing deal-flow machine.

By Devon Pendleton Via