Tim Leissner's life is a cautionary tale of the highest order. Leissner was born into a rich family that spoiled him and let him do whatever he wanted from a young age. He was also a very intelligent and talented person who not only excelled in high school but earned a Ph.D. Later, he earned millions of dollars as an investment specialist and married not one but two beautiful women.
However, it all came crashing down in just a few years, and Leissner now faces prison for some very serious crimes. As more information comes out about his actions, Leissner is painted in a very dark and disturbing light. This was a man who had it all but who kept reaching for more and more until, finally, his reach exceeded his grasp and ended his good-luck streak.
In this article, we'll chart the rise and fall of one of Germany's most promising financial minds and highlight the traits and behaviors that brought him down. This story is essential for those who are entering the financial field to understand and study on a deep level. While the temptation to do what Leissner did may be high for many people, the end of a promising career is never worth a temporary high payout.
Who is Tim Leissner?
When trying to understand what went wrong with Tim Leissner's life, it is critical to break down who he is and what kind of factors may have affected his growth and development. Nobody is born “evil” (though Leissner's acts can hardly be called truly evil) but develop a predilection toward wrongdoing through socialization. Understanding his life can show where the early signs of criminal behavior may have started.
Leissner's Early Life
Tim Leissner is a German investment professional born on Halloween in 1971. He comes from a very wealthy family of Brazilian and German descent and was known to be very intelligent at a young age. His parents wanted the best for their young genius, so they surrounded him with the best things that they could offer and provided minimal restrictions on his life to ensure he was happy.
Throughout elementary, middle, and high school, Tim Leissner proved himself to be a gifted student. His students called him a “savvy” student, one who picked up on new concepts quickly and understood how to apply them with minimal instruction. His interests were broad, and he studied many subjects but eventually decided on business because it gave him the most chance to earn money.
After finishing high school, he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Siegen University, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Hartford, and then a Ph.D. from the University of Somerset. All of this education gave Leissner the deep understanding that he needed to work in the financial system but also the potential to abuse it with careful manipulation.
His Thriving Career
Things always seemed to come easy for Leissner in his career. He joined Lehman Brothers not long after finishing his education. Leissner stayed here for six years and was the head of Mergers and Acquisitions. He represented the Asia-Pacific Region and used his skill set to learn more impressive financial abilities. In 1998, he joined Goldman Sachs as an executive director in mergers and acquisitions.
Leissner was a hardworking and savvy employee, one who consistently did extra steps that his co-workers would not. That gave him a strong reputation as someone who could get things done. He was quickly promoted to chief of staff and eventually (2011) relocated to Hong Kong, where he managed various funds, including a partnership with Malaysia Development Berhad. He then became the chairman of the Southeast Asia Division and continued his upward climb.
During this time, Tim Leissner was paid very well and even had a side hustle that earned him more money, one that we'll discuss later. He is currently estimated to be worth about $30 million. His current wife (how long they'll remain married is uncertain), Kimora Lee, is estimated to be worth about $50 million.
The two own multiple properties together, including a Beverly Hills mansion that is over 20,000 square feet, with seven bedrooms and 11 bathrooms. They were living what seemed to be a fairy tale existence, one built on hard work, talent, intelligence, and focus. However, it all crashed around them because of some very illegal and ultimately destructive steps taken by Tim Leissner.
What Did Tim Leissner Do?
Tim Leissner has unfortunately committed many crimes that cost investors billions of dollars, destroyed his marriage, and put more than one person behind bars. He is likely facing a 25-year prison sentence for his actions and a permanent ban from investment work. It all stems from his work with Goldman Sachs, particularly in the Southeast Asia division, where he thrived so well throughout his career.
This story is very complex and includes multiple twists and turns. The short-answer version is that Leissner pled guilty to personally stealing $200 million from a Malaysian investment fund. However, he also served as a star witness in at least one case against other Goldman Sachs employees for the same crimes. Known as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad Scandal, it is one of the biggest financial scandals in history.
Examining Leissner's Crimes
When Leissner was arrested in Washington, D.C. in 2018, it was just the beginning of a wild and unpredictable criminal situation. It all started when he was accused of stealing billions from a Malaysian investment fund and faced a permanent ban and a $1.42 million fine from Malaysian authorities. However, the story went far beyond Leissner and extended to many others.
As authorities investigated and pressed Leissner, his crimes started becoming much clearer. First, he alone stole $200 million from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad funds. However, he didn't stop there. He also paid bribes to various Malaysian and Emirati officials to get them to look the other way and support Goldman Sachs business ventures in the area.
Leissner was not alone. The whole scheme was masterminded by Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman with an infamous reputation. Low paid Leonardo Dicaprio to spend time with him and was also known for his high-spending in other areas. For example, he lost $26 million in Las Vegas gambling trips and was known to throw lavish parties for business partners and friends.
$4.5 Billion Stolen
Leissner, along with Low and others, embezzled an estimated $4.5 billion from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund. Low fled authorities and is still on the run, while Leissner was banned for life by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was then forced to pay a $43 million fine and was found guilty, though his sentencing has been rescheduled to 2023.
Tim Leissner also testified against Roger Ng and was the star witness in that individual's conviction for similar crimes. Leissner, already a 50-year-old man, could be in prison for up to 25 years and is likely to pay even more money in civil lawsuits. His life and his career are over. But that's just the tip of the iceberg on what Tim Leissner has done in his life, as more information emerges each day.
Other Crimes Leissner Likely Committed
During his many trials, Leissner has openly admitted to other crimes that boggle the mind. The first of these was starting a side hustle with Wildcat Capital Management that he never shared with Goldman Sachs. Working the side hustle is not in and of itself illegal. But not disclosing it is a conflict of ethics and transparency that could have caused legal troubles. It earned him $41K a month in 2015.
Leissner even admitted to posing as his ex-wife, Judy Chan, for years by sending fake emails to his current wife, Kimora Lee. He also admitted to faking a divorce not just once but twice. The first was when he married Judy Chan, as he faked a divorce to an unknown woman before marrying her. He then faked a divorce to Judy Chan to get married to supermodel Kimora Lee.
Why Did Tim Leissner Do These Things?
There are many reasons that people commit serious crimes like these. The most obvious reason is greed: Tim Leissner simply loved having money and wanted to have more of it. However, his easygoing childhood and his consistent successes may have contributed to these behaviors.
Vast intelligence often needs correction and direction at a young age to ensure better focus. Leissner was a gifted student who, if certain moral and ethical concepts had been reinforced at the right time, may never have committed any crimes. It's impossible to know that for sure, but his actions have caused a heavy financial loss that will affect generations of people in Malaysia.
As someone who never had to struggle in his life and who was not consistently corrected from a young age, he may have believed he could do whatever he wanted to succeed. It's a grim reminder that unabashed greed and thievery rarely go unpunished in the business world.
Where is Tim Leissner Now?
After being convicted of his crimes, Tim Leissner is sitting in prison and awaiting his sentencing. While he faces up to 25 years, he could get less due to his cooperation in the trial, his willingness to plead guilty, and his testimony in other cases related to his criminal activities.
Whatever the case, Leissner will likely not leave prison for at least 10-15 years, depending on the judge and their perception of his crimes. Even if he is sentenced to 10-15 years, he will come out of prison a 60-65-year-old man with a tainted reputation and likely little to no money to his name.
Who is Tim Leissner First Wife?
Tim Leissner has been married three times, though his official first wife is unknown. His first known wife is Judy Chan, who is the daughter of a Chinese businessman. Chan, like Leissner, came from a well-to-do family and lived together for many years. However, their marriage did not work, and as previously mentioned, Leissner faked a divorce to her for years while dating Kimora Lee.
Leissner then married Lee, a supermodel from Malaysia who was previously married to Russell Simmons, the hip-hop legend, and Djimon Hounsou. Lee and Leissner had a son, Wolf Lee Leissner, in 2015. Komora already had three children from her previous marriages. The two were seemingly happy together for many years before Leissner's criminal activities came out.
However, some in Leissner's social circle believe that marrying Kimora Lee put extra pressure on Leissner to make more money. While none believe Lee pressured Leissner to become richer, she was worth more than him at the time of their marriage. Some have said that Leissner felt psychological pressure to “be rich” or have yachts, planes, etc. This pressure could have contributed to his criminal acts.
Is Tim Leissner Still Married?
Tim Leissner's marital status is uncertain but is not likely to be positive for long. In an article about the trial, he was described as being an “estranged” husband to Kimora Lee. While Lee has stayed connected to Leissner throughout his trial, the news that he had faked his divorce to Chan shocked her. While Chan knew about the forgery, Simmons did not.
Even worse, he admitted to lying to Chan to give him money so that he could buy a house with Simmons. Chan did not fall for this act, and Leissner had to turn elsewhere for money. Furthermore, he then admitted to having an affair over a decade with a former client, Rohana Rozhan. He was forced to buy her a $10 million house when she threatened to expose his involvement in the scandal.
On top of all that, Lee's former husband, Russell Simmons, filed a lawsuit against both Leissner and Lee, claiming that they attempted to fraudulently tried to transfer nearly $4 million in stock from his account to pay for his legal and bail fees. It is fair to say that their marriage will not likely last these huge setbacks, though it's impossible to tell how people will react to such devastating situations.
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Written by Allen Lee
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