Former Derby County bidder faces 20 years in jail

Chris Kirchner

The man who was a frontrunner to buy Derby County Football Club out of administration has been found guilt of wire fraud and has been remanded in custody, pending sentencing.

Chris Kirchner, the founder of Slync, a supply-chain management software start-up, has been convicted of defrauding investors out of at least $25m, according to the US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton.

Kirchner was charged last month (December). After a four-day trial, a jury convicted him today of four counts of wire fraud and seven counts of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.

According to evidence presented at trial, Kirchner – who served as Slync’s CEO from 2017 until 2022, when he was sacked due to allegations of misconduct – converted at least $25m in investor money to his own personal use.

Records indicate that Slync raised roughly $7m in its Series A investment round and roughly $50m in its Series B investment round. All investor funds, which were supposed to be used for “product development and other general corporate purposes,” were wired into the company’s account at Silicon Valley Bank.

Kirchner misappropriated the investor funds in various ways. Between April 2020 and March 2022, he initiated nearly 100 wire transfers moving money from Slync’s Silicon Valley Bank account into the company’s account at JPMorgan Chase Bank – an account only he had access to. He then wired much of the money from the Chase account to his personal bank accounts. He also wired $20m directly from Slync’s Silicon Valley Bank account into his personal account. Kirchner used some of those funds to buy a $16m private jet and to secure a luxury suite at the stadium of a Dallas-area professional sports team.

When Slync, drained of funds, struggled to pay its staff in the spring of 2022, Kirchner attempted to replace some of the money he had stolen by convincing at least four investors to wire approximately $850,000 to Slync as part of a purported Series C investment round. Slync’s board of directors never authorised a Series C investment round.

In the meantime, Kirchner offered various explanations for Slync’s payroll issues – all of which were untrue.

Kirchner also fired a Slync employee after the employee reported to the board of directors that Kirchner may have falsely exaggerated Slync’s financial performance to investors.

Immediately following his suspension by the board of directors, in late July 2022, Kirchner removed certain IT administrator privileges from key Slync employees, preventing the employees from accessing the company’s computer systems. He then attempted to delete approximately 18 gigabytes of Slync data, including emails.

Kirchner now faces up 20 years in federal prison per count of wire fraud and up to 10 years in prison per count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.

Kirchnerwas named as preferred bidder for the Rams in April 2022, but the deal collapsed in June after he withdrew his offer and walked away from the deal.

David Clowes, of Derbyshire developer Clowes Developments and lifelong Rams fan, eventually stepped in to save the club.