Hollywood Film Executive Charged With Fraud -- WSJ
By Dawn Lim
This article is being republished as part of our daily
reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S.
print edition of The Wall Street Journal (May 23, 2020).
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday filed fraud
charges against a Hollywood movie executive for stealing money from
a BlackRock Inc. fund.
The regulator alleges that William Sadleir diverted some $25
million from the BlackRock Multi-Sector Income Trust, a roughly
$600 million fund that financed his film distribution holding
company, Aviron Group. The SEC said Mr. Sadleir siphoned the money
into a fake company he created.
He also used some of the money to buy a Tesla car and a Beverly
Hills mansion, and to remodel his home, according to the SEC's
Some of Mr. Sadleir's actions were reported in a Wall Street
Journal column in February. A BlackRock fund had invested roughly
10% of its assets in Mr. Sadleir's ventures.
Mr. Sadleir, according to the SEC, set up a company with a name
resembling another actual media investment company and created a
fictitious individual working for that company as part of the
scheme. In 2016 and 2017, he billed fake invoices requesting that
Aviron make payments to the sham company, the SEC said.
In 2019, he forged signatures to release claims on Aviron assets
so he could resell them, the SEC said. That July, he created fake
agreements between the BlackRock fund and Aviron in which he copied
the signatures of the fund's then-portfolio manager Randy
Robertson. Mr. Sadleir's movie company cast Mr. Robertson's
daughter in one of its films. Early this year, BlackRock fired the
manager, Mr. Robertson, after a weekslong internal
In a February interview with the Journal, Mr. Sadleir said he
regretted copying the fund manager's signatures.
"I should not have done it," he said. "It was bad judgment on my
part. I know better."
Mr. Sadleir lost control of various Aviron subsidiaries late
last year, according to the SEC. The agency is asking the court to
compel Mr. Sadleir to return gains received through fraudulent
dealings and pay civil penalties. The SEC said its investigation is
Meanwhile, the Justice Department on Friday unsealed a complaint
in Manhattan federal court alleging Mr. Sadleir carried out fraud
The U.S. government is accusing him of two counts of wire fraud
and one count of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, Mr.
Sadleir faces up to 20 years for each count of wire fraud and two
years in prison for the other charge, according to the
Aviron has released films such as "A Private War" and "Kidnap,"
starring Halle Berry. BlackRock oversees some $6.5 trillion in
assets under management.
"BlackRock is pleased that the government has moved swiftly to
investigate and bring Mr. Sadleir to justice," said a firm
spokesman. The firm in February said it was working to recover
value for investors and had taken steps to enhance the level of
oversight and due diligence on such transactions.
Neither Mr. Robertson nor Mr. Sadleir responded to requests for
comment. Calls to Aviron's corporate office went unanswered.
--Jason Zweig contributed to this article.
Write to Dawn Lim at email@example.com
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May 23, 2020 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)
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