How Russian poker player took over Elon Musk's $5.7B charity fund

The probed the role of a Russian-born professional poker player in ‘s charitable foundation, investigating concerns about potential foreign influence, according to a new report.

Igor Kurganov, 34, briefly became a key figure in Musk’s inner circle, overseeing vast sums in pledged donations, until the billionaire’s top fixer and money-man Jared Birchall demanded his ouster in May, according to a  report on Saturday. 

Citing interviews with more than a dozen people close to the Musk Foundation and those involved, the report chronicled Kurganov’s unusual rise to become a top advisor to Musk, until his rivalry with Birchall apparently boiled over.

The final straw for Birchall, who oversees Musk’s $219 billion fortune and officially heads his charitable foundation, came when an FBI agent began asking questions about Kurganov.

The agent, tasked with investigating potential foreign influence in US companies, was curious about Kurganov’s speedy rise in Musk’s inner circle, and Birchall grew concerned that Musk could be drawn into a widening investigation, the Journal reported.

Igor Kurganov, a world-class professional poker player, briefly wielded tremendous power over grant distributions at Elon Musk’s personal charity foundation, a new new report reveals

Kurganov first met Musk through his longtime girlfriend, fellow poker pro Liv Boeree (with him above on Wednesday in Venice). Boeree is close friends with Grimes, Musk’s ex-girlfriend

Musk’s top lieutenant Jared Birchall, who officially runs the Musk Foundation, pleaded with his billionaire boss to sever ties with Kurganov after the FBI came knocking 

Kurganov has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and could not be reached for comment.

Born in Russia, Kurganov moved to Germany with his engineer parents aged 4, he has said in interviews with poker podcasts.

Kurganov shot to prominence as a professional poker player in his 20s, winning huge pots in Las Vegas tournaments. His total winnings reportedly top $18 million.

But in recent years, he retired from professional gambling and turned his eye toward philanthropy, co-founding a group called Raising for Effective Giving.

The group espouses a utilitarian philosophy it dubs ‘effective altruism’ that aims to maximize the lives saved by each dollar donated.

Kurganov first met Musk socially through his longtime girlfriend, Liv Boeree, and bonded with the billionaire through their shared love of Burning Man, according to the Journal.

Boeree, a fellow poker player, is close friends with the singer Grimes, minibola who began dating Musk around 2018.  Kurganov and Boeree began to spend time with Musk and Grimes, to the point that they soon followed when Musk moved to Texas.

Musk was apparently intrigued by Kurganov’s philosophical musings about charity, and gave him a job vetting grant requests for the Musk Foundation.

Musk was apparently intrigued by Kurganov’s philosophical musings about charity, and gave him a job vetting grant requests for the Musk Foundation last year

Liv Boeree kisses boyfriend Igor Kurganov on June 3, 2017 after they won World Series of Poker gold as a team. The couple became close with Musk in recent years

Grimes (left), ex-girlfriend of Elon Musk, posted risque photos with her friend Liv Boeree on Nov. 30, 2020. The two women remain close following Grimes’ split with Musk

By last year, Kurganov’s influence at the foundation had apparently grown so great that prospective grant recipients considered him the ‘day-to-day decision maker.’

At the foundation, Kurganove was overseeing $5.7 billion in Tesla shares that the CEO pledged late last year to eventually donate to charity.

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