Did Irishman John Delaney, world renowned CEO of Intrade, the company which created widely watched betting exchanges on American political elections, deliberately kill himself, aged 42, on Mount Everest, in April 2011?
That is one of the theories put forward in a dramatic Fortune magazine article which lays out Delaney’s final days and the tangled financial mess he was in. His death was widely mourned and covered including an extensive, glowing obituary in The New York Times.
Delaney was a frequent contributor to CNBC and other financial and news channels during the last presidential election and the pub owner’s son enjoyed a very high profile.
But now a different version of events has surfaced, one far darker. Author Brian O’Keefe says “Irish court records show that his former company Intrade has filed suit against his widow, Orla.
“According to regulatory filings by Intrade and an affiliated company, auditors identified more than $2 million in insufficiently documented payments to accounts controlled by John Delaney. Orla Delaney's lawyer declined repeated requests for comment.”
On March 10, 2013, Intrade announced on its website that because of possible "financial irregularities" and other circumstances, it was forced to suspend trading immediately.
It said it was is pursuing "two substantial monetary claims against two distinct parties" for a total of more than $3.5 million. One of the claims was against Delaney.
Former colleagues say they could never understand why Delaney was not interested in selling a share of the company when big companies came calling but now they believe it was because he could not open the company books.
"I chalked it up to Delaney not wanting to release control," says John McNamara, an original founder, of Delaney's unwillingness to go through (with highly profitable deals).
"When we found out money was missing -- that was the missing puzzle piece."
Delaney had two children and another who was born while he was on Everest. He was also suffering from a severe physical illness when he left to climb Everest. He had been losing weight and was unable to reverse it despite visiting many doctors.
"I used to take the piss out of him and say he looked like a POW or a Kenyan distance runner," Mark Orr, an Irish compatriot and best man at his wedding told Fortune. Another climber said he saw Delaney inject himself daily.
Delaney said he was feeling better when he left on his ill-fated expedition. But he never told his investors where he was going.
"I know exactly what I would have said," one of them, Dean LeBaron told Fortune. "I'd have said, 'Listen, entrepreneurs don't have a life of their own. You know, you're captive of the company until such time as it can exist well without you.'"
On Everest itself Delaney got in major trouble during the final climb to the top.
The chief guide Belfast man Noel Hanna went back to get him and found him foundering in the snow. He tried to bring him back down, but Delaney collapsed and died. His body is still on Everest.
Two years later the company that Delaney ran has all but collapsed and questions about whether he wanted to die on Everest abound among his former colleagues.
Hanna is skeptical. "It's a perfect place to do it," says Hanna, "but not the way John died. If you wanted to go, there are places where all you'd have to do is unclip for a moment and you'd be gone into the void."
Some even claim it all might have been an elaborate hoax, but Hanna says he has seen Delaney’s body the past two years when he returned to Everest.
Fortune concludes that the mystery of how and why he died will remain with his body forever on Everest it seems.
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