Alex Kenjeev fulfilled the dream of every indebted student – with a grocery bag of cash.
The Toronto-based president of O’Leary Ventures recently sold his start-up for a profit, and realized he finally had the money to pay off his student loan in one fell swoop. But he wanted to make the moment mean something, so he went to his bank and asked for $114,460 in cash.
According to ABC News, the bank hesitated at first, saying he would have to pay for an armoured truck to carry that much cash. But the next day, according to the story, they counted out the money in a windowless room. “I put it into a grocery bag and walked a couple blocks to the other bank,” Mr. Kenjeev told ABC. “I tried to play it cool.”
His story went viral after he posted the receipt of his payment on his Facebook page, and shared the tale of how he erased the loan that had helped pay for an undergraduate degree at McGill University, as well as law school and an MBA acquired at the University of Toronto. He now works for Kevin O’Leary (a.k.a the Dragon in Dragon’s Den, a reality-TV show in which entrepreneurs pitch their ideas).
At the Scotiabank that held the loan, he “plopped” the bag on the counter and asked the hesitant teller to deposit it, Mr. Kenjeev’s said. One hour later, he was free of his student loan.
On Facebook, the reaction to his grocery-bag exploit has been polarizing: a mix of congratulations for his success – but also criticism. Some have accused him of bragging, and rubbing his debt-free status in the face of other students still heavily burdened by loans. (In his defence, he told ABC, the Facebook post was a reaction to a spontaneously happy moment.)
To people who are put out, he said: “I really wasn’t thinking about that, to be fair. It was a milestone moment in your life, when you become debt-free.” (And, many would argue, a moment worthy of celebration.)
Mr. Kenjeev recently made a case in The Globe and Mail for being brutally honest with employees and potential entrepreneurs, and about bad ideas: “Even in the harsh, cold world of business, the truth will set you free,” he concluded.
In this case, he might say his naysayers have a bad case of sour grapes.
But then, as many a student knows too well, in the “harsh, cold world” of rising tuition fees – barring the good fortune of a Kenjeev-style grocery bag – freedom is a distant hope.
Was Alex Kenjeev bragging when he posted a picture of his receipt, or does he simply merit congratulations?