Vayner, the creator of the web sensation "Impossible is Nothing" in 2006, died of unknown causes last week in New York. His death is currently under investigation.
Aleksey Vayner seemed like Superman.
In one now-infamous Internet video released in 2006 titled "Impossible is Nothing," the Yale grad and prospective investment banker gave a treatise on success in which he showed clips of himself (purportedly) bench pressing over 400 pounds, serving a tennis ball over 140 mph, breaking a stack of bricks with his hand and completing a steamy ballroom dance routine.
Vayner, a college senior at the time of production, intended to use the video and its success thesis as a method of showing investment bank UBS that he had what it took to excel at the bank.
The video resume soon became an Internet sensation after a UBS employee forwarded it to acquaintances, and Vayner found himself an unlikely and unwitting celebrity.
Last Saturday, Jan. 19, Vayner, who changed his name to Alex Stone, died in a New York hospital at the age of 29, IvyGate reports. IvyGate is the same website (one of many) that investigated the veracity of other outlandish claims made by Stone. It was also issued a cease and desist letter by Stone's council after it republished Stone's video resume.
The Medical Examiner's Office has yet to release a cause of death. A man identifying himself as a step-cousin of Stone's told Gawker that Stone may have died of a drug overdose. This claim has not been verified.
Along with blog IvyGate, the Times investigated numerous ventures established by Stone, as well as statements he made in both speech and writing.
At Yale, according to the Times, Stone, who hails from Uzbekistan and changed his name from Aleksey Garber to Aleksey Vayner when he was 18, acquired a reputation for crafting implausible, sometimes apocryphal stories.
Students there said Stone, then Vayner, regularly regaled them with tales of how he studied under the Dalai Lama and fought in a no-holds-barred tournament in Thailand. He also claimed to have taught tennis to Jerry Seinfeld and Harrison Ford and forged passports for the Russian mafia. Stone denies making these claims, but Jordan Bass, the current managing editor at McSweeny's and a classmate of Stone's at Yale, who wrote about Stone's uncanny story-telling ability in the Yale campus humor magazine Rumpus, stands by his statements that Stone spun these and other highly suspect tales while at Yale.
More seriously, according to the Times, Stone is accused of plagiarizing a Holocaust book he self-published and forging references for a charity he started, including placing an unearned Charity Navigator four-star rating on its website. Stone says the rating mishap is due to a foreign web design company's mistake and that the plagiarism can be attributed to the online publication of an incompletely edited draft.
Stone, the Times reports, also started an investment company after college without obtaining an investment adviser's license. He claims that company is legitimate and stands by its mission to "never lose your money."
In the years following the video scandal and Times profile, Stone moved to New York and married, though he never escaped the negative publicity of his viral video. He was regularly the target of barbs, death threats and video spoofs.
“I would say I hit rock bottom at the time of the viral publicity and all the negativity,” he said in a 2010 interview at ROFLCon, according to the New York Daily News.
According to Vice, a friend of Stone's left a cryptic message on his Facebook page on Jan. 18 stating, among other things, that no one should sell Stone pills.
On Stone's Facebook wall following his death, friends and fans expressed grief over his passing and offered parting thoughts on his legacy.
"You were the best coach I ever had! I will keep everything you said to me. I can't stop crying. You were amazing…" one of his tennis students wrote.
"You always went out of your way to say hello and you were always ready to jump on a court and rip some balls," another friend wrote. "You had larger than life ambition and an equally big heart. I hope you have found peace."
A memorial service for Aleksey is scheduled for tomorrow in New York.