Suicide Madoff Investor Was "Honorable Man"

Wednesday, Dec 24, 2008  |  Updated 3:08 PM PDT
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Bernard Madoff & His Victims

AP

Friends described the fund manager who killed himself after Bernard Madoff lost billions of investors' money an honorable man.

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Madoff Fund Manager Apparently Committed Suicide

A New York-based money manager who may have lost $1.4 billion of client funds invested with Bernard Madoff apparently killed himself in
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He was a distinguished investor who traced his lineage to the French aristocracy, but after losing more than $1billion of his investors' money to Bernard Madoff, Rene-Thierry Magon De La Villehuchet apparently had enough.

He locked the door of his Madison Avenue office and apparently swallowed sleeping pills and slashed his wrists with a box cutter, police said.

On Wednesday, the Medical Examiner's Office in New York City said autopsy results with the final cause of death will not be available until early next week.

De La Villehuchet, 65, was the co-founder and chief executive of Access International Advisors, a fund management company.

A friend of Mr Villehuchet told the news French news agency, AFP, that he had been managing about $4 billion for European clients, of which three quarters had been invested with Mr Madoff.

The Times of London reported that he was "devastated" as news unraveled about the $50 billion Ponzi scheme perpetrated Madoff - the biggest corporate fraud in history.

The report quotes a friend who said as details emerged, the French businessman feared clients would turn against him in the courts.

A security guard found his body Tuesday morning, next to a garbage can placed to catch the blood.

No suicide note was found, said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

De la Villehuchet  was an esteemed financier who tapped his upper-crust European connections to attract clients. It was not immediately clear how he knew Madoff or who his clients were.

He grew increasingly subdued after the Madoff scandal broke, drawing suspicion among janitors at his office Monday night when he demanded that they be out of there by 7 p.m. Less than 13 hours later, his body was found.

His death came as swindled investors began looking for ways to recoup their losses. Funds that lost big to Madoff are also facing investor lawsuits and backlash for failing to properly vet Madoff and overlooking red flags that could have steered them away. It's not immediately known what kind of scrutiny de la Villehuchet was facing over his losses.

De la Villehuchet (pronounced veel-ou-SHAY) comes from rich French lineage, with the Magon part of his name referring to one of France's most powerful families. The Magon name is even listed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a monument commissioned by Napoleon in 1806.

"He's irreproachable," said Bill Rapavy, who was Access International's chief operating officer before founding his own firm in 2007.

De la Villehuchet's firm enlisted intermediaries with links to wealthy Europeans to garner investors. Among them was Philippe Junot, a French businessman and friend who is the former husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, and Prince Michel of Yugoslavia.

De la Villehuchet, the former chairman and chief executive of Credit Lyonnais Securities USA, was also known as a keen sailor who regularly participated in regattas and was a member of the New York Yacht Club.

He lived in an affluent suburb in Westchester County with his wife, Claudine. They have no children. There was no answer Tuesday at the family's two-story house. Phone calls to the home and de la Villehuchet's office went unanswered.

Guy Gurney, a British photographer living in Connecticut, was friends with de la Villehuchet. The two often sailed together and competed in a regatta in France in November.

"He was a very honorable man," Gurney said. "He was extraordinarily generous. He was an aristocrat but not a snob. He was a real person. When he was sailing, he was one of the boys."

The two were supposed to have dinner last Friday but Gurney called the day before to cancel because of the weather. But during the call, de la Villehuchet revealed he had been ensnared in Madoff scandal.

"He sounded very subdued," Gurney said.

Gurney said de la Villehuchet was happily married to his wife.

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