December 23 2008
By ADAM GOLDMAN
The founder of an investment fund that lost millions with Bernard Madoff was found dead Tuesday at his Madison Avenue office of a possible suicide, authorities said.
Authorities found the body of Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet just before 8 a.m. ET at his office of Access International Advisors, located on Madison Avenue a couple of blocks from Rockefeller Center.
A French newspaper is reporting that the 65-year-old de la Villehuchet committed suicide. The New York medical examiner spokeswoman says it has not determined the cause of death yet.
Madoff is accused of running a US$50-billion Ponzi scheme that wiped out investors around the world, with big funds like de la Villehuchet’s $1.4-billion Access International Advisers being especially hard hit.
A former business partner said that de la Villehuchet came from a long line of aristocratic Frenchmen, with the Magon part of his name referring to one of France’s most powerful families.
His fund enlisted intermediaries with links to the cream of Europe’s high society and jet set to garner clients. Among them was Philippe Junot, a French businessman and friend who is the former husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco.
De la Villehuchet, the former chairman and CEO 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. There was no answer Tuesday at the family’s two-story house, which has a majestic view of a pond.
“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 death came as swindled investors began looking for ways to possibly recoup their losses. Hedge funds, which lost big to Madoff, are also coming up against investor lawsuits, since they had a fiduciary responsibility to protect their clients.
A handful of lawsuits have already been filed, all claiming that the hedge funds failed to properly vet Madoff and overlooked some red flags that could have steered them away.
Associated Press Writers Rachel Beck and Joe Bel Bruno in New York and Jim Fitzgerald in New Rochelle, N.Y., contributed to this report.