Ghislaine Maxwell, George Soros, the Rockefellers, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos… if you’re like me, almost everyone you despise is invested in Save the Children Fund. But the worst thing about this charity is the performance, not the funding.
Save the Children – the Fairfield, Connecticut-based non-profit in the US – is formally known as Save The Children Federation, Inc. and is part of the Save the Children Alliance (a group of 30 Save the Children groups throughout the world that also support Save the Children International). Established in 1932, Save the Children is a 501 (c) (3) and one of the most well-known charities in the world.
In 2017, the organization raised $760 million (including $322 million in government grants and contributions) – $108 million more than the previous year – and spent $720 million primarily on grants ($528 million), staff compensation and benefits ($103 million), fees for services ($41 million), and office-related expenses ($19 million).
The remaining $40 million (the difference between the revenue reported and the revenue spent) was retained by the organization, contributing to the increase in net fixed assets to $241 million at year end.
That means about 1/3 of the money raised are used by the Fund owners and employees.
Save the Children reported having 1,639 employees in 2017. With total compensation costs of $103 million, the average compensation package was $63,000 although 231 individuals received more than $100,000 in total compensation.
The 20 most highly compensated individuals were reported to be:
$540,883: Carolyn S Miles, President and CEO
$404,737: Carlos Carrazana, EVP and COO
$349,875: Sumeet Seam, VP and General Counsel
$338,463: Stacy Brandom, VP and CFO
$307,673: Michael Klosson, VP Policy and Humanitarian Relief
$306,082: Nancy A Taussig, VP Resource Development
$301,709: Diana K Myers, VP International Programs
$278,659: Janine L Scolpino, Associate VP, Mass Market Fund
$256,347: Gregory A Ramm, VP Humanitarian Response
$250,847: Brian White, VP Deputy General Counsel and CCO
$248,423: Robert M Clay, VP
$231,989: Daniel Stoner, AVP Education and Child Development
$227,535: Dana L Langham, Associate VP, Chief Corp Development
$213,491: Mark Shriver, SVP, US Programs (as of 8/17) plus $182,915 from a related organization
$201,460: Kenneth G Murdoch, VP IT and Building OP (end 6/17)
$195,754: William Corwin, Sr VP, US Programs (2/17-8/17)
$190,167: Phillip DiSanto, VP IT and Building OP (as of 5/17)
$161,943: Andrea Williamson, Corporate Secretary
$153,622: Debbie Pollock-Berry, VP and Chief of HR (as of 6/17)
$150,466: Susan E Ridge, VP Marketing and Communications (end 6/17)
Of the 20 most highly compensated individuals, 11 are men and 9 are women. Of the 10 most highly compensated individuals, 5 are men and 5 are women.
$1 MILLION AND ABOVE Carnival Corporation & plc / Carnival Foundation Facebook Inc. Ferrari North America, Inc. Hachette Book Group Mars Wrigley Foundation (formerly Wrigley Company Foundation) Media Storm MNI Targeted Media, Inc. P&G Penguin Random House Pfizer and the Pfizer Foundation PlowShare Group PVH Corp. Scholastic Corporation The Walt Disney Company
$100,000 TO $1 MILLION Adobe Amazon AmeriCares Apple Arconic Foundation Baby2Baby BlackRock BNY Mellon Bombas Burt’s Bees Baby Cargill CHARLES & KEITH Chevron Chobani and the Chobani Foundation Citi Foundation Colgate-Palmolive Cummins Inc. Direct Relief Dollar General Corporation ExxonMobil Flex Foundation Gabriela Hearst Inc. Godiva Chocolatier Good360 Google.org Heart to Heart International Highgate Hotels Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Lutheran World Relief Mastercard Mattel, Inc. and its American Girl division Morgan Stanley New York Life & New York Life Foundation Nike Foundation PayPal PepsiCo Foundation Sempra Energy Foundation Target The Baupost Group, LLC The Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council, Inc. The Idol Gives Back Foundation The Microsoft Corporation The PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc. Toys “R” Us Voss Foundation Walmart Foundation Western Union Foundation
Comprised of senior leaders from Fortune 500 companies, social impact consultancies and academia, the Corporate Council functions as a strategic sounding board for Save the Children. From cause marketing to technology for development, the council helps Save the Children deepen and evolve our work with the private sector in a mutually beneficial way. We are proud to recognize the thought leadership and advisory contributions of our 2018 Corporate Council members:
Pernille Spiers-Lopez,* IKEA North America (formerly), Council Chair
Perry Yeatman, Perry Yeatman Global Partners LLC, Council Vice Chair
David Barash, GE Foundation
Sean Burke, Accenture
Sarah Colamarino, Johnson & Johnson
Andrea E. Davis, The Walt Disney Company
Mark Freedman, Dalberg
Sebastian Fries, Columbia University
Jim Goldman,* Eurazeo
Rebecca Leonard, The TJX Companies, Inc.
PJ Lewis, Mattel, Inc.
Sean Milliken, PayPal
Christine Montenegro McGrath, Mondeléz International
Paul Musser, Mastercard
Sunil Sani,* Heritage Sportswear, LLC
*Also serves on our Board of Trustees
Ann Hardeman and Combs L. Fort Foundation Bainum Family Foundation Bezos Family Foundation Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Briar Foundation Bruderhof Communities The Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education The Charles Engelhard Foundation Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Cogan Family Foundation Comic Relief USA – The Red Nose Day Fund & Hand in Hand Hurricane Relief Community Foundation of Northern Colorado Connie Hillman Family Foundation Crown Family Philanthropies Derfner Foundation Dubai Cares Educate A Child, a programme of the Education Above All Foundation The Edward W. Brown, Jr. and Margaret G. Brown Endowment for Save the Children and Region A Partnership for Children, a fund of the North Carolina Community Foundation FIA Foundation GHR Foundation The Gottesman Fund Harrington Family Foundation Hau’oli Mau Loa Foundation The Hearst Foundation, Inc. Heising-Simons Foundation Humanity United / Freedom Fund Kenneth S. Battye Charitable Trust LDS Charities MacMillan Family Foundation Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies Margaret A. Meyer Family Foundation Margaret E. Dickins Foundation Martin F. Sticht Charitable Fund Matthew W. Jacobs & Luann Jacobs Charitable Fund New Hampshire Charitable Foundation Oak Foundation Open Society Foundations (George Soros) Owenoke Foundation Robert Wood Johnson Foundation The Rockefeller Foundation Roy A. Hunt Foundation Schultz Fund Share Our Strength SOMOS UNA VOZ South Texas Outreach Foundation STEM Next Opportunity Fund The Stone Family Foundation Wagon Mountain Foundation The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation World Impact Foundation Anonymous (9)
The Mirror organised a Disney day out for the kids at Lord and Lady Bath’s Longleat House, in Wiltshire. A great fun day in which Ghislaine Maxwell presented a cheque for 2000 UK Pounds for the Save the Children Fund. Ghislaine meets Henry Thynne, Lord Bath and his wife Virginia. 13th September 1985. (Photos by George Phillips/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
‘Save The Children’ Receives $50 Million Grant From The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to push vaccines and birth control in Africa and Asia.
Political stunts with children’s money? Why not, we make anything look like charity. “Last week, Save the Children weighed into the controversy surrounding Madonna’s attempt to adopt a child in Malawi. Recently it created a new head of UK campaigning to enhance its profile as the country’s leading organisation for defending “children’s rights”. Its current advertising pitch is aimed at persuading the Chancellor to give £3 billion more in his Budget later this month”, writes Philip Johnston, The Telegraph columnist. He follows: “You could be forgiven for thinking that charities are forbidden from political activism by their tax-free status. Yet the Charity Commission’s own guidelines state that it “can be [a] legitimate and valuable activity”. In other words, the charity is fully entitled to campaign, and operate in the UK; but I am equally at liberty not to give it any money if it no longer does what it says on the rattling tin. Save the Children says the money for its UK venture is not coming from its regular contributors but from corporate donors. But that is beside the point.”
“Another children’s charity was rocked last night after a senior executive at Save The Children resigned over allegations of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ “, Daily Mail reports.
Chief strategist Brendan Cox denied allegations against him but left in September. The charity’s £160,000-a-year chief executive Justin Forsyth has also resigned for unconnected reasons.
Both were senior advisers to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Mr Cox’s wife, Jo, is a Labour MP and former aide to Mr Brown’s wife Sarah. Mrs Cox also runs the Labour Women’s Network where she is ‘equalities and discrimination’ adviser.
Mr Cox, Save The Children’s director of policy and advocacy, left in September after complaints against him by women members of staff. A well-placed source said Mr Cox strenuously denied any wrongdoing but agreed to leave his post, according to Daily Mail.
Alexia Pepper de Caires, an ex-Save The Children employee, says that sexual abuse in the charity sector is a systemic problem and that she had to storm her former employer’s boardroom to be heard, The Telegraph reported.
Ah, and also this:
After investing millions in Save the Children, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger finally honored with Save the Children’s Centennial Award. He received the trophy from the hands of Oprah Winfrey, star of Epstein’s flight logs. The event was hosted by Jennifer Garner and speakers included Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles and Disney Legend Oprah Winfrey, Disney informed on their website.
Leaked details of the inquiry, published in the Times, in which the commission accused Save the Children of “serious failures and mismanagement” of the way it dealt with the allegations in 2015, led to calls for the resignation of Kevin Watkins, the charity’s chief executive. He said “no”.
This is just a figment of the larger picture, just to say “watch you hashtag” to whoever made #Savethechildren trend on social media lately (Fakebook’s Suckerborg mainly, we know it was him)
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The Information was revealed in a book by a Pulitzer-awarded NYT reporter
“One of the best reporters of his generation . . . a gifted storyteller and thorough reporter.” —New York Review of Books
“A first draft of history that reminds us just how bizarre these times really are. A New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, Stewart has assembled a gripping blow-by-blow account of President Trump’s years-long showdown with the FBI — from the first inklings of something about an email server through the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election . . . Encountering it all smashed between the pages of a single book is a new experience, less the stop-start jerkiness of a tweetstorm than the slow-build dread of a dramatic tragedy . . . . The events recounted in ‘Deep State’ help explain how we ended up at our latest impasse and how Trump is likely to react as it unfolds. What makes the book more than a recitation of unseemly facts is its well-rendered human drama.” — The Washington Post
About the Author
James B. Stewart is the author of Tangled Webs, Heart of a Soldier, Blind Eye, Blood Sport, and the blockbuster Den of Thieves. He is currently a columnist for TheNew York Times and a professor at Columbia University School of Journalism, and in 1988 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the stock market crash and insider trading.
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The information comes from a 1997 New Yorker article, before Trump entered politics and Ghislaine entered her public pimp fame. This is likely the least biased source you can ever find on this topic.
“One morning last week, Donald Trump, who under routine circumstances tolerates publicity no more grudgingly than an infant tolerates a few daily feedings, sat in his office on the twenty-sixth floor of Trump Tower, his mood rather subdued. As could be expected, given the fact that his three-and-a-half-year-old marriage to Marla Maples was ending, paparazzi were staking out the exits of Trump Tower, while all weekend helicopters had been hovering over Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach. And what would come of it? “I think the thing I’m worst at is managing the press,” he said. “The thing I’m best at is business and conceiving. The press portrays me as a wild flamethrower. In actuality, I think I’m much different from that. I think I’m totally inaccurately portrayed.”
So, though he’d agreed to a conversation at this decisive moment, it called for wariness, the usual quota of prefatory “off-the-record”s and then some. He wore a navy-blue suit, white shirt, black-onyx-and-gold links, and a crimson print necktie. Every strand of his interesting hair—its gravity-defying ducktails and dry pompadour, its telltale absence of gray—was where he wanted it to be. He was working his way through his daily gallon of Diet Coke and trying out a few diversionary maneuvers. Yes, it was true, the end of a marriage was a sad thing. Meanwhile, was I aware of what a success he’d had with the Nation’s Parade, the Veterans Day celebration he’d been very supportive of back in 1995? Well, here was a little something he wanted to show me, a nice certificate signed by both Joseph Orlando, president, and Harry Feinberg, secretary-treasurer, of the New York chapter of the 4th Armored Division Association, acknowledging Trump’s participation as an associate grand marshal. A million four hundred thousand people had turned out for the celebration, he said, handing me some press clippings. “O.K., I see this story says a half million spectators. But, trust me, I heard a million four.” Here was another clipping, from the Times, just the other day, confirming that rents on Fifth Avenue were the highest in the world. “And who owns more of Fifth Avenue than I do?” Or how about the new building across from the United Nations Secretariat, where he planned a “very luxurious hotel-condominium project, a major project.” Who would finance it? “Any one of twenty-five different groups. They all want to finance it.”
Months earlier, I’d asked Trump whom he customarily confided in during moments of tribulation. “Nobody,” he said. “It’s just not my thing”—a reply that didn’t surprise me a bit. Salesmen, and Trump is nothing if not a brilliant salesman, specialize in simulated intimacy rather than the real thing. His modus operandi had a sharp focus: fly the flag, never budge from the premise that the universe revolves around you, and, above all, stay in character. The Trump tour de force—his evolution from rough-edged rich kid with Brooklyn and Queens political-clubhouse connections to an international name-brand commodity—remains, unmistakably, the most rewarding accomplishment of his ingenious career. The patented Trump palaver, a gaseous blather of “fantastic”s and “amazing”s and “terrific”s and “incredible”s and various synonyms for “biggest,” is an indispensable ingredient of the name brand. In addition to connoting a certain quality of construction, service, and security—perhaps only Trump can explicate the meaningful distinctions between “super luxury” and “super super luxury”—his eponym subliminally suggests that a building belongs to him even after it’s been sold off as condominiums.
Everywhere inside the Trump Organization headquarters, the walls were lined with framed magazine covers, each a shot of Trump or someone who looked an awful lot like him. The profusion of these images—of a man who possessed unusual skills, though not, evidently, a gene for irony—seemed the sum of his appetite for self-reflection. His unique talent—being “Trump” or, as he often referred to himself, “the Trumpster,” looming ubiquitous by reducing himself to a persona—exempted him from introspection.
If the gossips hinted that he’d been cuckolded, they had it all wrong; untying the marital knot was based upon straightforward economics. He had a prenuptial agreement, because “if you’re a person of wealth you have to have one.” In the words of his attorney, Jay Goldberg, the agreement was “as solid as concrete.” It would reportedly pay Marla a million dollars, plus some form of child support and alimony, and the time to do a deal was sooner rather than later. A year from now, she would become entitled to a percentage of his net worth. And, as a source very close to Trump made plain, “If it goes from a fixed amount to what could be a very enormous amount—even a small percentage of two and a half billion dollars or whatever is a lot of money—we’re talking about very huge things. The numbers are much bigger than people understand.”
The long-term matrimonial odds had never been terrifically auspicious. What was Marla Maples, after all, but a tabloid cartoon of the Other Woman, an alliteration you could throw the cliché manual at: a leggy, curvaceous blond-bombshell beauty-pageant-winning actress-model-whatever? After a couple of years of deftly choreographed love spats, Donald and Marla produced a love child, whom they could not resist naming Tiffany. A few months before they went legit, Marla told a television interviewer that the contemplation of marriage tended to induce in Donald the occasional “little freak-out” or visit from the “fear monster.” Her role, she explained, was “to work with him and help him get over that fear monster.” Whenever they travelled, she said, she took along her wedding dress. (“Might as well. You’ve got to be prepared.”) The ceremony, at the Plaza Hotel, right before Christmas, 1993, drew an audience of a thousand but, judging by the heavy turnout of Atlantic City high rollers, one not deemed A-list. The Trump Taj Mahal casino commemorated the occasion by issuing a Donald-and-Marla five-dollar gambling chip.
The last time around, splitting with Ivana, he’d lost the P.R. battle from the git-go. After falling an entire news cycle behind Ivana’s spinmeisters, he never managed to catch up. In one ill-advised eruption, he told Liz Smith that his wife reminded him of his bête noire Leona Helmsley, and the columnist chided, “Shame on you, Donald! How dare you say that about the mother of your children?” His only moment of unadulterated, so to speak, gratification occurred when an acquaintance of Marla’s blabbed about his swordsmanship. The screamer “best sex i’ve ever had”—an instant classic—is widely regarded as the most libel-proof headline ever published by the Post. On the surface, the coincidence of his first marital breakup with the fact that he owed a few billion he couldn’t exactly pay back seemed extraordinarily unpropitious. In retrospect, his timing was excellent. Ivana had hoped to nullify a postnuptial agreement whose provenance could be traced to Donald’s late friend and preceptor the lawyer-fixer and humanitarian Roy Cohn. Though the agreement entitled her to fourteen million dollars plus a forty-six-room house in Connecticut, she and her counsel decided to ask for half of everything Trump owned; extrapolating from Donald’s blustery pronouncements over the years, they pegged her share at two and a half billion. In the end, she was forced to settle for the terms stipulated in the agreement because Donald, at that juncture, conveniently appeared to be broke.Advertisement
Now, of course, according to Trump, things were much different. Business was stronger than ever. And, of course, he wanted to be fair to Marla. Only a million bucks? Hey, a deal was a deal. He meant “fair” in a larger sense: “I think it’s very unfair to Marla, or, for that matter, anyone—while there are many positive things, like life style, which is at the highest level— I think it’s unfair to Marla always to be subjected to somebody who enjoys his business and does it at a very high level and does it on a big scale. There are lots of compensating balances. You live in the Mar-a-Lagos of the world, you live in the best apartment. But, I think you understand, I don’t have very much time. I just don’t have very much time. There’s nothing I can do about what I do other than stopping. And I just don’t want to stop.”
A securities analyst who has studied Trump’s peregrinations for many years believes, “Deep down, he wants to be Madonna.” In other words, to ask how the gods could have permitted Trump’s resurrection is to mistake profound superficiality for profundity, performance art for serious drama. A prime example of superficiality at its most rewarding: the Trump International Hotel & Tower, a fifty-two-story hotel-condominium conversion of the former Gulf & Western Building, on Columbus Circle, which opened last January. The Trump name on the skyscraper belies the fact that his ownership is limited to his penthouse apartment and a stake in the hotel’s restaurant and garage, which he received as part of his development fee. During the grand-opening ceremonies, however, such details seemed not to matter as he gave this assessment: “One of the great buildings anywhere in New York, anywhere in the world.”
The festivities that day included a feng-shui ritual in the lobby, a gesture of respect to the building’s high proportion of Asian buyers, who regard a Trump property as a good place to sink flight capital. An efficient schmoozer, Trump worked the room quickly—a backslap and a wink, a finger on the lapels, no more than a minute with anyone who wasn’t a police commissioner, a district attorney, or a mayoral candidate—and then he was ready to go. His executive assistant, Norma Foerderer, and two other Trump Organization executives were waiting in a car to return to the office. Before it pulled away, he experienced a tug of noblesse oblige. “Hold on, just lemme say hello to these Kinney guys,” he said, jumping out to greet a group of parking attendants. “Good job, fellas. You’re gonna be working here for years to come.” It was a quintessential Trumpian gesture, of the sort that explains his popularity among people who barely dare to dream of living in one of his creations.
Back at the office, a Times reporter, Michael Gordon, was on the line, calling from Moscow. Gordon had just interviewed a Russian artist named Zurab Tsereteli, a man with a sense of grandiosity familiar to Trump. Was it true, Gordon asked, that Tsereteli and Trump had discussed erecting on the Hudson River a statue of Christopher Columbus that was six feet taller than the Statue of Liberty?
“Yes, it’s already been made, from what I understand,” said Trump, who had met Tsereteli a couple of months earlier, in Moscow. “It’s got forty million dollars’ worth of bronze in it, and Zurab would like it to be at my West Side Yards development”—a seventy-five-acre tract called Riverside South—“and we are working toward that end.”
According to Trump, the head had arrived in America, the rest of the body was still in Moscow, and the whole thing was being donated by the Russian government. “The mayor of Moscow has written a letter to Rudy Giuliani stating that they would like to make a gift of this great work by Zurab. It would be my honor if we could work it out with the City of New York. I am absolutely favorably disposed toward it. Zurab is a very unusual guy. This man is major and legit.”
Trump hung up and said to me, “See what I do? All this bullshit. Know what? After shaking five thousand hands, I think I’ll go wash mine.”
Norma Foerderer, however, had some pressing business. A lecture agency in Canada was offering Trump a chance to give three speeches over three consecutive days, for seventy-five thousand dollars a pop. “Plus,” she said, “they provide a private jet, secretarial services, and a weekend at a ski resort.”
How did Trump feel about it?
“My attitude is if somebody’s willing to pay me two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars to make a speech, it seems stupid not to show up. You know why I’ll do it? Because I don’t think anyone’s ever been paid that much.”
Would it be fresh material?
“It’ll be fresh to them.”
Next item: Norma had drafted a letter to Mar-a-Lago members, inviting them to a dinner featuring a speech by George Pataki and entertainment by Marvin Hamlisch. “Oh, and speaking of the Governor, I just got a call. They’re shooting a new ‘I Love New York’ video and they’d like Libby Pataki to go up and down our escalator. I said fine.”
A Mar-a-Lago entertainment booker named Jim Grau called about a Carly Simon concert. Trump switched on his speakerphone: “Is she gonna do it?”
“Well, two things have to be done, Donald. No. 1, she’d like to hear from you. And, No. 2, she’d like to turn it in some degree into a benefit for Christopher Reeve.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” said Trump. “Is Christopher Reeve gonna come? He can come down on my plane. So what do I have to do, call her?”
“I want to tell you how we got Carly on this because some of your friends are involved.”
“Jim, I don’t give a shit. Who the hell cares?”
“Please, Donald. Remember when you had your yacht up there? You had Rose Styron aboard. And her husband wrote ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ And it’s through her good offices—”
“O.K. Good. So thank ’em and maybe invite ’em.”
“Part of my problem,” Trump said to me, “is that I have to do a lot of things myself. It takes so much time. Julio Iglesias is coming to Mar-a-Lago, but I have to call Julio, I have to have lunch with Julio. I have Pavarotti coming. Pavarotti doesn’t perform for anybody. He’s the highest-paid performer in the world. A million dollars a performance. The hardest guy to get. If I call him, he’ll do it—for a huge amount less. Why? Because they like me, they respect me, I don’t know.”
During Trump’s ascendancy, in the nineteen-eighties, the essence of his performance art—an opera-buffa parody of wealth—accounted for his populist appeal as well as for the opprobrium of those who regard with distaste the spectacle of an unbridled id. Delineating his commercial aesthetic, he once told an interviewer, “I have glitzy casinos because people expect it. . . . Glitz works in Atlantic City. . . . And in my residential buildings I sometimes use flash, which is a level below glitz.” His first monument to himself, Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-sixth Street, which opened its doors in 1984, possessed many genuinely impressive elements—a sixty-eight-story sawtoothed silhouette, a salmon-colored Italian-marble atrium equipped with an eighty-foot waterfall—and became an instant tourist attraction. In Atlantic City, the idea was to slather on as much ornamentation as possible, the goal being (a) to titillate with the fantasy that a Trump-like life was a lifelike life and (b) to distract from the fact that he’d lured you inside to pick your pocket.Advertisement
At times, neither glitz nor flash could disguise financial reality. A story in the Times three months ago contained a reference to his past “brush with bankruptcy,” and Trump, though gratified that the Times gave him play on the front page, took umbrage at that phrase. He “never went bankrupt,” he wrote in a letter to the editor, nor did he “ever, at any time, come close.” Having triumphed over adversity, Trump assumes the prerogative to write history.
In fact, by 1990, he was not only at risk, he was, by any rational standard, hugely in the red. Excessively friendly bankers infected with the promiscuous optimism that made the eighties so memorable and so forgettable had financed Trump’s acquisitive impulses to the tune of three billion seven hundred and fifty million dollars. The personally guaranteed portion—almost a billion—represented the value of Trump’s good will, putative creditworthiness, and capacity for shame. A debt restructuring began in the spring of 1990 and continued for several years. In the process, six hundred or seven hundred or perhaps eight hundred million of his creditors’ dollars vaporized and drifted wherever lost money goes. In America, there is no such thing as a debtors’ prison, nor is there a tidy moral to this story.
Several of Trump’s trophies—the Plaza Hotel and all three Atlantic City casinos—were subjected to “prepackaged bankruptcy,” an efficiency maneuver that is less costly than the full-blown thing. Because the New Jersey Casino Control Act requires “financial stability” for a gaming license, it seems hard to avoid the inference that Trump’s Atlantic City holdings were in serious jeopardy. Nevertheless, “blip” is the alternative “b” word he prefers, as in “So the market, as you know, turns lousy and I have this blip.”
Trump began plotting his comeback before the rest of the world—or, perhaps, even he—fully grasped the direness of his situation. In April of 1990, he announced to the Wall Street Journal a plan to sell certain assets and become the “king of cash,” a stratagem that would supposedly set the stage for a shrewd campaign of bargain hunting. That same month, he drew down the final twenty-five million dollars of an unsecured hundred-million-dollar personal line of credit from Bankers Trust. Within seven weeks, he failed to deliver a forty-three-million-dollar payment due to bondholders of the Trump Castle Casino, and he also missed a thirty-million-dollar interest payment to one of the estimated hundred and fifty banks that were concerned about his well-being. An army of bankruptcy lawyers began camping out in various boardrooms.
Making the blip go away entailed, among other sacrifices, forfeiting management control of the Plaza and handing over the titles to the Trump Shuttle (the old Eastern Airlines Boston-New York-Washington route) and a twin-towered thirty-two-story condominium building near West Palm Beach, Florida. He also said goodbye to his two-hundred-and-eighty-two-foot yacht, the Trump Princess, and to his Boeing 727. Appraisers inventoried the contents of his Trump Tower homestead. Liens were attached to just about everything but his Brioni suits. Perhaps the ultimate indignity was having to agree to a personal spending cap of four hundred and fifty thousand dollars a month.
It would have been tactically wise, to say nothing of tactful, if, as Trump’s creditors wrote off large chunks of their portfolios, he could have curbed his breathtaking propensity for self-aggrandizement. The bravado diminished somewhat for a couple of years—largely because the press stopped paying attention—but by 1993 he was proclaiming, “This year has been the most successful year I’ve had in business.” Every year since, he’s issued the same news flash. A spate of Trump-comeback articles appeared in 1996, including several timed to coincide with his fiftieth birthday.
Then, last October, Trump came into possession of what a normal person would regard as real money. For a hundred and forty-two million dollars, he sold his half interest in the Grand Hyatt Hotel, on Forty-second Street, to the Pritzker family, of Chicago, his longtime, and long-estranged, partners in the property. Most of the proceeds weren’t his to keep, but he walked away with more than twenty-five million dollars. The chief significance of the Grand Hyatt sale was that it enabled Trump to extinguish the remnants of his once monstrous personally guaranteed debt. When Forbes published its annual list of the four hundred richest Americans, he sneaked on (three hundred and seventy-third position) with an estimated net worth of four hundred and fifty million. Trump, meanwhile, had compiled his own unaudited appraisal, one he was willing to share along with the amusing caveat “I’ve never shown this to a reporter before.” According to his calculations, he was actually worth two and a quarter billion dollars—Forbes had lowballed him by eighty per cent. Still, he had officially rejoined the plutocracy, his first appearance since the blip.
Jay Goldberg, who in addition to handling Trump’s matrimonial legal matters also represented him in the Grand Hyatt deal, told me that, after it closed, his client confessed that the novelty of being unencumbered had him lying awake nights. When I asked Trump about this, he said, “Leverage is an amazing phenomenon. I love leverage. Plus, I’ve never been a huge sleeper.” Trump doesn’t drink or smoke, claims he’s never even had a cup of coffee. He functions, evidently, according to inverse logic and metabolism. What most people would find unpleasantly stimulating—owing vastly more than you should to lenders who, figuratively, at least, can carve you into small pieces—somehow engenders in him a soothing narcotic effect. That, in any event, is the impression Trump seeks to convey, though the point is now moot. Bankers, typically not the most perspicacious species on earth, from time to time get religion, and there aren’t many who will soon be lining up to thrust fresh bazillions at him.
When I met with Trump for the first time, several months ago, he set out to acquaint me with facts that, to his consternation, had remained stubbornly hidden from the public. Several times, he uttered the phrase “off the record, but you can use it.” I understood the implication—I was his tool—but failed to see the purpose. “If you have me saying these things, even though they’re true, I sound like a schmuck,” he explained. How to account, then, for the bombast of the previous two decades? Alair Townsend, a former deputy mayor in the Koch administration, once quipped, “I wouldn’t believe Donald Trump if his tongue were notarized.” In time, this bon mot became misattributed to Leona Helmsley, who was only too happy to claim authorship. Last fall, after Evander Holyfield upset Mike Tyson in a heavyweight title fight, Trump snookered the News into reporting that he’d collected twenty million bucks by betting a million on the underdog. This prompted the Post to make calls to some Las Vegas bookies, who confirmed—shockingly!—that nobody had been handling that kind of action or laying odds close to 20-1. Trump never blinked, just moved on to the next bright idea.
“I don’t think people know how big my business is,” Trump told me. “Somehow, they know Trump the celebrity. But I’m the biggest developer in New York. And I’m the biggest there is in the casino business. And that’s pretty good to be the biggest in both. So that’s a lot of stuff.” He talked about 40 Wall Street—“truly one of the most beautiful buildings in New York”—a seventy-two-story landmark that he was renovating. He said he owned the new Niketown store, tucked under Trump Tower; there was a deal to convert the Mayfair Hotel, at Sixty-fifth and Park, into “super-super-luxury apartments . . . but that’s like a small one.” He owned the land under the Ritz-Carlton, on Central Park South. (“That’s a little thing. Nobody knows that I own that. In that way, I’m not really understood.”) With CBS, he now owned the Miss U.S.A., Miss Teen U.S.A., and Miss Universe beauty pageants. He pointed to a stack of papers on his desk, closing documents for the Trump International Hotel & Tower. “Look at these contracts. I get these to sign every day. I’ve signed hundreds of these. Here’s a contract for two-point-two million dollars. It’s a building that isn’t even opened yet. It’s eighty-three per cent sold, and nobody even knows it’s there. For each contract, I need to sign twenty-two times, and if you think that’s easy . . . You know, all the buyers want my signature. I had someone else who works for me signing, and at the closings the buyers got angry. I told myself, ‘You know, these people are paying a million eight, a million seven, two million nine, four million one—for those kinds of numbers, I’ll sign the fucking contract.’ I understand. Fuck it. It’s just more work.”Advertisement
As a real-estate impresario, Trump certainly has no peer. His assertion that he is the biggest real-estate developer in New York, however, presumes an elastic definition of that term. Several active developers—among them the Rudins, the Roses, the Milsteins—have added more residential and commercial space to the Manhattan market and have historically held on to what they built. When the outer boroughs figure in the tally—and if Donald isn’t allowed to claim credit for the middle-income high-rise rental projects that generated the fortune amassed by his ninety-one-year-old father, Fred—he slips further in the rankings. But if one’s standard of comparison is simply the number of buildings that bear the developer’s name, Donald dominates the field. Trump’s vaunted art of the deal has given way to the art of “image ownership.” By appearing to exert control over assets that aren’t necessarily his—at least not in ways that his pronouncements suggest—he exercises his real talent: using his name as a form of leverage. “It’s German in derivation,” he has said. “Nobody really knows where it came from. It’s very unusual, but it just is a good name to have.”
In the Trump International Hotel & Tower makeover, his role is, in effect, that of broker-promoter rather than risktaker. In 1993, the General Electric Pension Trust, which took over the building in a foreclosure, hired the Galbreath Company, an international real-estate management firm, to recommend how to salvage its mortgage on a nearly empty skyscraper that had an annoying tendency to sway in the wind. Along came Trump, proposing a three-way joint venture. G.E. would put up all the money—two hundred and seventy-five million dollars—and Trump and Galbreath would provide expertise. The market timing proved remarkably favorable. When Trump totted up the profits and calculated that his share came to more than forty million bucks, self-restraint eluded him, and he took out advertisements announcing “The Most Successful Condominium Tower Ever Built in the United States.”
A minor specimen of his image ownership is his ballyhooed “half interest” in the Empire State Building, which he acquired in 1994. Trump’s initial investment—not a dime—matches his apparent return thus far. His partners, the illegitimate daughter and disreputable son-in-law of an even more disreputable Japanese billionaire named Hideki Yokoi, seem to have paid forty million dollars for the building, though their title, even on a sunny day, is somewhat clouded. Under the terms of leases executed in 1961, the building is operated by a partnership controlled by Peter Malkin and the estate of the late Harry Helmsley. The lessees receive almost ninety million dollars a year from the building’s tenants but are required to pay the lessors (Trump’s partners) only about a million nine hundred thousand. Trump himself doesn’t share in these proceeds, and the leases don’t expire until 2076. Only if he can devise a way to break the leases will his “ownership” acquire any value. His strategy—suing the Malkin-Helmsley group for a hundred million dollars, alleging, among other things, that they’ve violated the leases by allowing the building to become a “rodent infested” commercial slum—has proved fruitless. In February, when an armed madman on the eighty-sixth-floor observation deck killed a sightseer and wounded six others before shooting himself, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Trump, ever vigilant, would exploit the tragedy, and he did not disappoint. “Leona Helmsley should be ashamed of herself,” he told the Post.
One day, when I was in Trump’s office, he took a phone call from an investment banker, an opaque conversation that, after he hung up, I asked him to elucidate.
“Whatever complicates the world more I do,” he said.
“It’s always good to do things nice and complicated so that nobody can figure it out.”
Case in point: The widely held perception is that Trump is the sole visionary and master builder of Riverside South, the mega-development planned for the former Penn Central Yards, on the West Side. Trump began pawing at the property in 1974, obtained a formal option in 1977, allowed it to lapse in 1979, and reëntered the picture in 1984, when Chase Manhattan lent him eighty-four million dollars for land-purchase and development expenses. In the years that followed, he trotted out several elephantine proposals, diverse and invariably overly dense residential and commercial mixtures. “Zoning for me is a life process,” Trump told me. “Zoning is something I have done and ultimately always get because people appreciate what I’m asking for and they know it’s going to be the highest quality.” In fact, the consensus among the West Side neighbors who studied Trump’s designs was that they did not appreciate what he was asking for. An exotically banal hundred-and-fifty-story phallus—“The World’s Tallest Building”—provided the centerpiece of his most vilified scheme.
The oddest passage in this byzantine history began in the late eighties, when an assortment of high-minded civic groups united to oppose Trump, enlisted their own architects, and drafted a greatly scaled-back alternative plan. The civic groups hoped to persuade Chase Manhattan, which held Trump’s mortgage, to help them entice a developer who could wrest the property from their nemesis. To their dismay, and sheepish amazement, they discovered that one developer was willing to pursue their design: Trump. Over time, the so-called “civic alternative” has become, in the public mind, thanks to Trump’s drumbeating, his proposal; he has appropriated conceptual ownership.
Three years ago, a syndicate of Asian investors, led by Henry Cheng, of Hong Kong’s New World Development Company, assumed the task of arranging construction financing. This transaction altered Trump’s involvement to a glorified form of sweat equity; for a fee paid by the investment syndicate, Trump Organization staff people would collaborate with a team from New World, monitoring the construction already under way and working on designs, zoning, and planning for the phases to come. Only when New World has recovered its investment, plus interest, will Trump begin to see any real profit—twenty-five years, at least, after he first cast his covetous eye at the Penn Central rail yards. According to Trump’s unaudited net-worth statement, which identifies Riverside South as “Trump Boulevard,” he “owns 30-50% of the project, depending on performance.” This “ownership,” however, is a potential profit share rather than actual equity. Six hundred million dollars is the value Trump imputes to this highly provisional asset.
Of course, the “comeback” Trump is much the same as the Trump of the eighties; there is no “new” Trump, just as there was never a “new” Nixon. Rather, all along there have been several Trumps: the hyperbole addict who prevaricates for fun and profit; the knowledgeable builder whose associates profess awe at his attention to detail; the narcissist whose self-absorption doesn’t account for his dead-on ability to exploit other people’s weaknesses; the perpetual seventeen-year-old who lives in a zero-sum world of winners and “total losers,” loyal friends and “complete scumbags”; the insatiable publicity hound who courts the press on a daily basis and, when he doesn’t like what he reads, attacks the messengers as “human garbage”; the chairman and largest stockholder of a billion-dollar public corporation who seems unable to resist heralding overly optimistic earnings projections, which then fail to materialize, thereby eroding the value of his investment—in sum, a fellow both slippery and naïve, artfully calculating and recklessly heedless of consequences.Advertisement
Trump’s most caustic detractors in New York real-estate circles disparage him as “a casino operator in New Jersey,” as if to say, “He’s not really even one of us.” Such derision is rooted in resentment that his rescue from oblivion—his strategy for remaining the marketable real-estate commodity “Trump”—hinged upon his ability to pump cash out of Atlantic City. The Trump image is nowhere more concentrated than in Atlantic City, and it is there, of late, that the Trump alchemy—transforming other people’s money into his own wealth—has been most strenuously tested.
To bail himself out with the banks, Trump converted his casinos to public ownership, despite the fact that the constraints inherent in answering to shareholders do not come to him naturally. Inside the Trump Organization, for instance, there is talk of “the Donald factor,” the three to five dollars per share that Wall Street presumably discounts Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts by allowing for his braggadocio and unpredictability. The initial public offering, in June, 1995, raised a hundred and forty million dollars, at fourteen dollars a share. Less than a year later, a secondary offering, at thirty-one dollars per share, brought in an additional three hundred and eighty million dollars. Trump’s personal stake in the company now stands at close to forty per cent. As chairman, Donald had an excellent year in 1996, drawing a million-dollar salary, another million for miscellaneous “services,” and a bonus of five million. As a shareholder, however, he did considerably less well. A year ago, the stock traded at thirty-five dollars; it now sells for around ten.
Notwithstanding Trump’s insistence that things have never been better, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts has to cope with several thorny liabilities, starting with a junk-bond debt load of a billion seven hundred million dollars. In 1996, the company’s losses amounted to three dollars and twenty-seven cents per share—attributable, in part, to extraordinary expenses but also to the fact that the Atlantic City gaming industry has all but stopped growing. And, most glaringly, there was the burden of the Trump Castle, which experienced a ten-per-cent revenue decline, the worst of any casino in Atlantic City.
Last October, the Castle, a heavily leveraged consistent money loser that had been wholly owned by Trump, was bought into Trump Hotels, a transaction that gave him five million eight hundred and thirty-seven thousand shares of stock. Within two weeks—helped along by a reduced earnings estimate from a leading analyst—the stock price, which had been eroding since the spring, began to slide more precipitously, triggering a shareholder lawsuit that accused Trump of self-dealing and a “gross breach of his fiduciary duties.” At which point he began looking for a partner. The deal Trump came up with called for Colony Capital, a sharp real-estate outfit from Los Angeles, to buy fifty-one per cent of the Castle for a price that seemed to vindicate the terms under which he’d unloaded it on the public company. Closer inspection revealed, however, that Colony’s capital injection would give it high-yield preferred, rather than common, stock—in other words, less an investment than a loan. Trump-l’oeil: Instead of trying to persuade the world that he owned something that wasn’t his, he was trying to convey the impression that he would part with an onerous asset that, as a practical matter, he would still be stuck with. In any event, in March the entire deal fell apart. Trump, in character, claimed that he, not Colony, had called it off.
The short-term attempt to solve the Castle’s problems is a four-million-dollar cosmetic overhaul. This so-called “re-theming” will culminate in June, when the casino acquires a new name: Trump Marina. One day this winter, I accompanied Trump when he buzzed into Atlantic City for a re-theming meeting with Nicholas Ribis, the president and chief executive officer of Trump Hotels, and several Castle executives. The discussion ranged from the size of the lettering on the outside of the building to the sparkling gray granite in the lobby to potential future renderings, including a version with an as yet unbuilt hotel tower and a permanently docked yacht to be called Miss Universe. Why the boat? “It’s just an attraction,” Trump said. “You understand, this would be part of a phase-two or phase-three expansion. It’s going to be the largest yacht in the world.”
From the re-theming meeting, we headed for the casino, and along the way Trump received warm salutations. A white-haired woman wearing a pink warmup suit and carrying a bucket of quarters said, “Mr. Trump, I just love you, darling.” He replied, “Thank you. I love you, too,” then turned to me and said, “You see, they’re good people. And I like people. You’ve gotta be nice. They’re like friends.”
The Castle had two thousand two hundred and thirty-nine slot machines, including, in a far corner, thirteen brand-new and slightly terrifying “Wheel of Fortune”-theme contraptions, which were about to be officially unveiled. On hand were representatives of International Game Technology (the machines’ manufacturer), a press entourage worthy of a military briefing in the wake of a Grenada-calibre invasion, and a couple of hundred onlookers—all drawn by the prospect of a personal appearance by Vanna White, the doyenne of “Wheel of Fortune.” Trump’s arrival generated satisfying expressions of awe from the rubberneckers, though not the spontaneous burst of applause that greeted Vanna, who had been conscripted for what was described as “the ceremonial first pull.”
When Trump spoke, he told the gathering, “This is the beginning of a new generation of machine.” Vanna pulled the crank, but the crush of reporters made it impossible to tell what was going on or even what denomination of currency had been sacrificed. The demographics of the crowd suggested that the most efficient machine would be one that permitted direct deposit of a Social Security check. After a delay that featured a digital musical cacophony, the machine spat back a few coins. Trump said, “Ladies and gentlemen, it took a little while. We hope it doesn’t take you as long. And we just want to thank you for being our friends.” And then we were out of there. “This is what we do. What can I tell you?” Trump said, as we made our way through the casino.
Vanna White was scheduled to join us for the helicopter flight back to New York, and later, as we swung over Long Island City, heading for a heliport on the East Side, Trump gave Vanna a little hug and, not for the first time, praised her star turn at the Castle. “For the opening of thirteen slot machines, I’d say we did all right today,” he said, and then they slapped high fives.
In a 1990 Playboy interview, Trump said that the yacht, the glitzy casinos, the gleaming bronze of Trump Tower were all “props for the show,” adding that “the show is ‘Trump’ and it is sold-out performances everywhere.” In 1985, the show moved to Palm Beach. For ten million dollars, Trump bought Mar-a-Lago, a hundred-and-eighteen-room Hispano-Moorish-Venetian castle built in the twenties by Marjorie Merriweather Post and E. F. Hutton, set on seventeen and a half acres extending from the ocean to Lake Worth. Ever since, his meticulous restoration and literal regilding of the property have been a work in progress. The winter of 1995-96 was Mar-a-Lago’s first full season as a commercial venture, a private club with a twenty-five-thousand-dollar initiation fee (which later rose to fifty thousand and is now quoted at seventy-five thousand). The combination of the Post-Hutton pedigree and Trump’s stewardship offered a paradigm of how an aggressively enterprising devotion to Good Taste inevitably transmutes to Bad Taste—but might nevertheless pay for itself.Advertisement
Only Trump and certain of his minions know who among Mar-a-Lago’s more than three hundred listed members has actually forked over initiation fees and who’s paid how much for the privilege. Across the years, there have been routine leaks by a mysterious unnamed spokesman within the Trump Organization to the effect that this or that member of the British Royal Family was planning to buy a pied-à-terre in Trump Tower. It therefore came as no surprise when, during early recruiting efforts at Mar-a-Lago, Trump announced that the Prince and Princess of Wales, their mutual antipathy notwithstanding, had signed up. Was there any documentation? Well, um, Chuck and Di were honorary members. Among the honorary members who have yet to pass through Mar-a-Lago’s portals are Henry Kissinger and Elizabeth Taylor.
The most direct but not exactly most serene way to travel to Mar-a-Lago, I discovered one weekend not long ago, is aboard Trump’s 727, the same aircraft he gave up during the blip and, after an almost decent interval, bought back. My fellow-passengers included Eric Javits, a lawyer and nephew of the late Senator Jacob Javits, bumming a ride; Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of the late publishing tycoon and inadequate swimmer Robert Maxwell, also bumming a ride; Matthew Calamari, a telephone-booth-size bodyguard who is the head of security for the entire Trump Organization; and Eric Trump, Donald’s thirteen-year-old son.
The solid-gold fixtures and hardware (sinks, seat-belt clasps, door hinges, screws), well-stocked bar and larder, queen-size bed, and bidet (easily outfitted with a leather-cushioned cover in case of sudden turbulence) implied hedonistic possibilities—the plane often ferried high rollers to Atlantic City—but I witnessed only good clean fun. We hadn’t been airborne long when Trump decided to watch a movie. He’d brought along “Michael,” a recent release, but twenty minutes after popping it into the VCR he got bored and switched to an old favorite, a Jean Claude Van Damme slugfest called “Bloodsport,” which he pronounced “an incredible, fantastic movie.” By assigning to his son the task of fast-forwarding through all the plot exposition—Trump’s goal being “to get this two-hour movie down to forty-five minutes”—he eliminated any lulls between the nose hammering, kidney tenderizing, and shin whacking. When a beefy bad guy who was about to squish a normal-sized good guy received a crippling blow to the scrotum, I laughed. “Admit it, you’re laughing!” Trump shouted. “You want to write that Donald Trump was loving this ridiculous Jean Claude Van Damme movie, but are you willing to put in there that you were loving it, too?”
A small convoy of limousines greeted us on the runway in Palm Beach, and during the ten-minute drive to Mar-a-Lago Trump waxed enthusiastic about a “spectacular, world-class” golf course he was planning to build on county-owned land directly opposite the airport. Trump, by the way, is a skilled golfer. A source extremely close to him—by which I mean off the record, but I can use it—told me that Claude Harmon, a former winner of the Masters tournament and for thirty-three years the club pro at Winged Foot, in Mamaroneck, New York, once described Donald as “the best weekend player” he’d ever seen.
The only formal event on Trump’s agenda had already got under way. Annually, the publisher of Forbes invites eleven corporate potentates to Florida, where they spend a couple of nights aboard the company yacht, the Highlander, and, during the day, adroitly palpate each other’s brains and size up each other’s short games. A supplementary group of capital-gains-tax skeptics had been invited to a Friday-night banquet in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom. Trump arrived between the roast-duck appetizer and the roasted-portabello-mushroom salad and took his seat next to Malcolm S. (Steve) Forbes, Jr., the erstwhile Presidential candidate and the chief executive of Forbes, at a table that also included les grands fromages of Hertz, Merrill Lynch, the C.I.T. Group, and Countrywide Credit Industries. At an adjacent table, Marla Maples Trump, who had just returned from Shreveport, Louisiana, where she was rehearsing her role as co-host of the Miss U.S.A. pageant, discussed global politics and the sleeping habits of three-year-old Tiffany with the corporate chiefs and chief spouses of A.T. & T., Sprint, and Office Depot. During coffee, Donald assured everyone present that they were “very special” to him, that he wanted them to think of Mar-a-Lago as home, and that they were all welcome to drop by the spa the next day for a freebie.
Tony Senecal, a former mayor of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who now doubles as Trump’s butler and Mar-a-Lago’s resident historian, told me, “Some of the restoration work that’s being done here is so subtle it’s almost not Trump-like.” Subtlety, however, is not the dominant motif. Weary from handling Trump’s legal work, Jay Goldberg used to retreat with his wife to Mar-a-Lago for a week each year. Never mind the tapestries, murals, frescoes, winged statuary, life-size portrait of Trump (titled “The Visionary”), bathtub-size flower-filled samovars, vaulted Corinthian colonnade, thirty-four-foot ceilings, blinding chandeliers, marquetry, overstuffed and gold-leaf-stamped everything else, Goldberg told me; what nudged him around the bend was a small piece of fruit.
“We were surrounded by a staff of twenty people,” he said, “including a footman. I didn’t even know what that was. I thought maybe a chiropodist. Anyway, wherever I turned there was always a bowl of fresh fruit. So there I am, in our room, and I decide to step into the bathroom to take a leak. And on the way I grab a kumquat and eat it. Well, by the time I come out of the bathroom the kumquat has been replaced.
As for the Mar-a-Lago spa, aerobic exercise is an activity Trump indulges in “as little as possible,” and he’s therefore chosen not to micromanage its daily affairs. Instead, he brought in a Texas outfit called the Greenhouse Spa, proven specialists in mud wraps, manual lymphatic drainage, reflexology, shiatsu and Hawaiian hot-rock massage, loofah polishes, sea-salt rubs, aromatherapy, acupuncture, peat baths, and Japanese steeping-tub protocol. Evidently, Trump’s philosophy of wellness is rooted in a belief that prolonged exposure to exceptionally attractive young female spa attendants will instill in the male clientele a will to live. Accordingly, he limits his role to a pocket veto of key hiring decisions. While giving me a tour of the main exercise room, where Tony Bennett, who does a couple of gigs at Mar-a-Lago each season and has been designated an “artist-in-residence,” was taking a brisk walk on a treadmill, Trump introduced me to “our resident physician, Dr. Ginger Lea Southall”—a recent chiropractic-college graduate. As Dr. Ginger, out of earshot, manipulated the sore back of a grateful member, I asked Trump where she had done her training. “I’m not sure,” he said. “Baywatch Medical School? Does that sound right? I’ll tell you the truth. Once I saw Dr. Ginger’s photograph, I didn’t really need to look at her résumé or anyone else’s. Are you asking, ‘Did we hire her because she’d trained at Mount Sinai for fifteen years?’ The answer is no. And I’ll tell you why: because by the time she’s spent fifteen years at Mount Sinai, we don’t want to look at her.”Advertisement
My visit happened to coincide with the coldest weather of the winter, and this gave me a convenient excuse, at frequent intervals, to retreat to my thousand-dollar-a-night suite and huddle under the bedcovers in fetal position. Which is where I was around ten-thirty Saturday night, when I got a call from Tony Senecal, summoning me to the ballroom. The furnishings had been altered since the Forbes banquet the previous evening. Now there was just a row of armchairs in the center of the room and a couple of low tables, an arrangement that meant Donald and Marla were getting ready for a late dinner in front of the TV. They’d already been out to a movie with Eric and Tiffany and some friends and bodyguards, and now a theatre-size screen had descended from the ceiling so that they could watch a pay-per-view telecast of a junior-welterweight-championship boxing match between Oscar de la Hoya and Miguel Angel Gonzalez.
Marla was eating something green, while Donald had ordered his favorite, meat loaf and mashed potatoes. “We have a chef who makes the greatest meat loaf in the world,” he said. “It’s so great I told him to put it on the menu. So whenever we have it, half the people order it. But then afterward, if you ask them what they ate, they always deny it.”
Trump is not only a boxing fan but an occasional promoter, and big bouts are regularly staged at his hotels in Atlantic City. Whenever he shows up in person, he drops by to wish the fighters luck beforehand and is always accorded a warm welcome, with the exception of a chilly reception not long ago from the idiosyncratic Polish head-butter and rabbit-puncher Andrew Golota. This was just before Golota went out and pounded Riddick Bowe into retirement, only to get himself disqualified for a series of low blows that would’ve been perfectly legal in “Bloodsport.”
“Golota’s a killer,” Trump said admiringly. “A stone-cold killer.”
When I asked Marla how she felt about boxing, she said, “I enjoy it a lot, just as long as nobody gets hurt.”
When a call came a while back from Aleksandr Ivanovich Lebed, the retired general, amateur boxer, and restless pretender to the Presidency of Russia, explaining that he was headed to New York and wanted to arrange a meeting, Trump was pleased but not surprised. The list of superpower leaders and geopolitical strategists with whom Trump has engaged in frank and fruitful exchanges of viewpoints includes Mikhail Gorbachev, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff. (He’s also pals with Sylvester Stallone and Clint Eastwood, men’s men who enjoy international reputations for racking up massive body counts.) In 1987, fresh from his grandest public-relations coup—repairing in three and a half months, under budget and for no fee, the Wollman skating rink, in Central Park, a job that the city of New York had spent six years and twelve million dollars bungling—Trump contemplated how, in a larger sphere, he could advertise himself as a doer and dealmaker. One stunt involved orchestrating an “invitation” from the federal government to examine the Williamsburg Bridge, which was falling apart. Trump had no real interest in the job, but by putting on a hard hat and taking a stroll on the bridge for the cameras he stoked the fantasy that he could rebuild the city’s entire infrastructure. From there it was only a short leap to saving the planet. What if, say, a troublemaker like Muammar Qaddafi got his hands on a nuclear arsenal? Well, Trump declared, he stood ready to work with the leaders of the then Soviet Union to coördinate a formula for coping with Armageddon-minded lunatics.
The clear purpose of Lebed’s trip to America, an unofficial visit that coincided with the second Clinton Inaugural, was to add some reassuring human texture to his image as a plainspoken tough guy. Simultaneously, his domestic political prospects could be enhanced if voters back home got the message that Western capitalists felt comfortable with him. Somewhere in Lebed’s calculations was the understanding that, to the nouveau entrepreneurs of the freebooter’s paradise that is now Russia, Trump looked and smelled like very old money.
Their rendezvous was scheduled for midmorning. Having enlisted as an interpreter Inga Bogutska, a receptionist whose father, by coincidence, was a Russian general, Trump decided to greet his visitor in the lobby. When it turned out that Lebed, en route from an audience with a group of Times editors and reporters, was running late, Trump occupied himself by practicing his golf swing and surveying the female pedestrians in the atrium. Finally, Lebed arrived, a middle-aged but ageless fellow with a weathered, fleshy face and hooded eyes, wearing a gray business suit and an impassive expression. After posing for a Times photographer, they rode an elevator to the twenty-sixth floor, and along the way Trump asked, “So, how is everything in New York?”
“Well, it’s hard to give an assessment, but I think it is brilliant,” Lebed replied. He had a deep, bullfroggy voice, and his entourage of a half-dozen men included an interpreter, who rendered Inga Bogutska superfluous.
“Yes, it’s been doing very well,” Trump agreed. “New York is on a very strong up. And we’ve been reading a lot of great things about this gentleman and his country.”
Inside his office, Trump immediately began sharing with Lebed some of his treasured possessions. “This is a shoe that was given to me by Shaquille O’Neal,” he said. “Basketball. Shaquille O’Neal. Seven feet three inches, I guess. This is his sneaker, the actual sneaker. In fact, he gave this to me after a game.”
“I’ve always said,” Lebed sagely observed, “that after size 45, which I wear, then you start wearing trunks on your feet.”
“That’s true,” said Trump. He moved on to a replica of a Mike Tyson heavyweight-championship belt, followed by an Evander Holyfield glove. “He gave me this on my fiftieth birthday. And then he beat Tyson. I didn’t know who to root for. And then, again, here is Shaquille O’Neal’s shirt. Here, you might want to see this. This was part of an advertisement for Versace, the fashion designer. These are photographs of Madonna on the stairs at Mar-a-Lago, my house in Florida. And this photograph shows something that we just finished and are very proud of. It’s a big hotel called Trump International. And it’s been very successful. So we’ve had a lot of fun.”
Trump introduced Lebed to Howard Lorber, who had accompanied him a few months earlier on his journey to Moscow, where they looked at properties to which the Trump moniker might be appended. “Howard has major investments in Russia,” he told Lebed, but when Lorber itemized various ventures none seemed to ring a bell.
“See, they don’t know you,” Trump told Lorber. “With all that investment, they don’t know you. Trump they know.”
Some “poisonous people” at the Times, Lebed informed Trump, were “spreading some funny rumors that you are going to cram Moscow with casinos.”
Laughing, Trump said, “Is that right?”Advertisement
“I told them that I know you build skyscrapers in New York. High-quality skyscrapers.”
“We are actually looking at something in Moscow right now, and it would be skyscrapers and hotels, not casinos. Only quality stuff. But thank you for defending me. I’ll soon be going again to Moscow. We’re looking at the Moskva Hotel. We’re also looking at the Rossiya. That’s a very big project; I think it’s the largest hotel in the world. And we’re working with the local government, the mayor of Moscow and the mayor’s people. So far, they’ve been very responsive.”
Lebed: “You must be a very confident person. You are building straight into the center.”
Trump: “I always go into the center.”
Lebed: “I hope I’m not offending by saying this, but I think you are a litmus testing paper. You are at the end of the edge. If Trump goes to Moscow, I think America will follow. So I consider these projects of yours to be very important. And I’d like to help you as best I can in putting your projects into life. I want to create a canal or riverbed for capital flow. I want to minimize the risks and get rid of situations where the entrepreneur has to try to hide his head between his shoulders. I told the New York Times I was talking to you because you are a professional—a high-level professional—and if you invest, you invest in real stuff. Serious, high-quality projects. And you deal with serious people. And I deem you to be a very serious person. That’s why I’m meeting you.”
Trump: “Well, that’s very nice. Thank you very much. I have something for you. This is a little token of my respect. I hope you like it. This is a book called ‘The Art of the Deal,’ which a lot of people have read. And if you read this book you’ll know the art of the deal better than I do.”
The conversation turned to Lebed’s lunch arrangements and travel logistics—“It’s very tiring to meet so many people,” he confessed—and the dialogue began to feel stilted, as if Trump’s limitations as a Kremlinologist had exhausted the potential topics. There was, however, one more subject he wanted to cover.
“Now, you were a boxer, right?” he said. “We have a lot of big matches at my hotels. We just had a match between Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota, from Poland, who won the fight but was disqualified. He’s actually a great fighter if he can ever get through a match without being disqualified. And, to me, you look tougher than Andrew Golota.”
In response, Lebed pressed an index finger to his nose, or what was left of it, and flattened it against his face.
“You do look seriously tough,” Trump continued. “Were you an Olympic boxer?”
“No, I had a rather modest career.”
“Really? The newspapers said you had a great career.”
“At a certain point, my company leader put the question straight: either you do the sports or you do the military service. And I selected the military.”
“You made the right decision,” Trump agreed, as if putting to rest any notion he might have entertained about promoting a Lebed exhibition bout in Atlantic City.
Norma Foerderer came in with a camera to snap a few shots for the Trump archives and to congratulate the general for his fancy footwork in Chechnya. Phone numbers were exchanged, and Lebed, before departing, offered Trump a benediction: “You leave on the earth a very good trace for centuries. We’re all mortal, but the things you build will stay forever. You’ve already proven wrong the assertion that the higher the attic, the more trash there is.”
When Trump returned from escorting Lebed to the elevator, I asked him his impressions.
“First of all, you wouldn’t want to play nuclear weapons with this fucker,” he said. “Does he look as tough and cold as you’ve ever seen? This is not like your average real-estate guy who’s rough and mean. This guy’s beyond that. You see it in the eyes. This guy is a killer. How about when I asked, ‘Were you a boxer?’ Whoa—that nose is a piece of rubber. But me he liked. When we went out to the elevator, he was grabbing me, holding me, he felt very good. And he liked what I do. You know what? I think I did a good job for the country today.”
The phone rang—Jesse Jackson calling about some office space Trump had promised to help the Rainbow Coalition lease at 40 Wall Street. (“Hello, Jesse. How ya doin’? You were on Rosie’s show? She’s terrific, right? Yeah, I think she is. . . . Okay-y-y, how are you?”) Trump hung up, sat forward, his eyebrows arched, smiling a smile that contained equal measures of surprise and self-satisfaction. “You gotta say, I cover the gamut. Does the kid cover the gamut? Boy, it never ends. I mean, people have no idea. Cool life. You know, it’s sort of a cool life.”
One Saturday this winter, Trump and I had an appointment at Trump Tower. After I’d waited ten minutes, the concierge directed me to the penthouse. When I emerged from the elevator, there Donald stood, wearing a black cashmere topcoat, navy suit, blue-and-white pin-striped shirt, and maroon necktie. “I thought you might like to see my apartment,” he said, and as I squinted against the glare of gilt and mirrors in the entrance corridor he added, “I don’t really do this.” That we both knew this to be a transparent fib—photo spreads of the fifty-three-room triplex and its rooftop park had appeared in several magazines, and it had been featured on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”—in no way undermined my enjoyment of the visual and aural assault that followed: the twenty-nine-foot-high living room with its erupting fountain and vaulted ceiling decorated with neo-Romantic frescoes; the two-story dining room with its carved ivory frieze (“I admit that the ivory’s kind of a no-no”); the onyx columns with marble capitals that had come from “a castle in Italy”; the chandelier that originally hung in “a castle in Austria”; the African blue-onyx lavatory. As we admired the view of Central Park, to the north, he said, “This is the greatest apartment ever built. There’s never been anything like it. There’s no apartment like this anywhere. It was harder to build this apartment than the rest of the building. A lot of it I did just to see if it could be done. All the very wealthy people who think they know great apartments come here and they say, ‘Donald, forget it. This is the greatest.’ ” Very few touches suggested that real people actually lived there—where was it, exactly, that Trump sat around in his boxers, eating roast-beef sandwiches, channel surfing, and scratching where it itched? Where was it that Marla threw her jogging clothes?—but no matter. “Come here, I’ll show you how life works,” he said, and we turned a couple of corners and wound up in a sitting room that had a Renoir on one wall and a view that extended beyond the Statue of Liberty. “My apartments that face the Park go for twice as much as the apartments that face south. But I consider this view to be more beautiful than that view, especially at night. As a cityscape, it can’t be beat.”Advertisement
We then drove down to 40 Wall Street, where members of a German television crew were waiting for Trump to show them around. (“This will be the finest office building anywhere in New York. Not just downtown—anywhere in New York.”) Along the way, we stopped for a light at Forty-second Street and First Avenue. The driver of a panel truck in the next lane began waving, then rolled down his window and burbled, “I never see you in person!” He was fortyish, wore a blue watch cap, and spoke with a Hispanic inflection. “But I see you a lot on TV.”
“Good,” said Trump. “Thank you. I think.”
“She’s in Louisiana, getting ready to host the Miss U.S.A. pageant. You better watch it. O.K.?”
“O.K., I promise,” said the man in the truck. “Have a nice day, Mr. Trump. And have a profitable day.”
Later, Trump said to me, “You want to know what total recognition is? I’ll tell you how you know you’ve got it. When the Nigerians on the street corners who don’t speak a word of English, who have no clue, who’re selling watches for some guy in New Jersey—when you walk by and those guys say, ‘Trump! Trump!’ That’s total recognition.”
Next, we headed north, to Mount Kisco, in Westchester County—specifically to Seven Springs, a fifty-five-room limestone-and-granite Georgian splendor completed in 1917 by Eugene Meyer, the father of Katharine Graham. If things proceeded according to plan, within a year and a half the house would become the centerpiece of the Trump Mansion at Seven Springs, a golf club where anyone willing to part with two hundred and fifty thousand dollars could tee up. As we approached, Trump made certain I paid attention to the walls lining the driveway. “Look at the quality of this granite. Because I’m like, you know, into quality. Look at the quality of that wall. Hand-carved granite, and the same with the house.” Entering a room where two men were replastering a ceiling, Trump exulted, “We’ve got the pros here! You don’t see too many plasterers anymore. I take a union plasterer from New York and bring him up here. You know why? Because he’s the best.” We canvassed the upper floors and then the basement, where Trump sized up the bowling alley as a potential spa. “This is very much Mar-a-Lago all over again,” he said. “A great building, great land, great location. Then the question is what to do with it.”
From the rear terrace, Trump mapped out some holes of the golf course: an elevated tee above a par three, across a ravine filled with laurel and dogwood; a couple of parallel par fours above the slope that led to a reservoir. Then he turned to me and said, “I bought this whole thing for seven and a half million dollars. People ask, ‘How’d you do that?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ Does that make sense?” Not really, nor did his next utterance: “You know, nobody’s ever seen a granite house before.”
Granite? Nobody? Never? In the history of humankind? Impressive.
A few months ago, Marla Maples Trump, with a straight face, told an interviewer about life with hubby: “He really has the desire to have me be more of the traditional wife. He definitely wants his dinner promptly served at seven. And if he’s home at six-thirty it should be ready by six-thirty.” Oh well, so much for that.
In Trump’s office the other morning, I asked whether, in light of his domestic shuffle, he planned to change his living arrangements. He smiled for the first time that day and said, “Where am I going to live? That might be the most difficult question you’ve asked so far. I want to finish the work on my apartment at Trump International. That should take a few months, maybe two, maybe six. And then I think I’ll live there for maybe six months. Let’s just say, for a period of time. The buildings always work better when I’m living there.”
What about the Trump Tower apartment? Would that sit empty?
“Well, I wouldn’t sell that. And, of course, there’s no one who would ever build an apartment like that. The penthouse at Trump International isn’t nearly as big. It’s maybe seven thousand square feet. But it’s got a living room that is the most spectacular residential room in New York. A twenty-five-foot ceiling. I’m telling you, the best room anywhere. Do you understand?”
I think I did: the only apartment with a better view than the best apartment in the world was the same apartment. Except for the one across the Park, which had the most spectacular living room in the world. No one had ever seen a granite house before. And, most important, every square inch belonged to Trump, who had aspired to and achieved the ultimate luxury, an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul. “Trump”—a fellow with universal recognition but with a suspicion that an interior life was an intolerable inconvenience, a creature everywhere and nowhere, uniquely capable of inhabiting it all at once, all alone. ♦Published by The New Yorker in the print edition of the May 19, 1997, issue.
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“Miley Cyrus’ 16th birthday party was more boisterous than sweet”, recounts Associated Press quoted by Hollywood Reporter, in 2008
Cyrus celebrated the hallmark birthday at an over-the-top Disneyland celebration Sunday — even though she doesn’t actually turn 16 until Nov. 23. The theme park was closed for the supersized soiree, which included a four-song performance by the teen queen and a fireworks display above Sleeping Beauty Castle and 16 giant inflatable candles.
“Miley is really hard to surprise,” her father Billy Ray Cyrus said at the event. Organizers estimated over 5,000 people attended the special party, which cost $250 a ticket. On the event’s purple carpet — that’s Cyrus’ favorite color — the “Hannah Montana” star bragged that her parents bought her a new puppy for her birthday. What else does Cyrus want for her birthday? A new car? Perhaps a later curfew?
“My parents shut down Disneyland for me, so I’m good for a while,” Cyrus said. Cyrus’ father opened up for his daughter with a few of his own songs, including “Achy Breaky Heart.” His daughter donned a white ruffled skirt and jersey-like vest with “Sweet 16” printed on the back for her truncated concert. At one point, Cyrus boarded a boat in the park’s Rivers of America and crooned such tunes as “Breakout” and “G.N.O.”
Throughout the evening, several popular attractions, such as Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, remained open to partygoers. Additional activities, like receiving a “Hannah Montana” makeover and playing the upcoming Disney Interactive Studios rhythm video game “Ultimate Band,” were also made available to attendees.
Partygoers ogled celebrities roaming around the park throughout the party. David Archuleta and his entourage skipped the line to ride Space Mountain. Jennie Garth and her family ducked out before the fireworks display capping the celebration. Other stars in attendance included Steve Carell, Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks and Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Disney used the event to promote their upcoming “What Will You Celebrate?” marketing initiative, which encourages tourists to take “celebration vacations” with their families. Beginning in 2009, guests at Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Florida can gain free theme park admission on their birthday with a valid ID and proof of birth date.
Over at Disney’s California Adventure, Disneyland’s sister theme park, an entirely different celebration was occurring during the Sweet 16 event: the 11th annual Gay Days Anaheim, an unofficial gathering of gays and lesbians at the Disneyland Resort. Event producer Jeffrey Epstein said Cyrus’ affair didn’t conflict with Gay Days Anaheim.
We’re happy to share our big weekend with Miley. While it may be a small world after all, we think it’s big enough for both groups to have a blast.
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! Articles can always be subject of later editing as a way of perfecting them
On a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz.
It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.
Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men — both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis — convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.
Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement— essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.
The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.
As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls — or anyone else — might show up in court and try to derail it.
This is the story of how Epstein, bolstered by unlimited funds and represented by a powerhouse legal team, was able to manipulate the criminal justice system, and how his accusers, still traumatized by their pasts, believe they were betrayed by the very prosecutors who pledged to protect them.
“I don’t think anyone has been told the truth about what Jeffrey Epstein did,’’ said one of Epstein’s victims, Michelle Licata, now 30. “He ruined my life and a lot of girls’ lives. People need to know what he did and why he wasn’t prosecuted so it never happens again.”
Now President Trump’s secretary of labor, Acosta, 49, oversees a massive federal agency that provides oversight of the country’s labor laws, including human trafficking. Until he was reported to be eliminated on Thursday, a day after this story posted online, Acosta also had been included on lists of possible replacements for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned under pressure earlier this month.
Acosta did not respond to numerous requests for an interview or answer queries through email.
But court records reveal details of the negotiations and the role that Acosta would play in arranging the deal, which scuttled the federal probe into a possible international sex trafficking operation. Among other things, Acosta allowed Epstein’s lawyers unusual freedoms in dictating the terms of the non-prosecution agreement.
“The damage that happened in this case is unconscionable,” said Bradley Edwards, a former state prosecutor who represents some of Epstein’s victims. “How in the world, do you, the U.S. attorney, engage in a negotiation with a criminal defendant, basically allowing that criminal defendant to write up the agreement?”
As a result, neither the victims — nor even the judge — would know how many girls Epstein allegedly sexually abused between 2001 and 2005, when his underage sex activities were first uncovered by police. Police referred the case to the FBI a year later, when they began to suspect that their investigation was being undermined by the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office.
NOT A ‘HE SAID, SHE SAID’
“This was not a ‘he said, she said’ situation. This was 50-something ‘shes’ and one ‘he’ — and the ‘shes’ all basically told the same story,’’ said retired Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter, who supervised the police probe.
More than a decade later, at a time when Olympic gymnasts and Hollywood actresses have become a catalyst for a cultural reckoning about sexual abuse, Epstein’s victims have all but been forgotten.
The women — now in their late 20s and early 30s — are still fighting for an elusive justice that even the passage of time has not made right.
Like other victims of sexual abuse, they believe they’ve been silenced by a criminal justice system that stubbornly fails to hold Epstein and other wealthy and powerful men accountable.
“Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless. He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right,’’ said Courtney Wild, who was 14 when she met Epstein.
Over the past year, the Miami Herald examined a decade’s worth of court documents, lawsuits, witness depositions and newly released FBI documents. Key people involved in the investigation — most of whom have never spoken before — were also interviewed. The Herald also obtained new records, including the full unredacted copy of the Palm Beach police investigation and witness statements that had been kept under seal.
The Herald learned that, as part of the plea deal, Epstein provided what the government called “valuable consideration” for unspecified information he supplied to federal investigators. While the documents obtained by the Herald don’t detail what the information was, Epstein’s sex crime case happened just as the country’s subprime mortgage market collapsed, ushering in the 2008 global financial crisis.
Records show that Epstein was a key federal witness in the criminal prosecution of two prominent executives with Bear Stearns, the global investment brokerage that failed in 2008, who were accused of corporate securities fraud. Epstein was one of the largest investors in the hedge fund managed by the executives, who were later acquitted. It is not known what role, if any, the case played in Epstein’s plea negotiations.
The Herald also identified about 80 women who say they were molested or otherwise sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006. About 60 of them were located — now scattered around the country and abroad. Eight of them agreed to be interviewed, on or off the record. Four of them were willing to speak on video.
The women are now mothers, wives, nurses, bartenders, Realtors, hairdressers and teachers. One is a Hollywood actress. Several have grappled with trauma, depression and addiction. Some have served time in prison.
A few did not survive. One young woman was found dead last year in a rundown motel in West Palm Beach. She overdosed on heroin and left behind a young son.
As part of Epstein’s agreement, he was required to register as a sex offender, and pay restitution to the three dozen victims identified by the FBI. In many cases, the confidential financial settlements came only after Epstein’s attorneys exposed every dark corner of their lives in a scorched-earth effort to portray the girls as gold diggers.
“You beat yourself up mentally and physically,’’ said Jena-Lisa Jones, 30, who said Epstein molested her when she was 14. “You can’t ever stop your thoughts. A word can trigger something. For me, it is the word ‘pure’ because he called me ‘pure’ in that room and then I remember what he did to me in that room.’’
Now, more than a decade later, two unrelated civil lawsuits — one set for trial on Dec. 4 — could reveal more about Epstein’s crimes. The Dec. 4 case, in Palm Beach County state court, involves Epstein and Edwards, whom Epstein had accused of legal misdeeds in representing several victims. The case is noteworthy because it will mark the first time that Epstein’s victims will have their day in court, and several of them are scheduled to testify.
A second lawsuit, known as the federal Crime Victims’ Rights suit, is still pending in South Florida after a decade of legal jousting. It seeks to invalidate the non-prosecution agreement in hopes of sending Epstein to federal prison. Wild, who has never spoken publicly until now, is Jane Doe No. 1 in “Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2 vs. the United States of America,” a federal lawsuit that alleges Epstein’s federal non-prosecution agreement was illegal.
Federal prosecutors, including Acosta, not only broke the law, the women contend in court documents, but they conspired with Epstein and his lawyers to circumvent public scrutiny and deceive his victims in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. The law assigns victims a series of rights, including the right of notice of any court proceedings and the opportunity to appear at sentencing.
“As soon as that deal was signed, they silenced my voice and the voices of all of Jeffrey Epstein’s other victims,’’ said Wild, now 31. “This case is about justice, not just for us, but for other victims who aren’t Olympic stars or Hollywood stars.’’
In court papers, federal prosecutors have argued that they did not violate the Crime Victims’ Rights Act because no federal charges were ever filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, an argument that was later dismissed by the judge.Play VideoDuration 0:00Virginia Roberts was working at Mar-a-Lago when she was recruited to be a masseuse to Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein. She was lured into a life of depravity and sexual abuse.
Despite substantial physical evidence and multiple witnesses backing up the girls’ stories, the secret deal allowed Epstein to enter guilty pleas to two felony prostitution charges. Epstein admitted to committing only one offense against one underage girl, who was labeled a prostitute, even though she was 14, which is well under the age of consent — 18 in Florida.
“She was taken advantage of twice — first by Epstein, and then by the criminal justice system that labeled a 14-year-old girl as a prostitute,’’ said Spencer Kuvin, the lawyer who represented the girl.
“It’s just outrageous how they minimized his crimes and devalued his victims by calling them prostitutes,’’ said Yasmin Vafa, a human rights attorney and executive director of Rights4Girls, which is working to end the sexual exploitation of girls and young women.
“There is no such thing as a child prostitute. Under federal law, it’s called child sex trafficking — whether Epstein pimped them out to others or not. It’s still a commercial sex act — and he could have been jailed for the rest of his life under federal law,” she said.
It would be easy to dismiss the Epstein case as another example of how there are two systems of justice in America, one for the rich and one for the poor. But a thorough analysis of the case tells a far more troubling story.
A close look at the trove of letters and emails contained in court records provides a window into the plea negotiations, revealing an unusual level of collaboration between federal prosecutors and Epstein’s legal team that even government lawyers, in recent court documents, admitted was unorthodox.
Acosta, in 2011, would explain that he was unduly pressured by Epstein’s heavy-hitting lawyers — Lefkowitz, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, Jack Goldberger, Roy Black, former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, Gerald Lefcourt, and Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater special prosecutor who investigated Bill Clinton’s sexual liaisons with Monica Lewinsky.
‘AVOID THE PRESS’ PLAN
That included keeping the deal from Epstein’s victims, emails show.
“Thank you for the commitment you made to me during our Oct. 12 meeting,’’ Lefkowitz wrote in a letter to Acosta after their breakfast meeting in West Palm Beach. He added that he was hopeful that Acosta would abide by a promise to keep the deal confidential.
“You … assured me that your office would not … contact any of the identified individuals, potential witnesses or potential civil claimants and the respective counsel in this matter,’’ Lefkowitz wrote.
In email after email, Acosta and the lead federal prosecutor, A. Marie Villafaña, acquiesced to Epstein’s legal team’s demands, which often focused on ways to limit the scandal by shutting out his victims and the media, including suggesting that the charges be filed in Miami, instead of Palm Beach, where Epstein’s victims lived.
“On an ‘avoid the press’ note … I can file the charge in district court in Miami which will hopefully cut the press coverage significantly. Do you want to check that out?’’ Villafaña wrote to Lefkowitz in a September 2007 email.
Federal prosecutors identified 36 underage victims, but none of those victims appeared at his sentencing on June 30, 2008, in state court in Palm Beach County. Most of them heard about it on the news — and even then they didn’t understand what had happened to the federal probe that they’d been assured was ongoing.
Edwards filed an emergency motion in federal court to block the non-prosecution agreement, but by the time the agreement was unsealed — over a year later — Epstein had already served his sentence and been released from jail.
“The conspiracy between the government and Epstein was really ‘let’s figure out a way to make the whole thing go away as quietly as possible,’ ’’ said Edwards, who represents Wild and Jane Doe No. 2, who declined to comment for this story.
“In never consulting with the victims, and keeping it secret, it showed that someone with money can buy his way out of anything.’’
It was far from the last time Epstein would receive VIP handling. Unlike other convicted sex offenders, Epstein didn’t face the kind of rough justice that child sex offenders do in Florida state prisons. Instead of being sent to state prison, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County jail. And rather than having him sit in a cell most of the day, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office allowed Epstein work release privileges, which enabled him to leave the jail six days a week, for 12 hours a day, to go to a comfortable office that Epstein had set up in West Palm Beach. This was granted despite explicit sheriff’s department rules stating that sex offenders don’t qualify for work release.
The sheriff, Ric Bradshaw, would not answer questions, submitted by the Miami Herald, about Epstein’s work release.
Neither Epstein nor his lead attorney, Jack Goldberger, responded to multiple requests for comment for this story. During depositions taken as part of two dozen lawsuits filed against him by his victims, Epstein has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, in one instance doing so more than 200 times.
In the past, his lawyers have said that the girls lied about their ages, that their stories were exaggerated or untrue and that they were unreliable witnesses prone to drug use.
In 2011, Epstein petitioned to have his sex offender status reduced in New York, where he has a home and is required to register every 90 days. In New York, he is classified as a level 3 offender — the highest safety risk because of his likelihood to re-offend.
A prosecutor under New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance argued on Epstein’s behalf, telling New York Supreme Court Judge Ruth Pickholtz that the Florida case never led to an indictment and that his underage victims failed to cooperate in the case. Pickholtz, however, denied the petition, expressing astonishment that a New York prosecutor would make such a request on behalf of a serial sex offender accused of molesting so many girls.
“I have to tell you, I’m a little overwhelmed because I have never seen a prosecutor’s office do anything like this. I have done so many [sex offender registration hearings] much less troubling than this one where the [prosecutor] would never make a downward argument like this,’’ she said.
THE HOUSE ON EL BRILLO
The women who went to Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion as girls tend to divide their lives into two parts: life before Jeffrey and life after Jeffrey.
Before she met Epstein, Courtney Wild was captain of the cheerleading squad, first trumpet in the band and an A-student at Lake Worth Middle School.
After she met Epstein, she was a stripper, a drug addict and an inmate at Gadsden Correctional Institution in Florida’s Panhandle.
Wild still had braces on her teeth when she was introduced to him in 2002 at the age of 14.
She was fair, petite and slender, blonde and blue-eyed. Wild, who later helped recruit other girls, said Epstein preferred girls who were white, appeared prepubescent and those who were easy to manipulate into going further each time.
“By the time I was 16, I had probably brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old. He was involved in my life for years,” said Wild, who was released from prison in October after serving three years on drug charges.
The girls — mostly 13 to 16 — were lured to his pink waterfront mansion by Wild and other girls, who went to malls, house parties and other places where girls congregated, and told recruits that they could earn $200 to $300 to give a man — Epstein — a massage, according to an unredacted copy of the Palm Beach police investigation obtained by the Herald.
The lead Palm Beach police detective on the case, Joseph Recarey, said Epstein’s operation worked like a sexual pyramid scheme.
“The common interview with a girl went like this: ‘I was brought there by so and so. I didn’t feel comfortable with what happened, but I got paid well, so I was told if I didn’t feel comfortable, I could bring someone else and still get paid,’ ’’ Recarey said.
During the massage sessions, Recarey said Epstein would molest the girls, paying them premiums for engaging in oral sex and intercourse, and offering them a further bounty to find him more girls.
Recarey, in his first interview about the case, said the evidence the department collected to support the girls’ stories was overwhelming, including phone call records, copies of written phone messages from the girls found in Epstein’s trash and Epstein’s flight logs, which showed his private plane in Palm Beach on the days the girls were scheduled to give him massages.
Epstein could be a generous benefactor, Recarey said, buying his favored girls gifts. He might rent a car for a young girl to make it more convenient for her to stop by and cater to him. Once, he sent a bucket of roses to the local high school after one of his girls starred in a stage production. The floral-delivery instructions and a report card for one of the girls were discovered in a search of his mansion and trash. Police also obtained receipts for the rental cars and gifts, Recarey said.
Epstein counseled the girls about their schooling, and told them he would help them get into college, modeling school, fashion design or acting. At least two of Epstein’s victims told police that they were in love with him, according to the police report.
The police report shows how uncannily consistent the girls’ stories were — right down to their detailed descriptions of Epstein’s genitalia.
“We had victims who didn’t know each other, never met each other and they all basically independently told the same story,’’ said Reiter, the retired Palm Beach police chief.
Reiter, also speaking for the first time, said detectives were astonished by the sheer volume of young girls coming and going from his house, the frequency — sometimes several in the same day — and the young ages of the girls.
“It started out to give a man a back rub, but in many cases it turned into something far worse than that, elevated to a serious crime, in some cases sexual batteries,’’ he said.
Most of the girls said they arrived by car or taxi, and entered the side door, where they were led into a kitchen by a female staff assistant named Sarah Kellen, the report said. A chef might prepare them a meal or offer them cereal. The girls — most from local schools — would then ascend a staircase off the kitchen, up to a large master bedroom and bath.
They were met by Epstein, clad in a towel. He would select a lotion from an array lined up on a table, then lie facedown on a massage table, instruct the girl to strip partially or fully, and direct them to massage his feet and backside. Then he would turn over and have them massage his chest, often instructing them to pinch his nipples, while he masturbated, according to the police report.
At times, if emboldened, he would try to penetrate them with his fingers or use a vibrator on them. He would go as far as the girls were willing to let him, including intercourse, according to police documents. Sometimes he would instruct a young woman he described as his Yugoslavian sex slave, Nadia Marcinkova, who was over 18, to join in, the girls told Recarey. Epstein often took photographs of the girls having sex and displayed them around the house, the detective said.
Once sexually gratified, Epstein would take a shower in his massive bathroom, which the girls described as having a large shower and a hot pink and mint green sofa.
Kellen (now Vickers) and Marcinkova, through their attorneys, declined to comment for this story.
One girl told police that she was approached by an Epstein recruiter when she was 16, and was working at the Wellington mall. Over the course of more than a year, she went to Epstein’s house hundreds of times, she said. The girl tearfully told Recarey that she often had sex with Marcinkova — who employed strap-on dildos and other toys — while Epstein watched and choreographed her moves to please himself, according to the police report. Often times, she said, she was so sore after the encounters that she could barely walk, the police report said.
But she said she was firm about not wanting to have intercourse with Epstein. One day, however, the girl said that Epstein, unable to control himself, held her down on a massage table and penetrated her, the police report said. The girl, who was 16 or 17 at the time, said that Epstein apologized and paid her $1,000, the police report said.
Most of the girls came from disadvantaged families, single-parent homes or foster care. Some had experienced troubles that belied their ages: They had parents and friends who committed suicide; mothers abused by husbands and boyfriends; fathers who molested and beat them. One girl had watched her stepfather strangle her 8-year-old stepbrother, according to court records obtained by the Herald.
Many of the girls were one step away from homelessness.
“We were stupid, poor children,’’ said one woman, who did not want to be named because she never told anyone about Epstein. At the time, she said, she was 14 and a high school freshman.
“We just wanted money for school clothes, for shoes. I remember wearing shoes too tight for three years in a row. We had no family and no guidance, and we were told that we were going to just have to sit in a room topless and he was going to just look at us. It sounded so simple, and was going to be easy money for just sitting there. The girls who were abused by Jeffrey Epstein and the cops who championed their cause remain angry over what they regard as a gross injustice, while Epstein’s employees and those who engineered his non-prosecution agreement have prospered.
The woman, who went to Epstein’s home multiple times, said Epstein didn’t like her because her breasts were too big. The last time she went, she said, one girl came out crying and they were instructed to leave the house and had to pay for their own cab home.
Some girls told police they were coached by their peer recruiters to lie to Epstein about their ages and say they were 18. Epstein’s legal team would later claim that even if the girls were under 18, there was no way he could have known. However, under Florida law, ignorance of a sex partner’s age is not a defense for having sex with a minor.
Wild said he was well aware of their tender ages — because he demanded they be young.
“He told me he wanted them as young as I could find them,’’ she said, explaining that as she grew older and had less access to young girls, Epstein got increasingly angry with her inability to find him the young girls he desired.
“If I had a girl to bring him at breakfast, lunch and dinner, then that’s how many times I would go a day. He wanted as many girls as I could get him. It was never enough.’’
THE PYRAMID CRUMBLES
Epstein’s scheme first began to unravel in March 2005, when the parents of a 14-year-old girl told Palm Beach police that she had been molested by Epstein at his mansion. The girl reluctantly confessed that she had been brought there by two other girls, and those girls pointed to two more girls who had been there.
By the time detectives tracked down one victim, there were two and three more to find. Soon there were dozens.
“We didn’t know where the victims would ever end,” Reiter said.
Eventually, the girls told them about still other girls and young women they had seen at Epstein’s house, many of whom didn’t speak English, Recarey said. That led Recarey to suspect that Epstein’s exploits weren’t just confined to Palm Beach. Police obtained the flight logs for his private plane, and found female names and initials among the list of people who flew on the aircraft — including the names of some famous and powerful people who had also been passengers, Recarey said.
A newly released FBI report shows that at the time the non-prosecution deal was executed, the agency was interviewing witnesses and victims “from across the United States.” The probe stretched from Florida to New York and New Mexico, records show. The report was released by the FBI in response to a lawsuit filed by Radar Online and was made available on the bureau’s website after the Miami Herald and other news organizations submitted requests, said Daniel Novack, the lawyer who filed the Freedom of Information Act case pro bono.
One lawsuit, still pending in New York, alleges that Epstein used an international modeling agency to recruit girls as young as 13 from Europe, Ecuador and Brazil. The girls lived in a New York building owned by Epstein, who paid for their visas, according to the sworn statement of Maritza Vasquez, the one-time bookkeeper for Mc2, the modeling agency.
Mike Fisten, a former Miami-Dade police sergeant who was also a homicide investigator and a member of the FBI Organized Crime Task Force, said the FBI had enough evidence to put Epstein away for a long time but was overruled by Acosta. Some of the agents involved in the case were disappointed by Acosta’s bowing to pressure from Epstein’s lawyers, he said.
“The day that a sitting U.S. attorney is afraid of a lawyer or afraid of a defendant is a very sad day in this country,’’ said Fisten, now a private investigator for Edwards.
Now, a complex web of litigation could reveal more about Epstein’s crimes. A lawsuit, set for trial Dec. 4 in Palm Beach County, involves the notorious convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, in whose law firm Edwards once worked.
In 2009, Epstein sued Edwards, alleging that Edwards was involved with Rothstein and was using the girls’ civil lawsuits to perpetuate Rothstein’s massive Ponzi operation. But Rothstein said Edwards didn’t know about the scheme, and Epstein dropped the lawsuit.
Edwards countersued for malicious prosecution, arguing that Epstein sued him to retaliate for his aggressive representation of Epstein’s victims.
Several women who went to Epstein’s home as underage girls are scheduled to testify against him for the first time.
Florida state Sen. Lauren Book, a child sex abuse survivor who has lobbied for tough sex offender laws, said Epstein’s case should serve as a tipping point for criminal cases involving sex crimes against children.
“Where is the righteous indignation for these women? Where are the protectors? Who is banging down the doors of the secretary of labor, or the judge or the sheriff’s office in Palm Beach County, demanding justice and demanding the right to be heard?’’ Book asked.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Villafaña, in court papers, said that prosecutors used their “best efforts’’ to comply with the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, but exercised their “prosecutorial discretion’’ when they chose not to notify the victims. The reasoning went like this: The non-prosecution deal had a restitution clause that provided the girls a chance to seek compensation from Epstein. Had the deal fallen through, necessitating a trial, Epstein’s lawyers might have used the prior restitution clause to undermine the girls’ credibility as witnesses, by claiming they had exaggerated Epstein’s behavior in hopes of cashing in.
Acosta has never fully explained why he felt it was in the best interests of the underage girls — and their parents — for him to keep the agreement sealed. Or why the FBI investigation was closed even as, recently released documents show, the case was yielding more victims and evidence of a possible sex-trafficking conspiracy beyond Palm Beach.
Upon his nomination by Trump as labor secretary in 2017, Acosta was questioned about the Epstein case during a Senate confirmation hearing.
“At the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor’s office decided that a plea that guarantees someone goes to jail, that guarantees he register [as a sex offender] generally and guarantees other outcomes, is a good thing,’’ Acosta said of his decision to not prosecute Epstein federally.
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, in opposing Acosta for labor secretary, noted that “his handling of a case involving sex trafficking of underage girls when he was a U.S. attorney suggests he won’t put the interests of workers and everyday people ahead of the powerful and well-connected.’’
Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who is one of the nation’s leading advocates for reforming laws involving sex crimes against children, said what Acosta and other prosecutors did is similar to what the Catholic Church did to protect pedophile priests.
“The real crime with the Catholic priests was the way they covered it up and shielded the priests,’’ Hamilton said. “The orchestration of power by men only is protected as long as everybody agrees to keep it secret. This is a story the world needs to hear.’’ – Miami Herald
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The headline quote comes from a juicy New York Mag article from 2002, which you can read integrally below, unedited, just with occasional emphasis added by us.
He comes with cash to burn, a fleet of airplanes, and a keen eye for the ladies — to say nothing of a relentless brain that challenges Nobel Prize–winning scientists across the country — and for financial markets around the world. Ever since the Post’s “Page Six” ran an item about the president’s late-September visit to Africa with Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker – on his new benefactor’s customized Boeing 727 – the question of the day has been: Who in the world is Jeffrey Epstein?
It’s a life full of question marks. Epstein is said to run $15 billion for wealthy clients, yet aside from Limited founder Leslie Wexner, his client list is a closely held secret. A former Dalton math teacher, he maintains a peripatetic salon of brilliant scientists yet possesses no bachelor’s degree. For more than ten years, he’s been linked to Manhattan-London society figure Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the mysteriously deceased media titan Robert Maxwell, yet he lives the life of a bachelor, logging 600 hours a year in his various planes as he scours the world for investment opportunities. He owns what is said to be Manhattan’s largest private house yet runs his business from a 100-acre private island in St. Thomas.
Power on Wall Street has generally accrued to those who have made their open bids for it. Soros. Wasserstein. Kravis. Weill. The Sturm und Drang of their successes and failures has been played out in public. Epstein breaks the mold. Most everyone on the Street has heard of him, but nobody seems to know what the hell he is up to. Which is just the way he likes it.
“My belief is that Jeff maintains some sort of money-management firm, though you won’t get a straight answer from him,” says one well-known investor. “He once told me he had 300 people working for him, and I’ve also heard that he manages Rockefeller money. But one never knows. It’s like looking at the Wizard of Oz – there may be less there than meets the eye.”
Says another prominent Wall Streeter: “He is this mysterious, Gatsbyesque figure. He likes people to think that he is very rich, and he cultivates this air of aloofness. The whole thing is weird.”
The wizard that meets the eye is spare and fit; with a long jaw and a carefully coiffed head of silver hair, he looks like a taller, younger Ralph Lauren. A raspy Brooklyn accent betrays his Coney Island origins. He spends an hour and fifteen minutes every day doing advanced yoga with his personal instructor, who travels with him wherever he goes. He is an enthusiastic member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations.
He dresses casually — jeans, open-necked shirts, and sneakers — and is rarely seen in a tie. Indeed, those close to him say the reason he quit his board seat at the Rockefeller Institute was that he hated wearing a suit. “It feels like a dress,” he told one friend.
Epstein likes to tell people that he’s a loner, a man who’s never touched alcohol or drugs, and one whose nightlife is far from energetic. And yet if you talk to Donald Trump, a different Epstein emerges. “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” Trump booms from a speakerphone. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
But beautiful women are only a part of it. Because here’s the thing about Epstein: As some collect butterflies, he collects beautiful minds. “I invest in people — be it politics or science. It’s what I do,” he has said to friends. And his latest prize addition is the former president. In his eyes, Clinton as a species represents the highest evolutionary form of the political animal. To be up close to him, as he was during the African journey, is akin to seeing the rarest of beasts on a safari. As he put it to a friend upon his return from Africa, “If you were a boxer at the downtown gymnasium at 14th Street and Mike Tyson walked in, your face would have the same look as these foreign leaders had when Clinton entered the room. He is the world’s greatest politician.”
“Jeffrey is both a highly successful financier and a committed philanthropist with a keen sense of global markets and an in-depth knowledge of twenty-first-century science. I especially appreciated his insights and generosity during the recent trip to Africa to work on democratization, empowering the poor, citizen service, and combating HIV/AIDS.”
Bill Clinton – New York Mag, October 2002
Before Clinton, Epstein’s rare appearances in the gossip columns tended to be speculation as to the true nature of his relationship with Ghislaine Maxwell. While they are still friends, the English tabloids have postulated that Maxwell has longed for a more permanent pairing and that for undetermined reasons Epstein has not reciprocated in kind. “It’s a mysterious relationship that they have,” says society journalist David Patrick Columbia. “In one way, they are soul mates, yet they are hardly companions anymore. It’s a nice conventional relationship, where they serve each other’s purposes.”
Friends of the two say that Maxwell, whose social life has always been higher-octane than Epstein’s, lent a little pizzazz to the lower-profile Epstein. Indeed, at a party at Maxwell’s house, her friends say, one is just as apt to see Russian ladies of the night as one is to see Prince Andrew. The Oxford-educated Maxwell, described by many as a man-eater (she flies her own helicopter and was recently seen dining with Clinton at Nello’s on Madison Avenue), lives in her own townhouse a few blocks away. Epstein is frequently seen around town with a bevy of comely young women but there has been no boldfaced name to replace Maxwell. “You may read about Jeffrey in the social columns, but there is much more to him than that,” says Jeffrey T. Leeds of the private equity firm Leeds Weld & Co. “He’s a talented money manager and an extremely hardworking person with broad interests. Most unusual, though, is that in this media-obsessed age he is not in any sense a self-promoter.”
Born in 1953 and raised in Coney Island, Epstein went to Lafayette High School. According to his bio, he took some classes in physics at Cooper Union from 1969 to 1971. He left Cooper Union in 1971 and attended NYU’s Courant Institute, where he took courses in mathematical physiology of the heart, leaving that school, too, without a degree. Between 1973 and 1975, Epstein taught calculus and physics at the Dalton School.
By most accounts, he was something of a Robin Williams–in–Dead Poets Society type of figure, wowing his high-school classes with passionate mathematical riffs. So impressed was one Wall Street father of a student that he said to Epstein point-blank: “What are you doing teaching math at Dalton? You should be working on Wall Street — why don’t you give my friend Ace Greenberg a call.”
Epstein was in many respects the perfect candidate for Greenberg’s consideration. Greenberg, a senior partner at Bear Stearns at the time and a legendary trader in his own right, has long made it clear that it’s the hungry, brilliant guys lacking the fancy degrees that he favors at Bear. They even have an acronym: PSDs — poor, smart, and a deep desire to be rich. It was a description that fit Epstein to a T. He was a Brooklyn guy with a motor for a brain, and while he did love teaching, this close-up view of the rarefied Upper East Side life of his students’ gave him a taste for the big time.
So in 1976, he dropped everything and reported to work at Bear Stearns, where he started off as a junior assistant to a floor trader at the American Stock Exchange. His ascent was rapid.
At the time, options trading was an arcane and dimly understood field, just beginning to take off. To trade options, one had to value them, and to value them, one needed to be able to master such abstruse mathematical confections as the Black-Scholes option-pricing model. For Epstein, breaking down such models was pure sport, and within just a few years he had his own stable of clients. “He was not your conventional broker saying ‘Buy IBM’ or ‘Sell Xerox,’ ” says Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne. “Given his mathematical background, we put him in our special-products division, where he would advise our wealthier clients on the tax implications of their portfolios. He would recommend certain tax-advantageous transactions. He is a very smart guy and has become a very important client for the firm as well.”
In 1980, Epstein made partner, but he had left the firm by 1981. Working in a bureaucracy was not for him; what’s more, in rubbing up against ever greater sums of money during his time at Bear, he began to feel the need to grab his own piece of the action.
In 1982, according to those who know Epstein, he set up his own shop, J. Epstein and Co., which remains his core business today. The premise behind it was simple: Epstein would manage the individual and family fortunes of clients with $1 billion or more. Which is where the mystery deepens. Because according to the lore, Epstein, in 1982, immediately began collecting clients. There were no road shows, no whiz-bang marketing demos – just this: Jeff Epstein was open for business for those with $1 billion–plus.
His firm would be different, too. He was not here just to offer investment advice; he saw himself as the financial architect of every aspect of his client’s wealth — from investments to philanthropy to tax planning to security to assuaging the guilt and burdens that large sums of inherited wealth can bring on. “I want people to understand the power, the responsibility, and the burden of their money,” he said to a colleague at the time.
As a teacher at Dalton, he had witnessed firsthand the troubled attitudes of some of the poor little rich kids under his charge; at Bear, he had come to the realization that, counterintuitively, the more money you had, the more anxious you became. For a middle-class kid from Brooklyn, it just didn’t make sense.
From the get-go, his business was successful. But the conditions for investing with Epstein were steep: He would take total control of the billion dollars, charge a flat fee, and assume power of attorney to do whatever he thought was necessary to advance his client’s financial cause. And he remained true to the $1 billion entry fee. According to people who know him, if you were worth $700 million and felt the need for the services of Epstein and Co., you would receive a not-so-polite no-thank-you from Epstein.
It’s nice work if you can get it. Epstein runs a lean operation, and those close to him say that his actual staff — based here in Manhattan at the Villard House (home to Le Cirque); New Albany, Ohio; and St. Thomas, where he reincorporated his company seven years ago (now called Financial Trust Co.) — numbers around 150 and is purely administrative. When it comes to putting these billions to work in the markets, it is Epstein himself making all the investment calls — there are no analysts or portfolio managers, just twenty accountants to keep the wheels greased and a bevy of assistants — many of them conspicuously attractive young women — to organize his hectic life. So assuming, conservatively, a fee of .5 percent (he takes no commissions or percentages) on $15 billion, that makes for a management fee of $75 million a year straight into Jeff Epstein’s pocket. Nice work indeed.
It has been rumored that Linda Wachner and David Rockefeller have been clients, too, but both parties deny any such relationship. What’s more, who ever heard of a financial adviser turning down $500 million accounts? All the speculation and mystery has proved fertile ground for some alternative Jeffrey Epstein stories – the most bizarre of which has him playing the piano (he is classically trained) for high rollers in a Manhattan piano bar in the mid-eighties.
Another focus of curiosity is the relationship that Epstein has with his patron and mentor Leslie Wexner, founder and chairman of the Columbus, Ohio–based Limited chain of women’s-clothing stores. Wexner, who is said to be worth more than $2.5 billion by Forbes, became an Epstein client in 1987. “It’s a weird relationship,” says another Wall Streeter who knows Epstein. “It’s just not typical for someone of such enormous wealth to all of a sudden give his money to some guy most people have never heard of.” The Wexner-Epstein relationship is indeed a multifaceted one.
Given the secrecy that envelops Epstein’s client list, some have speculated that Wexner is the primary source of Epstein’s lavish life — but friends leap to his defense. “Let me tell you: Jeffrey Epstein has other clients besides Wexner. I know because some of them are my clients,” says noted m&a lawyer Dennis Block of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. “I sent him a $500 million client a few years ago and he wouldn’t take him. Said the account was too small. Both the client and I were amazed. But that’s Jeffrey.”
Epstein’ s current residence in Manhattan — a 45,000-square-foot eight-story mansion on East 71st Street — was originally bought by Wexner for $13 million in 1989. Wexner poured many millions into a full gut renovation, then turned it over to Epstein in 1995 after he got married. One story has Epstein paying only a dollar for it, though others say he paid full market price, which would have been in the neighborhood of $20 million. Epstein then undertook his own $10 million gut renovation (special features: closed-circuit TV and a heated sidewalk in front of the house for melting snow), saying to friends: “I don’t want to live in another person’s house.”
There are other houses as well, including a sweeping villa in Palm Beach and a custom-built 51,000-square-foot castle in Santa Fe. Said to be the largest house in the state, the latter sits atop a hill on a 45,000-acre ranch. He had it built because of the month or so he found himself spending there, talking elementary particle physics with his friend Murray Gell-Mann, a Nobel Prize–winning physicist and co-chair of the science board at the Santa Fe Institute.
Epstein also owned a grand house (he has since sold it) near Wexner’s opulent manse at the center of the Limited magnate’s high-end housing development in New Albany, Ohio. New Albany was a lush sprawl of farmland on the outskirts of Columbus that Wexner, starting in 1988, turned into a rich village of multimillion-dollar Georgian homes surrounding a Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course. It was a massive development project, financed largely by Wexner himself. Epstein was a general partner in the real-estate holding company, called New Albany Property, despite putting only a few million dollars of capital into the project.
“Before Epstein came along in 1988, the financial preparations and groundwork for the New Albany development were a total mess,” says Bob Fitrakis, a Columbus-based investigative journalist who has written extensively on Wexner and his finances. “Epstein cleaned everything up, as well as serving Wexner in other capacities — such as facilitating visits to Wexner’s home of the crew from Cats and organizing a Tony Randall song-and-dance show put on in Columbus.” Wexner declines to talk about his relationship with Epstein, but it is clearly one that continues to this day. Not that it helped Epstein in any way to land Clinton. Wexner is a staunch Republican donor, and Epstein, aside from a small contribution to the president’s legal-defense fund, has given more to the likes of former senator Al D’Amato.
What attracted Clinton to Epstein was quite simple: He had a plane (he has a couple, in fact — the Boeing 727, in which he took Clinton to Africa, and, for shorter jaunts, a black Gulfstream, a Cessna 421, and a helicopter to ferry him from his island to St. Thomas). Clinton had organized a weeklong tour of South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, and Mozambique to do what Clinton does. So when the president’s advance man Doug Band pitched the idea to Epstein, he said sure. As an added bonus, Kevin Spacey, a close friend of Clinton’s, and actor Chris Tucker came along for the ride.
While Epstein got an intellectual kick out of engaging African finance ministers in theoretical chitchat about economic development, the real payoff for him was observing Clinton in his métier: talking HIV/aids policy with African leaders and soaking up the love from Cape Town to Lagos.
Epstein brings a trophy-hunter’s zeal to his collection of scientists and politicians. But the real charge for him is in seeing these guys work it. Like former Democratic Senate leader George Mitchell, for example. In Epstein’s mind, Mitchell is the world’s greatest negotiator, based on his work in Ireland and the Middle East. So he wrote the senator a bunch of checks. Says Mitchell: “He has supported some philanthropic projects of mine and organized a fund-raiser for me once. I would certainly call him a friend and a supporter.”
But it is his covey of scientists that inspires Epstein’s true rapture. Epstein spends $20 million a year on them — encouraging them to engage in whatever kind of cutting-edge research might attract their fancy. They are, of course, quite lavish in their praise in return. Gerald Edelman won the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine in 1972 and now presides over the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla. “Jeff is extraordinary in his ability to pick up on quantitative relations,” says Edelman. “He came to see us recently. He is concerned with this basic question: Is it true that the brain is not a computer? He is very quick.”
Then there is Stephen Kosslyn, a psychologist at Harvard. Epstein flew up to Kosslyn’s laboratory in Cambridge this year to witness an experiment that Kosslyn was conducting and Epstein was funding. Namely: Is it true that certain Tibetan monks are capable of holding a distinct mental image in their minds for twenty minutes straight? “We disproved the thesis,” says Kosslyn. “Jeff was on his cell phone most of the time — he actually wanted to short the Tibetan market, because he thought the monk was so stupid. He is amazing. Like a honeybee — he talks to all these different people and cross-pollinates. Just two months ago, I was talking to him about a new alternative to evolutionary psychology. He got excited and sent me a check.”
Epstein has a particularly close relationship with Martin Nowak, an Austrian biology and mathematics professor who heads the theoretical-biology program at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Nowak is examining how game theory can be used to answer some of the basic evolutionary questions — e.g., why, in our Darwinian society, does altruistic behavior exist? Epstein talks to Nowak about once a week and flies him around the country to his various homes to deliver impromptu lectures. Over the past three years, he has written $500,000 worth of checks to fund Nowak’s research. This past February, Epstein had Nowak over for dinner at the 71st Street townhouse. It was just the two of them (not including the wait staff), and Nowak, making use of a blackboard in the formal dining room, delivered a two-hour highly mathematical description of how language works.
After dinner, Epstein asked if Nowak wanted to meet up with his new friend President Clinton, and off they went to a nearby deli, where Clinton regaled the starstruck former Oxford professor with tales from his own Oxford days. “Jeffrey has the mind of a physicist. It’s like talking to a colleague in your field,” says Nowak. “Sometimes he applies what we talk about to his investments. Sometimes it’s for his own curiosity. He has changed my life. Because of his support, I feel I can do anything I want.”
Danny Hillis, an MIT-educated computer scientist whose company, Thinking Machines, was at the forefront of the supercomputing world in the eighties, and who used to run R&D at Walt Disney Imagineering, thinks Epstein is actually using scientific knowledge to beat the markets. “We talk about currency trading — the euro, the real, the yen,” he says. “He has something a physicist would call physical intuition. He knows when to use the math and when to throw it away. If I had acted upon all the investment advice he has been giving me over the years, I’d be calling you from my Gulfstream right now.”
On the 727 these days, he has been reading a book by E. O. Wilson, the eminent scientist and originator of the field of sociobiology, called Consilience, which makes the case that the boundaries between scientific disciplines are in the process of breaking down. It’s a view Epstein himself holds. He wrote recently to a scientist friend of his: “The behavior of termites, together with ants and bees, is a precursor to trust because they have an extraordinary ability to form relationships and sophisticated social structures based on mutual altruism even though individually they are fundamentally dumb. Money itself is a derivative of trust. If we can figure out how termites come together, then we may be able to better understand the underlying principles of market behavior — and make big money.”
So how do termite grouping patterns fare as an investment strategy? Again, facts are hard to come by. A working day for Epstein starts at 5 a.m., when he gets up and scours the world markets on his Bloomberg screen — each of his houses, in New York, St. Thomas, Palm Beach, and New Mexico, as well as the 727, is equipped with the necessary hardware for him to wake up, roll out of bed, and start trading. He will put some calls in to his private banker at JPMorgan to get a reading as to how wealthy investors — the best gauge of market sentiment, he believes — are reacting to the market’s movements. Then he will call currency traders in Europe. On a given day, he will spend ten hours or so on the phone — after all, he is running $15 billion essentially by himself.
Strangely enough, given his scientific obsessions, he is a computer-phobe and does not use e-mail. “I like to hear voices and see faces when I interact,” he has said. Given the huge sums he has to invest, he focuses on assets with extremely high liquidity, like currencies — though he dabbles in commodities and real estate as well. Those who know him say he is an impulsive, quick-to-change-his-mind trader, still governed by Ace Greenberg’s trader’s maxim: If the stock is down 10 percent, sell it. He has been on the short side of the Brazilian real, and those close to him say bets there have paid off in spades. He recently took a long position on the euro before its rebound on the basis that Europeans were too proud to see their currency sink any lower against the dollar. His next targets: an across-the-board short of the German stock exchange and a possible attack on the Hong Kong dollar peg in light of the recent disclosure of North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program.
None of this is investment rocket science, but getting the direction and the timing right, no matter how conventional the investment idea, can spin large money for an investor. Before taking a big position, Epstein will usually fly to the country in question. He recently spent a week in Germany meeting with various government officials and financial types, and he has a trip to Brazil coming up in the next few weeks. On all of these trips, he flies alone in his commercial-jet-size 727.
Friends of Epstein say he is horrified at the recent swell of media attention around him (Vanity Fair is preparing a megaprofile, and the Villard House office has had a barrage of calls from other media outlets). He has never granted a formal interview, and did not offer one to this magazine, nor has his picture appeared in any publication. Yet for one so obsessive about his privacy, one wonders — didn’t he realize that flying Clinton and Spacey around Africa was going to blow his cover? As he said to a friend: “If my ultimate goal was to stay private, traveling with Clinton was a bad move on the chessboard. I recognize that now. But you know what? Even Kasparov makes them. You move on.” – New York Mag
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Lately, Jeffrey Epstein’s high-flying style has been drawing oohs and aahs: the bachelor financier lives in New York’s largest private residence, claims to take only billionaires as clients, and flies celebrities including Bill Clinton and Kevin Spacey on his Boeing 727. But pierce his air of mystery and the picture changes. VICKY WARD explores Epstein’s investment career, his ties to retail magnate Leslie Wexner, and his complicated past
On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, home to some of the most expensive real estate on earth, exists the crown jewel of the city’s residential town houses. With its 15-foot-high oak door, huge arched windows, and nine floors, it sits on—or, rather, commands—the block of 71st Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues. Almost ludicrously out of proportion with its four-and five-story neighbors, it seems more like an institution than a house. This is perhaps not surprising— until 1989 it was the Birch Wathen private school. Now it is said to be Manhattan’s largest private residence.
Inside, amid the flurry of menservants attired in sober black suits and pristine white gloves, you feel you have stumbled into someone’s private Xanadu. This is no mere rich person’s home, but a high-walled, eclectic, imperious fantasy that seems to have no boundaries.
The entrance hall is decorated not with paintings but with row upon row of individually framed eyeballs; these, the owner tells people with relish, were imported from England, where they were made for injured soldiers. Next comes a marble foyer, which does have a painting, in the manner of Jean Dubuffet … but the host coyly refuses to tell visitors who painted it. In any case, guests are like pygmies next to the nearby twice-life-size sculpture of a naked African warrior.
Despite its eccentricity the house is curiously impersonal, the statement of someone who wants to be known for the scale of his possessions. Its occupant, financier Jeffrey Epstein, 50, admits to friends that he likes it when people think of him this way. A good-looking man, resembling Ralph Lauren, with thick gray-white hair and a weathered face, he usually dresses in jeans, knit shirts, and loafers. He tells people he bought the house because he knew he “could never live anywhere bigger.” He thinks 51,000 square feet is an appropriately large space for someone like himself, who deals mostly in large concepts—especially large sums of money.
Guests are invited to lunch or dinner at the town house—Epstein usually refers to the former as “tea,” since he likes to eat bitesize morsels and drink copious quantities of Earl Grey. (He does not touch alcohol or tobacco.) Tea is served in the “leather room,” so called because of the cordovan-colored fabric on the walls. The chairs are covered in a leopard print, and on the wall hangs a huge, Oriental fantasy of a woman holding an opium pipe and caressing a snarling lionskin. Under her gaze, plates of finger sandwiches are delivered to Epstein and guests by the menservants in white gloves.
Upstairs, to the right of a spiral staircase, is the “office,” an enormous gallery spanning the width of the house. Strangely, it holds no computer. Computers belong in the “computer room” (a smaller room at the back of the house), Epstein has been known to say. The office features a gilded desk (which Epstein tells people belonged to banker J. P Morgan), 18th-century black lacquered Portuguese cabinets, and a nine-foot ebony Steinway “D” grand. On the desk, a paperback copy of the Marquis de Sade’s The Misfortunes of Virtue was recently spotted. Covering the floor, Epstein has explained, “is the largest Persian rug you’ll ever see in a private home—so big, it must have come from a mosque.” Amid such splendor, much of which reflects the work of the French decorator Alberto Pinto, who has worked for Jacques Chirac and the royal families of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, there is one particularly startling oddity: a stuffed black poodle, standing atop the grand piano. “No decorator would ever tell you to do that,” Epstein brags to visitors. “But I want people to think what it means to stuff a dog.” People can’t help but feel it’s Epstein’s way of saying that he always has the last word.
In addition to the town house, Epstein lives in what is reputed to be the largest private dwelling in New Mexico, on an $18 million, 7,500-acre ranch which he named “Zorro.” “It makes the town house look like a shack,” Epstein has said. He also owns Little St. James, a 70-acre island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the main house is currently being renovated by Edward Tuttle, a designer of the Aman resorts. There is also a $6.8 million house in Palm Beach, Florida, and a fleet of aircraft: a Gulfstream IV, a helicopter, and a Boeing 727, replete with trading room, on which Epstein recently flew President Clinton, actors Chris Tucker and Kevin Spacey, supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, Lew Wasserman’s grandson, Casey Wasserman, and a few others, on a mission to explore the problems of AIDS and economic development in Africa.
Epstein is charming, but he doesn’t let the charm slip into his eyes. They are steely and calculating, giving some hint at the steady whir of machinery running behind them. “Let’s play chess,” he said to me, after refusing to give an interview for this article. “You be white. You get the first move.” It was an appropriate metaphor for a man who seems to feel he can win no matter what the advantage of the other side. His advantage is that no one really seems to know him or his history completely or what his arsenal actually consists of. He has carefully engineered it so that he remains one of the few truly baffling mysteries among New York’s moneyed world. People know snippets, but few know the whole.
“He’s very enigmatic,” says Rosa Monckton, the former C.E.O. of Tiffany & Co. in the U.K. and a close friend since the early 1980s. “You think you know him and then you peel off another ring of the onion skin and there’s something else extraordinary underneath. He never reveals his hand. . . He’s a classic iceberg. What you see is not what you get.”
Even acquaintances sense a curious dichotomy: Yes, he lives like a “modern maharaja,” as Leah Kleman, one of his art dealers, puts it. Yet he is fastidiously, almost obsessively private—he lists himself in the phone book under a pseudonym. He rarely attends society gatherings or weddings or funerals; he considers eating in restaurants like “eating on the subway”—i.e., something he’d never do. There are many women in his life, mostly young, but there is no one of them to whom he has been able to commit. He describes his most public companion of the last decade, Ghislaine Maxwell, 41, the daughter of the late, disgraced media baron Robert Maxwell, as simply his “best friend.” He says she is not on his payroll, but she seems to organize much of his life—recently she was making telephone inquiries to find a California-based yoga instructor for him. (Epstein is still close to his two other longterm girlfriends, Paula Heil Fisher, a former associate of his at the brokerage firm Bear Stearns and now an opera producer, and Eva Andersson Dubin, a doctor and onetime model. He tells people that when a relationship is over the girlfriend “moves up, not down,” to friendship status.)
Some of the businessmen who dine with him at his home—they include newspaper publisher Mort Zuckerman, banker Louis Ranieri, Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman, real-estate tycoon Leon Black, former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold, Tom Pritzker (of Hyatt Hotels), and real-estate personality Donald Trump—sometimes seem not all that clear as to what he actually does to earn his millions. Certainly, you won’t find Epstein’s transactions written about on Bloomberg or talked about in the trading rooms. “The trading desks don’t seem to know him. It’s unusual for animals that big not to leave any footprints in the snow,” says a high-level investment manager.
Unlike such fund managers as George Soros and Stanley Druckenmiller, whose client lists and stock maneuverings act as their calling cards, Epstein keeps all his deals and clients secret, bar one client: billionaire Leslie Wexner, the respected chairman of Limited Brands. Epstein insists that ever since he left Bear Stearns in 1981 he has managed money only for billionaires— who depend on him for discretion. “I was the only person crazy enough, or arrogant enough, or misplaced enough, to make my limit a billion dollars or more,” he tells people freely. According to him, the flat fees he receives from his clients, combined with his skill at playing the currency markets “with very large sums of money,” have afforded him the lifestyle he enjoys today.
Why do billionaires choose him as their trustee? Because the problems of the mega-rich, he tells people, are different from yours and mine, and his unique philosophy is central to understanding those problems: “Very few people need any more money when they have a billion dollars. The key is not to have it do harm more than anything else…. You don’t want to lose your money.”
He has likened his job to that of an architect—more specifically, one who specializes in remodeling: “I always describe [a billionaire] as someone who out in a small home and as he became wealthier had addons. He added on another addition, he built a room over the garage … until you have a house that is usually a mess…. It’s a large house that has been put together over time where no one could foretell the financial future and their accompanying needs.”
He makes it sound as though his job combines the roles of real-estate agent, accountant, lawyer, money manager, trustee, and confidant. But, as with Jay Gatsby, myths and rumor swirl around Epstein.
Here are some of the hard facts about Epstein—ones that he doesn’t mind people knowing: He grew up middle-class in Brooklyn. His father worked for the city’s parks department. His parents viewed education as “the way out” for him and his younger brother, Mark, now working in real estate. Jeffrey started to play the piano—for which he maintains a passion—at five, and he went to Brooklyn’s Lafayette High School. He was good at mathematics, and in his early 20s he got a job teaching physics and math at Dalton, the elite Manhattan private school. While there he began tutoring the son of Bear Stearns chairman Ace Greenberg and was friendly with a daughter of Greenberg’s. Soon he went to Bear Stearns, where, under the mentorship of both Greenberg and current Bear Stearns C.E.O. James Cayne, he did well enough to become a limited partner—a rung beneath full partner. He abruptly departed in 1981 because, he has said, he wanted to run his own business.
“You think you know him and then you peel off another ring of the onion.”
Thereafter the details recede into shadow. A few of the handful of current friends who have known him since the early 1980s recall that he used to tell them he was a “bounty hunter,” recovering lost or stolen money for the government or for very rich people. He has a license to carry a firearm. For the last 15 years, he’s been running his business, J. Epstein & Co.
Since Leslie Wexner appeared in his life—Epstein has said this was in 1986; others say it was in 1989, at the earliest— he has gradually, in a way that has not generally made headlines, come to be accepted by the Establishment. He’s a member of various commissions and councils: he is on the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of International Education.
His current fan club extends to Cayne, Henry Rosovsky, the former dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Larry Summers, Harvard’s current president. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says, “I’m on my 20th book…. The only person outside of my immediate family that I send drafts to is Jeffrey.” Real-estate developer and philanthropist Marshall Rose, who has worked with Epstein on projects in New Albany, Ohio, for Wexner, says, “He digests and decodes the information very rapidly, which is to me terrific because we have shorter meetings.”
Also on the list of admirers are former senator George Mitchell and a gaggle of distinguished scientists, most of whom Epstein has helped fund in recent years. They include Nobel Prize winners Gerald Edelman and Murray GellMann, and mathematical biologist Martin Nowak. When these men describe Epstein, they talk about “energy” and “curiosity,” as well as a love for theoretical physics that they don’t ordinarily find in laymen. Gell-Mann rather sweetly mentions that “there are always pretty ladies around” when he goes to dinner chez Epstein, and he’s under the impression that Epstein’s clients include the Queen of England. Both Nowak and Dershowitz were thrilled to find themselves shaking the hand of a man named “Andrew” in Epstein’s house. “Andrew” turned out to be Prince Andrew, who subsequently arranged to sit in the back of Dershowitz’s law class.
Epstein gets annoyed when anyone suggests that Wexner “made him.” “I had really rich clients before,” he has said. Yet he does not deny that he and Wexner have a special relationship. Epstein sees it as a partnership of equals. “People have said it’s like we have one brain between two of us: each has a side.”
“I think we both possess the skill of seeing patterns,” says Wexner. “But Jeffrey sees patterns in politics and financial markets, and I see patterns in lifestyle and fashion trends. My skills are not in investment strategy, and, as everyone who knows Jeffrey knows, his are not in fashion and design. We frequently discuss world trends as each of us sees them.”
Jeffrey [knows] when he is winning…. He will let you choose your weapon,” says Wexner.
By the time Epstein met Wexner, the latter was a retail legend who had a $3 billion empire—one that now includes Victoria’s Secret, Express, and Bath & Body Works—from $5,000 lent him by his aunt. “Wexner saw in Jeffrey the type of person who had the potential to realize his [Jeffrey’s] dreams,” says someone who has worked closely with both men. “He gave Jeffrey the ball, and Jeffrey hit it out of the park.” Wexner, through a trust, bought the town house in which Epstein now lives for a reported $13.2 million in 1989. In 1993, Wexner married Abigail Koppel, a 31-year-old lawyer, and the newlyweds relocated to Ohio; in 1996, Epstein moved into the town house. Public documents suggest that the house is still owned by the trust that bought it, but Epstein has said that he now owns the house.
Wexner trusts Epstein so completely that he has assigned him the power of fiduciary over all of his private trusts and foundations, says a source close to Wexner. In 1992, Epstein even persuaded Wexner to put him on the board of the Wexner Foundation in place of Wexner’s ailing mother. Bella Wexner recovered and demanded to be reinstated. Epstein has said they settled by splitting the foundation in two.
Epstein does not care that he comes between family members. In fact, he sees it as his job. He tells people, “I am there to represent my client, and if my client needs protecting—sometimes even from his own family—then it’s often better that people hate me, not the client.”
“You’ve probably heard I’m vicious in my representation of my clients,” he tells people proudly; Leah Kleman describes his haggling over art prices as something like a scene out of the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Even a former mentor says he’s seen “the dark side” of Epstein, and a Bear Stearns source recalls a meeting in which Epstein chewed out a team making a presentation for Wexner as being so brutal as to be “irresponsible.”
One reporter, in fact, received three threats from Epstein while preparing a piece. They were delivered in a jocular tone, but the message was clear: There will be trouble for your family if I don’t like the article.
On the other hand, Epstein is clearly very generous with friends. Joe Pagano, an Aspen-based venture capitalist, who has known Epstein since before his Bear Steams days, can’t say enough nice things: “I have a boy who’s dyslexic, and Jeffrey’s gotten close to him over the years…. Jeffrey got him into music. He bought him his first piano. And then as he got to school he had difficulty … in studying … so Jeffrey got him interested in taking flying lessons.”
Rosa Monckton recalls Epstein telling her that her daughter, Domenica, who suffers from Down syndrome, needed the sun, and that Rosa should feel free to bring her to his house in Palm Beach anytime.
Some friends remember that in the late 80s Epstein would offer to upgrade the airline tickets of good friends by affixing firstclass stickers; the only problem was that the stickers turned out to be unofficial. Sometimes the technique worked, but other times it didn’t, and the unwitting recipients found themselves exiled to coach. (Epstein has claimed that he paid for the upgrades, and had no knowledge of the stickers.) Many of those who benefited from Epstein’s largesse claim that his generosity comes with no strings attached. “I never felt he wanted anything from me in return,” says one old friend, who received a first-class upgrade.
Epstein is known about town as a man who loves women—lots of them, mostly young. Model types have been heard saying they are full of gratitude to Epstein for flying them around, and he is a familiar face to many of the Victoria’s Secret girls. One young woman recalls being summoned by Ghislaine Maxwell to a concert at Epstein’s town house, where the women seemed to outnumber the men by far. “These were not women you’d see at Upper East Side dinners,” the woman recalls. “Many seemed foreign and dressed a little bizarrely.” This same guest also attended a cocktail party thrown by Maxwell that Prince Andrew attended, which was filled, she says, with young Russian models. “Some of the guests were horrified,” the woman says.
“He’s reckless,” says a former business associate, “and he’s gotten more so. Money does that to you. He’s breaking the oath he made to himself—that he would never do anything that would expose him in the media. Right now, in the wake of the publicity following his trip with Clinton, he must be in a very difficult place.”
According to S.E.C. and other legal documents unearthed by Vanity Fair, Epstein may have good reason to keep his past cloaked in secrecy: his real mentor, it might seem, was not Leslie Wexner but Steven Jude Hoffenberg, 57, who, for a few months before the S.E.C. sued to freeze his assets in 1993, was trying to buy the New York Post. He is currently incarcerated in the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts, serving a 20-year sentence for bilking investors out of more than $450 million in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in American history.
When Epstein met Hoffenberg in London in the 1980s, the latter was the charismatic, audacious head of the Towers Financial Corporation, a collection agency that was supposed to buy debts that people owed to hospitals, banks, and phone companies. But Hoffenberg began using company funds to pay off earlier investors and service a lavish lifestyle that included a mansion on Long Island, homes on Manhattan’s Sutton Place and in Florida, and a fleet of cars and planes.
Hoffenberg and Epstein had much in common. Both were smart and obsessed with making money. Both were from Brooklyn. According to Hoffenberg, the two men were introduced by Douglas Leese, a defense contractor. Epstein has said they were introduced by John Mitchell, the late attorney general.
Epstein had been running International Assets Group Inc. (I.A.G.), a consulting company, out of his apartment in the Solo building on East 66th Street in New York. Though he has claimed that he managed money for billionaires only, in a 1989 deposition he testified that he spent 80 percent of his time helping people recover stolen money from fraudulent brokers and lawyers. He was also not above entering into risky, tax-sheltered oil and gas deals with much smaller investors. A lawsuit that Michael Stroll, the former head of Williams Electronics Inc., filed against Epstein shows that in 1982 I.A.G. received an investment from Stroll of $450,000, which Epstein put into oil. In 1984, Stroll asked for his money back; four years later he had received only $10,000. Stroll lost the suit, after Epstein claimed in court, among other things, that the check for $10,000 was for a horse he’d bought from Stroll. “My net worth never exceeded four and a half million dollars,” Stroll has said.
Hoffenberg, says a close friend, “really liked Jeffrey…. Jeffrey has a way of getting under your skin, and he was under Hoffenberg’s.” Also appealing to Hoffenberg were Epstein’s social connections; they included oil mogul Cece Wang (father of the designer Vera) and Mohan Murjani, whose clothing company grew into Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans. Epstein lived large even then. One friend recalls that when he took Canadian heiress Wendy Belzberg on a date he hired a Rolls-Royce especially for the occasion. (Epstein has claimed he owned it.)
In 1987, Hoffenberg, according to sources, set Epstein up in the offices he still occupies in the Villard House, on Madison Avenue, across a courtyard from the restaurant Le Cirque. Hoffenberg hired his new protege as a consultant at $25,000 a month, and the relationship flourished. “They traveled everywhere together—on Hoffenberg’s plane, all around the world, they were always together,” says a source. Hoffenberg has claimed that Epstein confided in him, saying, for example, that he had left Bear Stearns in 1981 after he was discovered executing “illegal operations.”
Several of Epstein’s Bear Stearns contemporaries recall that Epstein left the company very suddenly. Within the company there were rumors also that he was involved in a technical infringement, and it was thought that the executive committee asked that he resign after his two supporters, Ace Greenberg and Jimmy Cayne, were outnumbered. Greenberg says he can’t recall this; Cayne denies it happened, and Epstein has denied it as well. “Jeffrey Epstein left Bear Stearns of his own volition,” says Cayne. “It was never suggested that he leave by any member of management, and management never looked into any improprieties by him. Jeffrey said specifically, ‘I don’t want to work for anybody else. I want to work for myself.’ ” Yet, this is not the story that Epstein told to the S.E.C. in 1981 and to lawyers in a 1989 deposition involving a civil business case in Philadelphia.
In 1981 the S.E.C.’s Jonathan Harris and Robert Blackburn took Epstein’s testimony and that of other Bear Steams employees in part of what became a protracted case about insider trading around a tender offer placed on March 11, 1981, by the Seagram Company Ltd. for St. Joe Minerals Corp. Ultimately several Italian and Swiss investors were found guilty, including Italian financier Giuseppe Tome, who had used his relationship with Seagram owner Edgar Bronfman Sr. to obtain information about the tender offer.
After the tender offer was announced, the S.E.C. began investigating trades involving St. Joe at Bear Stearns and other firms. Epstein resigned from Bear Stearns on March 12. The S.E.C. was tipped off that Epstein had information on insider trading at Bear Stearns, and it was therefore obliged to question him. In his S.E.C. testimony, given on April 1, 1981, Epstein claimed that he had found “offensive” the way Bear Stearns management had handled a disciplinary action following its discovery that he had committed a possible “Reg D” violation—evidently he had lent money to his closest friend. (In the 1989 deposition he said that he’d lent approximately $20,000 to Warren Eisenstein, to buy stock.) Such an action could have been considered improper, although Epstein claimed he had not realized this until afterward.
According to Epstein, Bear Stearns management had questioned him about the loan around March 4. The questioners, Epstein said, were Michael (Mickey) Tarnopol and Alvin Einbender. In his 1989 deposition Epstein recalled that the partner who had made an “issue” of the matter was Marvin Davidson. On March 9, Epstein said, he had met with Tarnopol and Einbender again, and the two partners told him that the executive committee had weighed the offense, together with previous “carelessness” over expenses, and he would be fined $2,500.
“There was discussion whether, in fact, I had ever put in an airline ticket for someone else and not myself and I said that it was possible, … since my secretary handles my expenses,” Epstein told the S.E.C. In his 1989 testimony he stated that the “Reg D” incident had cost him a shot at partnership that year.
What the S.E.C. seemed to be especially interested in was whether there was a connection between Epstein’s leaving and the alleged insider trading in St. Joe Minerals by other people at Bear Stearns:
Q: Sir, are you aware that certain rumors may have been circulating around your firm in connection with your reasons for leaving the firm?
A: I’m aware that there were many rumors.
Q: What were the rumors you heard?
A: Nothing to do with St. Joe.
Q: Can you relate what you heard?
A: It was having to do with an illicit affair with a secretary.
Q: Have you heard any other rumors suggesting that you had made a presentation or communication to the Executive Committee concerning alleged improprieties by other members or employees of Bear Stearns?
A: I, in fact, have heard that rumor, but it’s been from Mr. Harris in our conversation last week.
Q: Have you heard it from anyone else?
A little later the interview focuses on James Cayne:
Q: Did you ever hear while you were at Bear Stearns that Mr. Cayne may have trader or insider information in connection with St. Joe Minerals Corporation?
Q: Did Mr. Cayne ever have any conversation with you about St. Joe Minerals?
Q: Did you happen to overhear any conversations between Mr. Cayne and anyone else regarding St. Joe Minerals?
And still later in the questioning comes this exchange:
Q: Have you had any type of business dealings with Mr. Cayne?
A: There’s no relationship with Bear Stearns. Q: Pardon?
A: Other than Bear Stearns, no.
Q: Have you been a participant in any type of business venture with Mr. Cayne?
Q: Do you have any expectation of participating in any business venture with Mr. Cayne? A: No.
Q: Have you had any business participations with Mr. Theram?
A: No; nor do I anticipate any.
Q: Mr. Epstein, did anyone at Bear Stearns tell you in words or substance that you should not divulge anything about St. Joe Minerals to the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission?
Q: Has anyone indicated to you in any way, either directly or indirectly, in words or substance, that your compensation for this past year or any future monies coming to you from Bear Stearns will be contingent upon your not divulging information to the Securities and Exchange Commission?
Despite the circumstances of Epstein’s leaving, Bear Stearns agreed to pay him his annual bonus—which he anticipated as being approximately $100,000.
The S.E.C. never brought any charges against anyone at Bear Stearns for insider trading in St. Joe, but its questioning seems to indicate that it was skeptical of Epstein’s answers. Some sources have wondered why, if he was such a big producer at Bear Stearns, he would have given it up over a mere $2,500 fine.
Certainly the years after Epstein left the firm were not obviously prosperous ones. His luck didn’t seem to change until he met Hoffenberg.
One of Epstein’s first assignments for Hoffenberg was to mastermind doomed bids to take over Pan American World Airways in 1987 and Emery Air Freight Corp. in 1988. Hoffenberg claimed in a 1993 hearing before a grand jury in Illinois that Epstein came up with the idea of financing these bids through Towers’s acquisition of two ailing Illinois insurance companies, Associated Life and United Fire. “He was hired by us to work on the securities side of the insurance companies and Towers Financial, supposedly to make a profit for us and for the companies,” Hoffenberg reportedly told the grand jury. He also alleged that Epstein was the “technician,” executing the schemes, although, having no broker’s license, he had to rely on others to make the trades. Much of Hoffenberg’s subsequent testimony in his criminal case has proven to be false, and Epstein has claimed he was merely asked how the bids could be accomplished and has said he had nothing to do with the financing of them. Yet Richard Allen, the former treasurer of United Fire, recalls seeing Epstein two or three times at the company. He and another executive say they had direct dealing with Epstein over the finances. And in his deposition of 1989, Epstein stated that he was the one who executed “all” Hoffenberg’s instructions to buy and sell the stock. He called it “making the orders.” He could not recall whether he had chosen the brokers used.
To win approval from the Illinois insurance regulators for Towers’s acquisition of the companies, Hoffenberg promised to inject $3 million of new capital into them. In fact, in his grand-jury testimony Hoffenberg claimed that he, his chief operating officer, Mitchell Brater, and Epstein came up with a scheme to steal $3 million of the insurance companies’ bonds to buy Pan Am and Emery stock. “Jeffrey Epstein and Mitch Brater arranged the various brokerage accounts for the bonds to be placed with in New York, and I think one in Chicago, Rodman & Renshaw,” Hoffenberg reportedly said. Then, said Hoffenberg, while making it appear as though they were investing the bonds in much safer financial instruments, they used them as collateral to buy the stock. “Epstein was the person in charge of the transactions, and Mitchell Brater was assisting him with it in coordination on behalf of the insurance companies’ money,” Hoffenberg claimed at the time.
At one point, according to Hoffenberg, a broker forged the documents necessary for a $1.8 million check to be written on insurancecompany funds. The check was used to buy more stock in the takeover targets. Meanwhile, in order to throw the insurance regulators off, the $1.8 million was reported as being safely invested in a money-market account.
United Fire’s former chief financial officer Daniel Payton confirms part of Hoffenberg’s account. He says he recalls making one or two telephone calls to Epstein (at Hoffenberg’s direction) about the missing bonds. “He said, ‘Oh, yeah, they still exist.’ But we found out later that he had sold those assets … leveraged them … [and] used some margin account to take some positions in … Emery and Pan Am,” says Payton.
Epstein’s extraordinary creativity was, according to Hoffenberg, responsible for the purchase by the insurance companies of a $500,000 bond, with no money down. “Epstein created a great scheme to purchase a $500,000 treasury bond that would not be shown … [as] margined or collateralized,” he reportedly told the grand jury. “It looked like it was free and clear but it actually wasn’t,” he said.
Epstein has denied he ever had any dealings with anyone from the insurance companies. But Richard Allen says he recalls talking to Epstein at Hoffenberg’s direction and telling him it was urgent they retrieve the missing bonds for a state examination. According to Allen, Epstein said, “We’ll get them back.” He had “kind of a flippant attitude,” says Allen. “They never came back.”
Epstein, according to Hoffenberg, also came up with a scheme to manipulate the price of Emery Freight stock in an attempt to minimize the losses that occurred when Hoffenberg’s bid went wrong and the share price began to fall. This was alleged to have involved multiple clients’ accounts controlled by Epstein.
Eventually, in 1991, insurance regulators in Illinois sued Hoffenberg. He settled the case, and Epstein, who was only a paid consultant, was never deposed or accused of any wrongdoing. Barry Gross, the attorney who was handling the suit for the regulators, says of Epstein, “He was very elusive…. It was hard to really track him down. There were a substantial number of checks for significant dollars that were paid to him, I remember. … He was this character we never got a handle on. Again we presumed that he was involved with the Pan Am and Emery run that Hoffenberg made, but we never got a chance to depose him.”
“From the government’s discovery in the main sentencing against Hoffenberg it would seem the government was perhaps a bit lazy,” says David Lewis, who represented Mitchell Brater. “They went for what they knew they could get … and that was the fraudulent promissory notes [i.e., the much larger and unrelated part of Hoffenberg’s fraud, based in New York State]…. What they couldn’t get, they didn’t bother with.”
Another lawyer involved in the criminal prosecution of Hoffenberg says, “In a criminal investigation like that, when there is a guilty plea, to be quick and dirty about it, discovery is always incomplete…. They don’t have to line up witnesses; they don’t have to learn every fact that might come out on cross-examination.”
Epstein was involved with Hoffenberg in other questionable transactions. Financial records show that in 1988 Epstein invested $ 1.6 million in Riddell Sports Inc., a company that manufactures football helmets. Among his co-investors were the theater mogul Robert Nederlander and attorney Leonard Toboroff. A source close to this transaction claims that Epstein told Nederlander and Toboroff that he had raised his share of the money from a Swiss banker, whose identity they could not be allowed to know. But Hoffenberg has claimed the money came from him, and Towers’s financial statements for that year show a loan to Epstein of $400,000. (Epstein has said he can’t remember the details and has disputed the accuracy of the Towers financial reports.)
Around the same time, Nederlander and Toboroff let Epstein come in with them on a scheme to make money out of Pennwalt, a Pennsylvania chemical company. The plan was to group together with two other parties to take a substantial declared position in the stock. According to a source, Epstein was supposed to help Nederlander and Toboroff raise $15 million. He seemed to fail to find other investors, say those familiar with the deal. (Epstein has said he was merely an investor.) He invested $1 million, which he told his co-investors was his own money. But in his 1989 deposition he said that he put in only $300,000 of his own money. Where did the rest come from? Hoffenberg has said it came from him, in a loan that Nederlander and Toboroff didn’t know about.
Two things happened that alarmed Nederlander and Toboroff. After the group signaled a possible takeover, the Pennwalt management threatened to sue the would-be raiders. Epstein was reluctant initially to give a deposition about his share of the money, telling Toboroff there were “reasons” he didn’t want to. Then, after the opportunity for new investors was closed, co-investors recall Epstein announcing that he’d found one at last: Dick Snyder, then C.E.O. of the publisher Simon & Schuster, who wanted to put up approximately $500,000. (Neither Epstein nor Snyder can now recall the investment. Yet in the 1989 deposition Epstein said that he had recruited Snyder, whom he had met socially, into the deal.)
According to a source, Toboroff and Nederlander told Epstein that Snyder was too late, but, without their realizing it, Hoffenberg has claimed, Snyder wrote a check to Hoffenberg and bought out some of his investment. But then Snyder wanted out.
“Nederlander started to get these irate calls from [Snyder,] who wasn’t part of the deal, saying he was owed all this money,” says someone close to the deal. Toboroff and Nederlander were baffled.
Eventually, a source close to Hoffenberg says, Hoffenberg paid Snyder off.
Just as Nederlander and Toboroff were growing wary of Epstein, he became increasingly involved with Leslie Wexner, whom he had met through insurance executive Robert Meister and his late wife. Epstein has told people that he met Wexner in 1986 in Palm Beach, and that he won his confidence by persuading him not to invest in the stock market, just as the 1987 crash was approaching. His story has subsequently changed. When asked if Wexner knew about his connection to Hoffenberg, Epstein said that he began working for Wexner in 1989, and that “it was certainly not the same time.”
Wherever and whenever it was that Epstein and Wexner actually met, there was an immediate and strong personal chemistry. Wexner says he thinks Epstein is “very smart with a combination of excellent judgment and unusually high standards. Also, he is always a most loyal friend.”
Sources say Epstein proved that he could be useful to Wexner as well, with “fresh” ideas about investments. “Wexner had a couple of bad investments, and Jeffrey cleaned those up right away,” says a former associate of Epstein’s.
Before he signed on with Wexner, Epstein had several meetings with Harold Levin, then head of Wexner Investments, in which he enunciated ideas about currencies that Levin found incomprehensible. “In fact,” says someone who used to work very closely with Wexner, “almost everyone at the Limited wondered who Epstein was; he literally came out of nowhere.”
“Everyone was mystified as to what his appeal was,” says Robert Morosky, a former vice-chairman of the Limited.
Much of Epstein’s work is related to cleaning up, tightening budgets, and efficiencies. One person who worked for Wexner and who saw a contract drawn up between the two men says Epstein is involved in “everything, not just a little here, a little there. Everything!” In addition, he says, “Wexner likes having a hatchet man…. Whenever there is dirty work to be done he’d stick Jeffrey on it…. He has a reputation for being ruthless but he gets the job done.”
Epstein has evidently been asked to fire personal-staff members when needed. “He was that mysterious person that everyone was scared to death of,” says a former employee.
Meanwhile, he is also less than popular with some people outside Wexner’s company with whom he now deals. “He ‘inserted’ himself into the construction process of Leslie Wexner’s yacht…. That resulted in litigation down the road between Mr. Wexner and the shipyard that eventually built the vessel,” says Lars Forsberg, a lawyer whose firm at the time, Dickerson and Reily, was hired to deal with litigation stemming from the construction of Wexner’s Limitless— at 315 feet, one of the largest private yachts in the world. Evidently, Epstein stalled on paying Dickerson and Reily for its work. “It’s probably once or twice in my legal career that I’ve had to sue a client for payment of services that he’d requested and we’d performed … without issue on the performance,” says Forsberg. In the end the matter was settled, but Epstein claims he now has no recollection of it.
The incident is one of a number of disputes Epstein has become embroiled in. Some are for sums so tiny as to be baffling; for instance, Epstein sued investment adviser Herbert Glass, who sold him the Palm Beach house in 1990, for $13,444—Epstein claimed this was owed him for furnishings removed by Glass.
In 1998 the U.S. Attorney’s Office sued Epstein for illegally subletting the former home of the deputy consul general of Iran to attorney Ivan Fisher and others. Epstein paid $15,000 a month in rent to the State Department, but he charged Fisher and his colleagues $20,000. Though the exact terms of the agreement are sealed, the court ruled against Epstein.
Wexner offers some insight into his friend’s combative style. “Many times people confuse winning and losing,” Wexner says. “Jeffrey has the unusual quality of knowing when he is winning. Whether in conversations or negotiations, he always stands back and lets the other person determine the style and manner of the conversation or negotiation. And then he responds in their style. Jeffrey sees it in chivalrous terms. He does not pick a fight, but if there is a fight, he will let you choose your weapon.”
One case is rather more serious. Currently, Citibank is suing Epstein for defaulting on loans from its private-banking arm for $20 million. Epstein claims that Citibank “fraudulently induced” him into borrowing the money for investments. Citibank disputes this charge.
The legal papers for another case offer a rare window into Epstein’s finances. In 1995, Epstein stopped paying rent to his landlord, the nonprofit Municipal Arts Society, for his office in the Villard House. He claimed that they were breaking the terms of the lease by not letting his staff in at night. The case was eventually settled. However, one of the papers filed in this dispute is Epstein’s financial statement for 1988, in which he claimed to be worth $20 million. He listed that he owned $7 million in securities, $1 million in cash, zero in residential property (although he told sources that he had already bought the home in Palm Beach), and $11 million in other assets, including his investment in Riddell. A co-investor in Riddell says: “The company had been bought with a huge amount of debt, and it wasn’t public, so it was meaningless to attach a figure like that to it … the price it cost was about $1.2 million.” The co-investors bought out Epstein’s share in Riddell in 1995 for approximately $3 million. At that time, when Epstein was asked, as a routine matter, to sign a paper guaranteeing he had access to a few million dollars in case of any subsequent disputes over the sale price, Wexner signed for him. Epstein has explained that this was because the co-investors wanted an indemnity against being sued by Wexner. One of the investors calls this “bullshit.”
Epstein’s appointment to the board of New York’s Rockefeller University in 2000 brought him into greater social prominence. Boasting such social names as Nancy Kissinger, Brooke Astor, and Robert Bass, the board also includes such pre-eminent scientists as Nobel laureate Joseph Goldstein. “Epstein was thrilled to be elected,” says someone who knows him.
After one term Epstein resigned. According to New York magazine, this was because he didn’t like to wear a suit to meetings. A spokesperson for the Rockefeller board says Epstein left because he had insufficient time to commit; a board member recalls that he was “arrogant” and “not a good fit.” The spokesperson admits that it is “infrequent” for board members not to be renominated after only one term.
Still, the recent spate of publicity Epstein has inspired does not seem to have fazed him. In November he was spotted in the front row of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show at New York’s Lexington Avenue Armory; around the same time the usual coterie of friends and beautiful women were whisked off to Little St. James (which he tells people has been renamed Little St. Jeff) for a long weekend.
Thanks to Epstein’s introductions, says Martin Nowak, the biologist finds himself moving from Princeton to Harvard, where he is assuming the joint position of professor of mathematics and professor of biology. Epstein has pledged at least $25 million to Harvard to create the Epstein Program for Mathematical Biology and Evolutionary Dynamics, and Epstein will have an office at the university. The program will be dedicated to searching for nature’s algorithms, a pursuit that is a specialty of Nowak’s. For Epstein this must be the summit of everything he has worked toward: he has been seen proudly displaying Harvard president Larry Summers’s letter of commitment as if he can’t quite believe it is real. He says he was reluctant to have his name attached to the program, but Summers persuaded him. He rang his mentor Wexner about it, and Wexner told him it was all right.
An insatiable, restless soul, always on the move, Epstein builds a tremendous amount of downtime into his hectic work schedule. Yet there is something almost programmed about his relaxation: it’s as if even pleasure has to be measured in terms of selfimprovement. Nowak says that, when he goes to stay with Epstein in the Caribbean, they’ll get up at six and, as the sun rises, have three-hour conversations about theoretical physics. “Then he’ll go off and do some work, re-appear, and we’ll talk some more.”
Another person who went to the island with Epstein, Maxwell, and several beautiful women remembers that the women “sat around one night teasing him about the kinds of grasping women who might want to date him. He was amused by the idea_ He’s like a king in his own world.”
Many people comment there is something innocent, almost childlike about Jeffrey Epstein. They see this as refreshing, given the sophistication of his surroundings. Alan Dershowitz says that, as he was getting to know Epstein, his wife asked him if he would still be close to him if Epstein suddenly filed for bankruptcy. Dershowitz says he replied, “Absolutely. I would be as interested in him as a friend if we had hamburgers on the boardwalk in Coney Island and talked about his ideas.” – Vanity Fair
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The arrest of New York financier Jeffrey E. Epstein has resulted in many people trying to distance themselves from the registered sex offender, including scrubbing records of him attending high-profile events.
Epstein, 66, was arrested earlier this month at Teterboro Airport on charges that between 2002 and 2005, Epstein “exploited and abused” dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14.
In the early 2000s and as recently as 2011, Epstein, whose billionaire status is now under question, would hobnob with a who’s who of academia, literature and Silicon Valley at literary agent John Brockman’s gathering dubbed the “Billionaires’ Dinner,” an annual event held during the TED conference in Monterey, California.
In a now deleted post on Brockman’s nonprofit The Edge Group’s website, the “Billionaires Dinner” is described as one of Epstein’s “favorite events.” It added that Epstein “enjoys hanging with stimulating and provocative thoughtful minds, who have achieved a high degree of success in finance, company, high tech, and scientific research.”
The occasion is “a night where the large names in finance, business, philanthropy, and science gather together. For one night, the richest people in the world come face to face with the most intelligent individuals in history.”
The New York Times reported in 2002 that Epstein “flew a bunch of Tedsters to Monterey in his Boeing 727, outfitted with mink and sable throws and a high-altitude lunch catered by Le Cirque 2000.”
Photographed onboard the plane were Brockman, Steven Pinker, Daniel C. Dennett, Katinka Matson, Richard Dawkins.
The original caption, shown above from a Yahoo Finance screengrab, has been altered to exclude the association with Epstein.
Pinker, a Harvard professor of psychology and author was onboard that flight. He told Yahoo Finance that he has found himself at some of the same events as Epstein, but has no personal or professional relationship with him and has only spoken to him three times that he can recall.
“I first met Epstein a couple of years before that plane trip, when I was invited to chat with him over coffee with a few mutual friends who said he was really smart, intellectual, and scientifically curious,” Pinker told Yahoo Finance. “My own impressions were different.”
Pinker went on to describe Epstein as a “kibitzer.”
“[He] liked to hang out with [and] shoot the breeze with smart and famous people, but he was intellectually lazy and immature: abruptly changing the subject, dismissing people’s observations with wisecracks, considering his own intuition to be as valid as data from experts,” Pinker added.
Another passenger on that trip, the philosopher and author Daniel C. Dennett, described the flight as “uneventful” and that Epstein “pretty much stayed to himself.”
Two photos completely removed
While the Epstein mention in the plane photo caption was altered, two photos from the event are no longer featured on the Edge’s website.
At the 2002 dinner were guests like Dean Kamen, Linda Stone, Richard Saul Wurman, Steve Petranek, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, Kara Swisher, Nathan Myhrvold, Christopher J. Anderson, George Dyson, W. Daniel Hillis, Stewart Brand, Katinka Matson, Peter Schwartz, Ryan Phelan, Richard Dawkins, Louis Rossetto, Daniel C. Dennett, David Bunnell, Steven Levy, Charles Simonyi, Sergey Brin, and Marney Morris, according to the page.
At least one guest, in particular, stood out as not having major business or literary accomplishments. That person is Sarah Kellen who appears in two now-deleted photographs.
Kellen, who is now married to Nascar driver Brian Vickers, has been accused of recruiting young girls, maintaining Epstein’s schedule and handling travel arrangements for the young girls being exploited. She’s specifically identified in the controversially lenient non-prosecution agreement as a “potential co-conspirator.”
For nearly 15 years, Epstein’s foundations have been major financial supporters of Brockman’s non-profit the Edge Foundation, Inc., contributing more than half a million dollars in that timeframe, according to Yahoo Finance’s calculations. In 990 filings, Epstein’s The C.O.U.Q. Foundation donated $25,000 in 2001, $50,000 in 2003, $55,000 in 2004, and $200,000 in 2005, to the Edge Foundation, Inc.
The Edge Foundation received multiple donations from Epstein’s Enhanced Education, including $30,000 in 2015, $50,000 in 2011, and $50,000 in 2010, 990 filings shows. The J. Epstein Foundation gave $50,000 in 2002 and $25,000 in 2001, records show.
The investigation into Epstein began in 2005 by the Palm Beach Police Department. As the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida began preparing federal criminal charges, Epstein’s attorneys began plea bargain discussions. On September 24, 2007, Epstein signed the controversial non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office. In that agreement, he plead guilty to one count of the solicitation of prostitution and agreed that he would register as a sex offender. He also agreed to a 30 month sentence, including 18 months of jail time and 12 months of community control. In exchange, the U.S. attorney’s office agreed to not pursue federal charges.
Epstein was released in 2009 from the Palm Beach county stockade after only 13 months spent in the private wing with six days of work release per week.
Attendees at the 1999 dinner included Richard Saul Wurman, Nathan Myhrvold, Linda Stone, Steve Case, Marney Morris, John McCrea, Joichi Ito, Katinka Matson, Jeffrey Epstein, Doug Rowan, Leon M. Lederman, Kevin Kelly, Jean Case, Pattie Maes, David Bunnell, Jeff Bezos, W. Daniel Hillis, Kai Krause, according to a cached version of the page. Another cached page for the 2000 event shows that guests included Marney Morris, Pattie Maes, Charles Simonyi, Kara Swisher, George Dyson, Linda Stone, David Braunschvig, Katinka Matson, W. Daniel Hillis, Dean Kamen, Stewart Brand, Kip Parent, Nathan Myhrvold, Jeffrey Epstein, Brewster Kahle.
Brockman, the founder of the Edge Foundation, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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