He was a distinguished investor who traced his lineage to the French aristocracy, hobnobbed with members of European high society and sailed around the world on fancy yachts.
But after losing more than $1 billion of his clients' money to Bernard Madoff, Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet had enough. He locked the door of his Madison Avenue office and apparently swallowed sleeping pills and slashed his wrists with a box cutter, police said.
A security guard found his body Tuesday morning, next to a garbage can placed to catch the blood.
The bloody scene marked a grisly turn in the Madoff scandal in which money managers and investors were ensnared in an alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme. De la Villehuchet is believed to have lost about $1.4 billion to Madoff.
De la Villehuchet, 65, was an esteemed financier who tapped his upper-crust European connections to attract clients. It was not immediately clear how he knew Madoff or who his clients were.
He grew increasingly subdued after the Madoff scandal broke, drawing suspicion among janitors at his office Monday night when he demanded that they be out of there by 7 p.m. Less than 13 hours later, his body was found.
His death came as swindled investors began looking for ways to recoup their losses. Funds that lost big to Madoff are also facing investor lawsuits and backlash for failing to properly vet Madoff and overlooking red flags that could have steered them away. It's not immediately known what kind of scrutiny de la Villehuchet was facing over his losses.
De la Villehuchet (pronounced veel-ou-SHAY) comes from rich French lineage, with the Magon part of his name referring to one of France's most powerful families. The Magon name is even listed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a monument commissioned by Napoleon in 1806.
"He's irreproachable," said Bill Rapavy, who was Access International's chief operating officer before founding his own firm in 2007.
De la Villehuchet's firm enlisted intermediaries with links to wealthy Europeans to garner investors. Among them was Philippe Junot, a French businessman and friend who is the former husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, and Prince Michel of Yugoslavia.
De la Villehuchet, the former chairman and chief executive of Credit Lyonnais Securities USA, was also known as a keen sailor who regularly participated in regattas and was a member of the New York Yacht Club.
He lived in an affluent suburb in Westchester County with his wife, Claudine. They have no children. There was no answer Tuesday at the family's two-story house. Phone calls to the home and de la Villehuchet's office went unanswered.
Guy Gurney, a British photographer living in Connecticut, was friends with de la Villehuchet. The two often sailed together and competed in a regatta in France in November.
"He was a very honorable man," Gurney said. "He was extraordinarily generous. He was an aristocrat but not a snob. He was a real person. When he was sailing, he was one of the boys."
The two were supposed to have dinner last Friday but Gurney called the day before to cancel because of the weather. But during the call, de la Villehuchet revealed he had been ensnared in Madoff scandal.
"He sounded very subdued," Gurney said.
Gurney said de la Villehuchet was happily married to his wife.
"I can't imagine what it's like for her now," he said.
Associated Press Writers Tom Hays, Rachel Beck and Joe Bel Bruno and the AP News Research Center in New York; Jim Fitzgerald in New Rochelle, N.Y.; and Joelle Diderich in Paris contributed to this report.
Click here for copyright permissions!
Copyright 2008 Associated Press