Doug Feiden in the Daily News: J. Ezra Merkin - destroyer of wealth, a menace to philanthropy, a pariah -- on his path to the Hall of Shame

Whether a fool or a scoundrel - Yankee fan J. Ezra Merkin has earned his place in the investment world's Hall of Shame.
Famed for piety, Jacob Merkin put faith and funds in Bernie Madoff

Jacob Ezra Merkin was once revered as a wizard of Wall Street, an angel of charity and a lion of Judaic studies.

Now he has earned infamy as a destroyer of wealth, a menace to philanthropy, a pariah in some synagogues and a target of a probe by the state attorney general's office.

A single unforgivable deed capsized his fortune, reputation and social standing overnight: He embraced a false prophet of profit named Bernard Madoff.

On the surface, Merkin, 55, was a gold-plated money manager who invested on behalf of banks, billionaires, hedge funds, yeshivas, nonprofits and universities.

In reality, his Midas touch was a mirage. Without telling his clients, he steered the bulk of the money into Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

As cash evaporated though his network of hedge funds and partnerships - Ascot Partners and Gabriel Capital Corp. in midtown, Ariel Fund Ltd. in the Cayman Islands - Merkin pocketed some $30 million in annual management fees, victims claim.

"He's pious, prayerful and profound, and the tragedy is that he's turning his friends and associates into paupers," said Rafi Weiss, a retired investor who worshiped with Merkin at Orthodox synagogues in Manhattan and Long Island. ...more...

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