Famed for piety, Jacob Merkin put faith and funds in Bernie Madoff
BY DOUGLAS FEIDEN
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...
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.