Make us your home page


Robert Trigaux

Before TIA leap, Michael Wise's last moments



Michaelwisesilverado Wake up and good morning. Whenever a local suicide occurs -- I'm talking about S&L-gone-bust icon Michael Wise's leap on April 8 from the 9th level of a Tampa International Airport parking garage -- it begs the questions: Why? How did things get so bad?

A column by Al Lewis, which ran Saturday in the Denver Post -- Denver being where Silverado Savings & Loan was based, where Neil Bush (Jeb and George W.'s brother) screwed up as a director and where Wise was ultimately banned from the industry -- sheds a little more light on Wise's last moments.

According to Lewis, Chris Copelan, 26 and who had worked under Wise at the now defunct CFIC Mortgage, told Lewis he received a message from Wise moments before the former Silverado CEO jumped to his death at TIA. It said: "I'm looking forward to catching up with you. Sent via BlackBerry."

Hardly the expected comeback from someone contemplating their last moments. Wrote Lewis: "Even in death, Wise put forth an 'upbeat and excited' front, said Copelan."

We know the rough outline of Wise's woes. He was acquitted in the Silverado S&L problems but later spent 3-plus years in prison for taking people's money in his upscale Aspen mortgage lending business. Wise ultimately ended up in Tampa Bay working for a Kansas-based enterprise called CFIC which ballooned in size during the housing boom. Then Wise was outed for his dubious financial background, and CFIC ended up folding its tent anyway when the housing bust hit.

What we may not have known is, according to Lewis, Wise also had suffered the deaths of his son and then his wife. He remarried, but after CFIC's demise, Wise never put the dream back together. His wife left him, and he was reduced to pleading for money, said Copelan, and even complained of having to eat peanut butter and jelly.

Copelan, who worked as a regional vice president at CFIC, told Lewis that Wise had been a mentor to him, even helping him with personal problems. "He would often tell me, 'Chris, no matter how bad things get, one day you'll look back and be so thankful you went through them because they will shape who you are.' "

Wise words, so to speak. But they did not work in the end for Wise himself. As Copelan who reportedly now lives in Hays, Kan., told Lewis: 

"He must have said, 'Here I am. I'm 64. I've been at the top of the world, and I've been at the bottom,' " Copelan said. "I think he just realized . . . there was no way he could get back to where he wanted to be. So he just said, 'The hell with it, I'm done.' "

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:24am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours