In 2009, Finn Caspersen — a wealthy and gentrified financier who once owned and developed Harbour Island near downtown Tampa — took his own life.
Known to many who knew him in Tampa as "Prince Caspersen," the CEO for more than 20 years of consumer lending giant Beneficial Corp., shot himself at age 67 near his home in Rhode Island.
The event shocked many who saw Caspersen — a Harvard Law School graduate, longtime force behind the U.S. Olympic equestrian team and a generous benefactor in Tampa — as living the good life. He was even described by the New York Times as a "Gatsbyesque" figure. In 1998, he sold Beneficial to Household Finance for $8.6 billion.
It turned out Caspersen was fighting cancer and was under investigation by the IRS for using offshore bank accounts to evade taxes.
Now comes news that one of Caspersen's sons, 39-year-old Wall Street executive Andrew, was arrested at LaGuardia Airport this past weekend. The U.S. attorney for Manhattan charged Caspersen in a criminal complaint with a "brazen" scheme to defraud investors of up to $95 million. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a similar civil complaint.
Andrew Caspersen was a partner in the Park Hill Group, which raises money for private equity firms and hedge funds. Park Hill was spun off last fall from the giant private equity firm Blackstone Group.
According to court documents, Caspersen solicited investors to put as much as $95 million in an investment called Irving Place III SPV. That investment, authorities say, was merely a shell company created, owned and controlled entirely by Caspersen. "It appears to have no legitimate business," the SEC states in its complaint.
Much of the funds were used by Caspersen for personal purposes, the complaint says. A large amount was lost by Caspersen on "aggressive options trading," prosecutors claim.
"To advance his $95 million scheme, Caspersen allegedly put on a shameful charade — creating fake email addresses, setting up misleading domain names and inventing fictional financiers," stated Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
On Monday, as part of a $5 million bail package, Caspersen was ordered to undergo psychological evaluation.
In better days, Finn Caspersen purchased the 177-acre Harbour Island in 1979 from a Beneficial subsidiary and began developing it in 1983. When the first phase was completed in 1985, the island held a grand opening with an appearance by former President Gerald R. Ford.
Contact Robert Trigaux at email@example.com. Follow @venturetampabay.