U.S. News

Madoff friend Picower leaves $200 million to wife

MIAMI (Reuters) - Jeffry Picower, the billionaire beneficiary of Bernard Madoff’s fraud scheme who died last month in Florida, left $200 million to his wife and appointed her chairwoman of a charitable foundation to be funded with assets from his estate.

The $200 million for Picower’s wife, Barbara, is spelled out in the will he left before he died of a heart attack on October 25, in the swimming pool at his home in Palm Beach, Florida.

The will, which also sets aside $25 million for Picower’s daughter Gabrielle and $10 million in a trust for his longtime assistant April Freilich, was filed in court in New York on Monday, according to Marcia Horowitz, a spokeswoman for the family’s lawyer.

The Picowers were friends of Wall Street financier Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence after pleading guilty to running a $65 billion Ponzi scheme.

The trustee handling the Madoff fraud case, Irving Picard, said in court documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York in September, that Picower, newly listed as one of the 400 wealthiest Americans by Forbes magazine, was complicit in the fraud.

Part of Picard’s filing said: “Based upon the trustee’s investigation to date, Picower was the biggest beneficiary of Madoff’s scheme, having withdrawn either directly or through the entities he controlled more than $7.2 billion of other investors’ money.”

Picower was being sued for the $7.2 billion -- $2 billion more than the trustee in the case demanded in May.

In a statement made public together with Picower’s will, Barbara Picower said her husband had hoped to ensure that victims of Madoff’s fraud were compensated for their financial losses.

“He was committed to overcoming the devastation resulting from Bernard Madoff’s fraud by reaching a fair and generous settlement with the Madoff trustee,” the statement said.

It did not elaborate on terms of the settlement, which Horowitz said had not yet been reached.

But William Zabel, the Picower family lawyer and executor of Jeffry Picower’s estate, said there would be enough money to establish the charitable foundation headed by Barbara Picower regardless of the settlement with the Madoff trustee.

“We believe that following the settlement with the Madoff Trustee ... the substantial assets acquired by Mr. Picower through his many successful investments over the years (separate from Bernard Madoff) will be available and sufficient to fund the new charitable foundation,” Zabel said.

The foundation would replace a philanthropic organization that Picower and his wife had headed and which closed when the Madoff fraud unraveled last December.

Picard, who is leading a global search under the Securities Investor Protection Act to recover money for thousands of defrauded investors, has collected about $1.5 billion, but has sued for some $15 billion.

The case is Irving H. Picard, trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC v. Jeffry M. Picower 09-01197 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) (Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Maureen Bavdek)