Other People’s Money

“What are you doing here?” Teddy Forstmann asked, shaking my hand after spotting me in the back of the courtroom during the mid-morning break. We hadn’t seen each other in several years, since a Christmas party at his late brother’s Fifth Avenue apartment, and I shared his feeling that this was an odd venue for a reunion—a tiny courtroom in the comatose town of Rockville, Connecticut, where he was on trial for losing more than $120 million of Connecticut state pension money. He seemed too big for the setting, literally and figuratively: As leveraged-buyout tycoons go, the ruddy, silver-maned Forstmann is tall and powerfully built, and he radiates the nervous energy that can quickly make any room seem small and rapidly shrinking. He’s considered something of a scold on Wall Street, a hectoring moralist who rails against the business practices of his rivals—an old-economy guy known more for building businesses than chop-shopping them for parts, a brilliant crank with a nearly unbroken string of successful investments. Until recently, he’d returned an astonishing 50-plus percent annualized rate of return to the investors in his private equity funds since he practically invented the leveraged buyout—along with his arch-rival Henry Kravis—back in the late seventies. Yet, of all people, here was the high-minded Forstmann standing in the docket representing the sins of Enron-era Wall Street. The man who has long been seen as a maverick and an outsider was, if only by default, bearing the hopes and fears of the investment community on his broad, slightly hunched shoulders.

“If Teddy loses this case, every attorney general in the country will be calling lawyers,” the head of merchant banking at a large investment firm told me recently at a dinner party on the Upper East Side heavily populated by investment bankers. It was the first time I’d heard about the case. The consensus among the group seemed to be that the suit was a piece of political grandstanding on the part of a Democratic state treasurer. Forstmann, it didn’t need to be said, is a big Republican donor and fund-raiser, the national co-chairman of George H. W. Bush’s 1992 campaign, and a kind of kitchen-cabinet member of recent Republican administrations. The fact that, besides being a Democrat, Forstmann’s antagonist, Denise Nappier, was an African-American woman was entered into evidence by one of the guests. QED. Another suggested that Richard Blumenthal, the state’s patrician Democratic attorney general, was singing that catchy pop tune written by Eliot Spitzer, New York’s attorney general, who has conducted a highly visible crusade against white-collar malfeasance. Forstmann, if not beloved by all at the table, certainly had, for the first time in years, a measure of their sympathy. And the merits of his case were almost self-evident. “Investment is about risk,” someone said.

Not that a geyser of Schadenfreude hasn’t spouted up from Wall Street. “Teddy was always lecturing us,” one partner in a San Francisco–based private-equity firm told me. “He was always on his soapbox about how the rest of us use too much leverage and his way is the righteous way.” (With all due apologies for this and subsequent unattributed quotations, none of these guys would speak on the record; they make CIA operatives seem like publicity hounds. “It’s called private equity for a reason,” said another. “We’re totally unregulated. We operate outside the spotlight and we like it that way. Which is one of the things that scares us about this case.”) To say Forstmann is not much liked by his peers is understating a case that is often made with expletives. As he explains it, the investment banks don’t like him because he bypasses them to raise his own debt, and the other private-equity funds don’t like him because he charges lower fees. Envy certainly plays a role in this. His personal fortune is somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion. He flies a G5, dates actresses, plays golf with Vijay Singh and shoots in the seventies. In the past twenty years, Forstmann has made some $15 billion for his investors, buying companies like Dr Pepper and Gulfstream that were unwanted or unnoticed by his competition. (Most of these deals, he loves to point out, were ridiculed at the time.)

His detractors think the observant Catholic has a messiah complex. His impatience with opposing points of view, and his tendency to harp on his own accomplishments, can alienate the people he’s trying to impress. At Yale, he was the star of the hockey team, but when the time came to elect a captain, he didn’t receive a single vote. To his credit, though, he tells this story on himself. “I really think Teddy is a genuinely decent and upright guy,” a friend of twenty years says, “but he’s his own worst enemy. His faults have to do with his massive insecurity.”

The day after I learned about the case, I decided to drive up to Connecticut and observe the proceedings. Not necessarily the trial of the century, essentially a contract dispute. Much was at stake legally and financially, but my interest was primarily in the defendant, who had fascinated me ever since I was a guest at his apartment a decade ago, swilling his ’55 La Mission Haut-Brion while he lectured all of us about the free-market system. Although he’d taken me on a tour of his Postimpressionists that night, his prize possession was a tin plate, which he showed me later at his office in the GM building, the plate Nelson Mandela ate from during the twenty years of his imprisonment, inscribed to Teddy by the Nobel laureate in black felt pen. What exactly, I wondered, was Forstmann doing in this courtroom in the middle of nowhere? How had he come to lose so much money? The trial would be in part about the notion of risk, which, as Teddy told me the night I met him, was at the very heart of capitalism. But there was also a sense in which Forstmann’s character was on trial.

At the center of Connecticut’s case was the claim that Forstmann’s firm violated the terms of its contract by departing from its historical investment strategy, outlined in its prospectus, of targeting established firms with dominant market position and significant barriers to entry. Like millions of less experienced investors, Forstmann seemed to have been seduced by the gravity-free, new-paradigm environment of the high-tech boom in the late nineties. Forstmann made his first two investments in telecom in 1999, just as the party hit its peak, committing some $2.5 billion. His firm, Forstmann Little & Co., ultimately lost more than $2 billion betting on two fledgling telecom companies, XO Communications and McLeodUSA, both of which collapsed in bankruptcy in the hungover reckoning of the current decade.

The year 1999, when Forstmann suddenly jumped into telecoms, represented the height of an investment frenzy unleashed by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which essentially deregulated the nation’s telephone networks, allowing newcomers to compete with the long-distance companies as well as the handful of local carriers that had enjoyed regional monopolies since the breakup of AT&T in 1984. “Suddenly it was like the Oklahoma land rush,” testified Terrence Barnich, a telecom expert hired by Connecticut. Between 1995 and 1999, the capital markets raised more than $100 billion for telecom investment. The telecom boom was the fraternal twin of the dot-com bubble; the digital-information revolution required millions of miles of new highways, interchanges, and overpasses.

This boom period also provided a new standard of wealth and a goad to the LBO barons who had made the big fortunes of the eighties. “You’ve got to remember that for Teddy and Henry, wealth isn’t absolute, it’s relative. And suddenly you’ve got guys like Mark Cuban, who made like $15 billion, and Meg Whitman at eBay,” says one equity-fund manager who, to be fair, probably feels relatively impoverished next to Forstmann and Kravis. “These Internet billionaires showed up one day in blue jeans and T-shirts, and guys like Teddy and Henry in their suits and ties wanted in on that, on the new big returns.”

Many of Forstmann’s competitors made bets on telecom and Internet-related investments. Between 1997 and 2000, Dallas-based Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst lost $1.5 billion. But none of these investments were quite as dramatic as Forstmann Little’s combined investments in XO and McLeod. “It’s like suddenly he showed up at the office with purple hair and sandals,” says the competitor. “And now the state of Connecticut is saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, last time we saw you, you were wearing a suit.’ ”

Along with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Forstmann Little figured out a way to produce massive wealth by buying companies with money borrowed against the company’s assets, paying down the interest with operating revenues. (“The L in LBO is what makes it so profitable,” Forstmann once explained to me.) Eventually these firms started filling their war chests with funds borrowed from large institutional investors like state pension funds. During the great leveraged-buyout boom of the eighties, Forstmann’s outsider image was certified by his opposition to the use of junk bonds—he himself uses a less precarious form of leverage, drawn from his own investors, called subordinated debt. He was famously involved in two of the big takeover battles of the era, for Revlon, eventually seized by Ron Perelman with the help of junk-bond king Michael Milken, and for RJR Nabisco, acquired by Henry Kravis. In the HBO movie of the book Barbarians at the Gate, Forstmann is portrayed as something of a raving lunatic, dressed as an American Indian at a charity benefit, railing against the use of “wampum” and “funny money.” But it was Forstmann who seems to have supplied the book’s title. In the midst of the takeover battle for RJR, he ran into Richard L. Gelb, then the chairman of Bristol Myers, on the golf course of Long Island’s Deepdale country club and tried to explain the brave new world of leveraged buyouts, junk bonds, and hostile takeovers. Gelb, an old-school CEO, found it all very confusing. “What does it all mean?” he asked. “It means,” Forstmann replied, “the barbarians are at the gate. And they’ll be coming for you next.” (One wonders if the co-inventor of leveraged buyouts counted himself among the Visigoths.) The history of both the RJR and Revlon transactions would seem to have validated Forstmann’s arguments about excessive leverage without necessarily improving his image among his peers. The fact that Forstmann has never married, that, unlike Kravis or Thomas H. Lee, the other horseman of the LBO triumvirate, he has never integrated himself into the Park Avenue benefit scene, which is the realm of wives, also separates him from his peers. He has been linked with Elizabeth Hurley, and escorted Princess Diana to several high-profile events; he was twice engaged to longtime girlfriend Deborah Hagerty, who seems to have been the great love of his life, but the engagement was eventually called off. He gave her a Matisse as a parting gift. (She has since married.) I happened to run into him after his appearances with Diana had been in the gossip columns, and he told me that she was very eager to pursue a relationship—although he admitted that his wealth and its trappings were probably part of his allure—but he was deeply involved with Hagerty at the time. He told me that he’d reluctantly aborted the romance with the demanding princess. Though I can’t verify his claim, I found it intriguing that he told me, and they remained mutual confidants until her death.

By his own admission, he’s not a joiner. He drives a golf cart around the course at Shinnecock, in violation of an unwritten but cherished tradition of pedestrianism. Even in the matter of his extensive philanthropy, he goes his own way, eschewing the traditional big Manhattan charities like the Met and the Public Library. He raised millions for Bosnian medical relief, and rode into Mostar with a convoy to help deliver it. In the mid-nineties, he largely funded the Silver Lining Ranch, a camp in Aspen for children with cancer, which is run by former tennis star Andrea Jaeger. In 1998, he co-founded the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which has so far distributed $180 million in scholarships for private education to underprivileged children, with $50 million of his own cash, an initiative which has drawn fire from some liberals who worry that he is undermining the public-school system. A fierce competitor on the tennis court, he hosts a fund-raising tournament, called the Huggy Bear, at his Southampton Estate each summer, the proceeds of which go to a variety of children’s charities.

Less well-known is that in the mid-nineties, Forstmann adopted two South African children after visiting Mandela, who asked him to give a talk on capitalism to the South African parliament and has since become a friend. The boys, Everest and Siya, never appeared at the trial in Connecticut, though a really cynical defense team might have gambled that their presence might have humanized the imperious tycoon.

It’s doesn’t take a psychiatrist to notice the pattern in Forstmann’s philanthropy, focused as it is almost exclusively on ill and underprivileged children. He has cultivated enduring friendships with some of them, including an 18-year old neuroblastoma victim from the Silver Lining Ranch named Anna O’Connor, who spent the weekend following the conclusion of the trial with him in Southampton along with her parents. I wonder if he’s better with children than with adults. Forstmann, the second son in a family of six children, had an ostensibly privileged childhood in Greenwich, Connecticut, although he describes it to his friends as anything but idyllic. “I was an extremely unhappy child,” he told me recently. “I went back to Andover a few years ago to see a teacher. At one point I said, ‘Tell me the truth. What did you think of my chances back then?’ And he said, ‘Honestly, I thought you wouldn’t make it to 30, with all that you were dealing with.’ ” Forstmann still has an air of tortured insecurity, although it reads as arrogance. He often dominates a gathering, preferring the role of host to guest, but he never seems particularly comfortable in a social setting. His smile is strangely unconvincing, his mouth failing to involve the rest of his face—as if he were still, at the age of 64, trying to master that particular basic expression. It doesn’t sound as if he had much practice as a child. His paternal grandfather, a German immigrant, made a fortune in woolen manufacturing. This awe-inspiring, 300-pound, devoutly Lutheran patriarch disapproved of his son Julius’s marriage to Dorothy Sammis, an Italian-American Catholic.

Teddy’s father was troubled, mercurial, and sometimes violent, struggling for most of his life with alcohol and depression. He was frequently institutionalized. According to one family friend, Dorothy openly favored Teddy’s older brother, Tony. “She’d go to Tony’s games but not to Teddy’s,” the friend says. “Tony was definitely number one,” Teddy confirmed to me recently, “and I was definitely number two.” Teddy’s younger brother, Nicky, who would later become his business partner, also enjoyed a closer and more affectionate relationship with their mother.

Nicky Forstmann was his brother’s temperamental opposite—extroverted, self-effacing, and easygoing. The word sweet is inevitably used when Nicky’s name is invoked. Several of the big Wall Street players I contacted for this story became audibly emotional after his name came up. If Teddy was the prime mover in Forstmann Little, founding partner Brian Little, who retired in 1994, had the investment-banking background that helped Forstmann implement his ideas. Nicky, who tended to defer to his older brother, was, among other things, the diplomat, the smiling, boyishly handsome face of Forstmann Little, the one who smoothed some of the feathers that Teddy ruffled. Unlike his brother, Nicky was a man who knew how to smile with his entire face.

(I got to know Nicky and his wife, Lana Wolkonsky, a concert pianist, through my ex-wife, who was a close friend, and I found him to be generous, cultured, and enviably well-rounded compared to most of his peers. After dinner with Nicky, I used to make all kinds of ambitious self-improvement pledges.) Nicky Forstmann died of lung cancer in February 2001, his death more or less coinciding with the financial setbacks that ultimately brought his brother to court in a small town twenty miles east of Hartford.

During the breaks in the trial, with the jury dismissed, you caught glimpses of Forstmann’s pain at finding himself, in the latter days of a spectacularly successful career, having to defend not only his judgment but his honor. Forstmann generally has a hard time suppressing the conviction that he’s smarter than the rest of us, but in the end, I think what is far more important to him is his sense of his own integrity and decency. He was outraged to find it under attack. “Can you believe this?” he muttered to me after a particularly combative cross-examination of one of his partners. “This is unconscionable.” At another break, he said, “This is a nightmare. It’s like being in a Kafka novel.” Observing his angry magenta face, I thought of Lear howling in the rain.

Of course, this reaction might be interpreted as the indignation of a billionaire who found himself standing before a jury composed of citizens who could be construed as his peers only under the broadest Jeffersonian construction of the democratic ideal. But there he was spending his nights on a cheap mattress under a synthetic bedspread at a Marriott Residence Inn in the company of his legal team (“I can’t sleep,” he complained to me) while his business languished and his adopted children waited with the hired help in the company of Vijay Singh, who was bunking at Forstmann’s Southampton home while he prepared for the U.S. Open. But more than that, more than the discomfort and the inconvenience and the injured pride, was the wounded bewilderment of a moral absolutist and a devout Catholic who believed that he had walked almost alone along the path of righteousness, only to find himself inexplicably accused by craven and self-seeking political hacks. Forstmann’s defense was handled by Fred Bartlit, a former Army Ranger who represented President Bush in the Florida-recount battle—a fact that seems to underline the political dimensions of the case. Bartlit, 71, is an imposing, athletic Reaganesque figure who, even when seated, towered over most of the observers in a thronelike ergonomic chair he’d had sent ahead from his Chicago office. His air of midwestern rectitude is softened by a courtly manner and a folksy vocabulary, and he sounded truly contrite when apologizing to opposing counsel for blocking their view.

Forstmann Little reported to its limited partners that it was budgeting $20 million for the case, which named not only the firm but Forstmann himself, along with his partners Thomas Lister, Sandra Horbach, and Erskine Bowles, President Clinton’s former chief of staff, who joined the firm in 1999, to the surprise of many who knew Forstmann as an activist Republican. Much was made of the fact that when the suit was first announced by Nappier, Bowles’s name was omitted, particularly since Bowles, who was involved in the drafting of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, was hired to help the firm with the very kinds of telecom investments at the heart of the suit. (One Forstmann Little insider told me that Bowles insisted the firm was “missing chances to score goals” if they ignored the industry.) Bowles’s name was quietly added to the suit, although he has since left the firm.

The trial, with all its technical longueurs, was enlivened by the style and personality clashes of Bartlit and Connecticut lead counsel Gerald J. Fields, who seemed at times to genuinely dislike each other. The elegant welterweight Fields has an urbane manner that frequently turns sarcastic. He fires off objections almost before a witness has opened his mouth. Counterbalancing his fighting-cock mien, playing the good cop, was co-counsel Charles Lee, a former captain of the debating team at Andover, who grew up in Forstmann’s hometown of Greenwich.

“I usually represent big corporations,” one of the plaintiff’s lawyers told me as we walked to the Pizza Palace, “and it kind of feels good to be representing the people, the average citizens who lost their pension money.” This populist view of the case was the one that scared the defense, who argued in front of a six-person jury composed of carpenters and housewives at a moment in history when anyone associated with high finance was laboring under a presumption of guilt. Though the case was supposed to be decided on its merits, inevitably the decision must also have been influenced by the jury’s opinion of Forstmann, who has had a hard enough time charming his fellow members at Shinnecock.

More than the injured pride was the wounded bewilderment of a moral absolutist.

Anyone seeking to impugn the motives behind the state’s case points out that Nappier, who in the end was never called to testify, came into office in 1999 on a platform of reform. Her immediate predecessor, Paul Silvester, whose brief tenure was clouded by scandal, eventually went to jail on racketeering charges. The attorney general, reelected on the same ticket as Nappier, was Blumenthal, a Kennedy friend from Greenwich. Although neither was responsible for hiring Forstmann Little, the telecom investments were made during Nappier’s tenure, and, the defense argued, with her acquiescence and approval. Hartford political watchers suggest that the massive losses to the pension fund, which were announced in 2001 and 2002, might have presented a political embarrassment, while suing the firm could only be a popular move in the post-Enron environment.

To the untutored eye, it certainly looks as if Forstmann departed from his usual strategy of securing a controlling interest in established companies like Gulfstream and General Instruments, and of taking over the management of those companies. (For several years, he served as the CEO of Gulfstream, which eventually netted his partnerships a $3 billion profit.) XO and McLeod had fractional market shares of an industry that in 1999 included hundreds of aspiring players. Forstmann’s prospectus, the Prospective Partnership Memorandum, which serves as a kind of brochure for potential investors, specifically lists four necessary components in target companies, including dominant market position and significant barriers to entry.

Central to the state’s case was the notion that Forstmann Little was a buyout firm that took control of target companies by buying up outstanding securities, whereas the XO and McLeod investments were minority investments that initially represented an 8 percent and a 12 percent stake respectively—far from the kind of majority position that would give them control of the company. Much of the defense strategy was taken up with the strange exercise of proving a counterfactual: that XO and McLeod were promising and sound investments that fulfilled the conditions set forth in the various agreements and were only wiped out as a result what Forstmann called a “perfect storm” of coinciding and unforeseeable disasters—a kind of force majeure argument. In this perfect-storm scenario, the general economy began to slow in early 2000; the dot-com sector, which was to provide so much of the business for the telecoms, foundered; then, just at the wrong moment, 9/11 threw a pall over the capital markets.

The perfect-storm concept could also plausibly be applied to Forstmann’s personal life and to the internal workings of his firm during the crucial year of 1999, as he contemplated the approach of his 60th birthday. He was despondent over the end of his seven-year relationship with Deborah Hagerty. Founding partner Brian Little died of a heart attack while jogging in Central Park. And, after serving as CEO of Gulfstream for several years, which he has called the best experience of his life, Forstmann found himself at loose ends after selling the company. Longtime partner Steve Klinsky left to start his own fund. Meanwhile, the business that Forstmann and the other aging cowboys pioneered had become increasingly institutionalized. Literally hundreds of firms had sprung up, seeking capital from the same huge institutional pension funds while scanning the balance sheets of the same potential target companies. Though some of his competitors had hundreds of employees, Forstmann was running a tiny boutique with three or four partners, including Nicky. He began to think about expansion, even as he contemplated the unthinkable—his eventual retirement. He hired Nicky’s friend Erskine Bowles, who had just left the Clinton White House, to explore new areas of investment, including telecom. And the notorious control freak sought to devolve some of his responsibilities to his brother and to longtime partners Horbach and Lister.

Throughout the year, he was heavily involved in promoting the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which he had started the previous year. The firm was sitting on billions in two new funds from institutional investors but hadn’t made a big deal in almost three years. This, according to Forstmann Little observers and insiders, was the background of the big plays in XO and McLeod. Forstmann still believes that McLeod, which he has now jumped in to manage, will eventually show a profit for his investors, including Connecticut. (In the meantime, the third investment made with the funds, a chain of radio stations called Citadel Broadcasting, has already proved highly profitable.) But while cynics suggest the telecom investments were acts of reckless hubris, I can’t help thinking that Forstmann wasn’t as fully and obsessively focused on the details as he might have been during this period, that his judgment might easily have been clouded by a sort of situational depression, particularly after Nicky walked into his office one January morning in 2000 to say he had cancer.

As the telecom sector began to melt down, Nicky’s illness, which the family kept secret from even close friends until that fall, preoccupied his brother, who became intimately involved with Nicky’s medical problems. In February 2001, after Nicky’s doctor told the family that they had exhausted all options, the devoutly Catholic Teddy flew his brother to Lourdes in his Gulfstream V, seeking divine intervention. Over the Atlantic, the brothers drank a bottle of 1961 Mouton Rothschild. Nicky took the waters. A few days later, his funeral filled St. Patrick’s cathedral with 3,000 mourners. In March, a memo from partner Thomas Lister about the dire condition of XO seems to have rudely curtailed Teddy’s mourning.

In his folksy closing statement, Bartlit dropped the perfect-storm argument and focused primarily on the events of September 11 as a way of explaining the XO meltdown, perhaps because the other calamitous economic trends were already well under way when a third investment of $250 million, including $6 million of Forstmann’s own, was made. “Nine-eleven is the only thing that happened,” he said. “And if 9/11 caused this,” he counseled the jury, “then there are no damages.” In his rebuttal, Fields, a New Yorker, expressed outrage. “Shame on him for raising the specter of the horrific events of 9/11,” he thundered. Shame, indeed. Fields cited a paragraph of a December 2001 letter Forstmann sent to investors that Fields said made no mention of 9/11. At this point, Bartlit leaped to his feet, red-faced, to insist that a previous paragraph had indeed mentioned the tragedy as a factor in the demise of XO. Having concluded his own closing, however, he was not permitted to read it to the court.

“Can you believe this?” he muttered. “It’s like being in a Kafka novel.”

After the judge finished instructing the jury, Forstmann was still seething about Fields’s remarks. (The charge of 9/11 insensitivity must have been particularly upsetting; Forstmann’s close friend and former employee Karen Hagerty, Debbie’s sister, whose framed picture sits on his desk, was killed in the Twin Towers.) At the door to the courthouse, Fields greeted Stephen Fraidin, Forstmann’s personal lawyer, who had driven up from New York to hear the closing arguments. Fields shook hands with Fraidin, his old Yale classmate. “Better wash your hand,” Forstmann advised Fraidin, glaring at Fields. After a month of controlling his temper, he was losing it. “Do you even have any conception of the difference between truth and falsehood?” he asked Fields, who ignored him. As the two groups continued to make their way toward the door, Fields directed some parting words at Fraidin. Forstmann turned back to look at Fields, who was walking behind him. “Are you talking to me?” he asked, sounding like De Niro in Taxi Driver. “Because if you want to talk to me, we can take it outside.”

After such closing-day theatrics, the verdict itself, which came down 48 hours after Forstmann had decamped for Manhattan in a pearl-gray Town Car, was something of an anticlimax. The jury found against Forstmann Little on all counts—two counts of breach of contract and one count of breach of fiduciary duty—and also concluded that the firm had acted with bad faith, willful misconduct, and gross negligence. But the jury awarded no monetary damages, finding that the state had acquiesced to, and ratified, the investments in question, and that Forstmann had made them under advice of counsel. It was a strangely mixed and even contradictory verdict—if Forstmann acted on advice of counsel, then it’s hard to see how the company could be guilty of willful misconduct. Quite possibly it represented a compromise among jurors who wanted to get home for the long weekend.

“Everybody lost,” Connecticut counsel Lee told me a few minutes after the verdict. “The treasurer did establish that fund managers are not above the law,” he continued, claiming a moral victory for his side. “There will be more of these suits.”

In a typically robust press release issued after the verdict, Forstmann called the decision “a complete victory.” Given the series of losses, financial and personal, that he has suffered in the past few years, he may indeed choose to count this as a win, although for a man so deeply conscious of his honor, so thoroughly convinced of his own decency and rectitude, phrases like “willful misconduct” and “gross negligence” must be particularly galling. I can’t help wondering if he wouldn’t have preferred to have been cleared of all charges and just pony up the $120 mil—an outcome not much less absurd than the actual one.

The damage was already done before the verdict. At the end of the trial, just before his confrontation with Fields, I asked Teddy if the suit was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. He considered this with a sad expression. “No,” he said, finally. “Nicky’s death was the worst. I’m just glad he’s not around to see this.”

Other People’s Money