Thursday, March 12, 2009

Forbes, Madoff Lists and the Adirondacks

It was a tough year for the world’s billionaires, Forbes reported today. Hundreds of the world’s wealthiest are merely millionaires now, including Sandy Weill, former CEO of Citigroup and seasonal resident of Upper Saranac Lake. “His Citigroup shares have lost nearly all their value,” Forbes says, estimating that Citi shares have fallen 95 percent in the last 12 months. The financial services conglomerate that Weill built is now the recipient of a $45 billion federal bailout.

Weill is prominent in New York City philanthropic circles, but he maintains a low profile in the Adirondacks. Up here his wife, Joan, is much better known, especially for her generosity to Paul Smith’s College, where she serves as chairman of its board of trustees and spearheaded construction of a library (photo above) and student center that bear her name.

A Lake George summer resident, however, is still in good standing on the billionaire list. Forrest Mars Jr., co-owner of the privately held Mars candy company (which also includes Wrigley, Pedigree pet food and other brands), is the 43rd wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $9 billion and growing, Forbes says. Mars and his wife Deborah Clarke Mars have a camp on the lake’s northeast shore, not far from Deborah’s hometown of Ticonderoga.

The Marses have been locally philanthropic, most notably to Fort Ticonderoga, but they withdrew support for the historic landmark last year after disagreements with its administration.

Meanwhile, Bernard L. Madoff pleaded guilty this morning to defrauding investors of about $65 billion dollars in a Ponzi scheme. The story seems unrelated, but it also has Adirondack connections, particularly for charitable giving. One of the victims on the Madoff list is the New York City–based Prospect Hill Foundation, a longtime supporter of many Adirondack environmental nonprofits. It’s still unclear what the repercussions will be for the foundation and its grant recipients. Also on the Madoff list is Anne Childs who — with her husband the Freedom Tower architect David Childs — owns a hilltop house in Keene.

If you know of other Adirondack connections on the Forbes or Madoff lists, please let us know.

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Mary Thill

Mary Thill lives in Saranac Lake and has worked alternately in journalism and Adirondack conservation for three decades.




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