At least 50 victims of Bernard Madoff sat in a packed U.S. District Courtroom in Manhattan Thursday as the disgraced money manager was led off to jail in handcuffs after pleading guilty to masterminding a $65 billion US Ponzi scheme.
Outside were many more, and they still represented only the tip of an iceberg that is thought to comprise thousands of Madoff victims around the globe, from retirees and celebrities to some of the richest people in the world.
Hollywood mogul Steven Spielberg, whose net worth this year was estimated at $3 billion, lost some of his philanthropic dollars to Madoff, according to a 162-page list compiled by AlixPartners, a restructuring firm tasked with helping liquidate Madoff's investment company. Several billionaires, as well as foundations or companies funded by or associated with billionaires, were also included. Among them: First Manhattan Co., a private investment firm founded by long-time Warren Buffett associate David Gottesman.
Gottesman, who sits on the board of Berkshire Hathaway, was worth an estimated $1.8 billion when we priced our list of the wealthiest Americans this year. Last year he was listed at $2.5 billion.
Art collector Norman Braman, 76, who made his first appearance on the Forbes 400 in 2008, with a net worth of $1.7 billion after a frothy run-up in the value of his contemporary art collection, is also among those cited in the who's who of Madoff victims. Today, we estimate, he is worth $1.2 billion.
In December, Braman told Katie Couric of CBS News he had known Madoff for years and had invested a "considerable amount" of money with him. "I want to see him pay for what he has done to all these people," he told Couric.
Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel is another who has been vocal about Madoff's betrayal, reportedly referring to him as "a crook" and "evil." In a statement in December, the nonprofit Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity admitted to having "$15.2 million under management with Bernard Madoff Investment Securities" — an amount that represented substantially all of the foundation's assets.
Not named directly in the February bankruptcy filing: real estate billionaire Mort Zuckerman, whose net worth has fallen from $2.3 billion to $1.5 billion in the last 12 months. He told Erin Burnett on CNBC three months ago that his charitable foundation lost $30 million via Madoff investments. Zuckerman, however, said that the money was being managed by an outside financial adviser and that he had no knowledge that the foundation was invested with Madoff until he was told after the story broke late last year.
Also not named but believed to have been affected by the Ponzi scheme were Alicia Koplowitz, who was considered Spain's richest woman last year but lost half her fortune in the past year, and fugitive financier Marc Rich.
Other reported celebrity victims include baseball star Sandy Koufax and New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon. Actors Kevin Bacon and his wife Kyra Sedgwick, as well as John Malkovich and Zsa Zsa Gabor were also among the many believed to be defrauded.
"I thought it would end quickly, but it proved impossible," said Madoff, before being remanded to jail and facing a possible 150-year sentence. "I am ashamed for these criminal acts. I always knew this day would come."