Madoff swindled Jackson Hole philanthropists

By Jim Stanford on February 8, 2009

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The carvin' crook

The carvin' crook

Billionaire bilker Bernie Madoff‘s association with Jackson Hole may have been more business than pleasure.

The Ponzi schemer, whose appearance before cameras in a Jackson Hole Mountain Resort hat touched off speculation about his ski prowess, apparently ensnared a few local bigwigs in his web of financial deceit.

Among the thousands of potential victims listed in a New York court filing this week are Jackson Hole residents Allan Tessler and his daughter, Karla, and several of their affiliated investment and charitable organizations.

Robert Smith, founder of Smith Optics who owns a home in Teton Village, also was listed along with several of his businesses.

The financial ties, first reported by the News&Guide, may lay to rest the mystery surrounding Madoff’s cap, images of which were beamed around the world. It remains possible that other titans of capitalism residing in Jackson Hole had indirect exposure to Madoff’s scheme.

Allan Tessler, at his estate atop East Gros Ventre Butte.

Allan Tessler, at his estate atop East Gros Ventre Butte.

Allan Tessler is the former CEO of Data Broadcasting Corp., among other business ventures. He is an emeritus board member of the Jackson Hole Land Trust, as the paper noted, and he and his wife, Frances, are well known for their philanthropy in the community. Frances Tessler serves on the board of the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust.

Allan Tessler also is a prominent Republican donor and was one of the chief proponents of building a graduate business school in Jackson Hole, a proposal the state spent $750,000 studying before ultimately shelving. (Lord knows a lavish training center for corporate executives would go over real well right now, given the national mood.)

He was one of the investors in the Canyon Club golf development along the Snake River, later renamed Snake River Sporting Club. The project is in bankruptcy for the second time, owing more than $90 million.

Several people with knowledge of the project said Tessler planned to rescue the development in December, but later backed off.

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Posted under Crime, Economy, Ski Resorts

1 Comment so far

  1. Ama February 11, 2009 7:38 am

    Thank you for your article. It seems that many of those who invested with the PONZ did so because they felt he nefariously invested in a front running scheme and therefore were complicit with his illegal activities. Should we feel sorry for those who indulged in such illegal motivations? As for charities who invested with him, if they too invested (reports suggest many of the people who invested with the Ponz got the wink and the nod that he was front running and therefore they were fine with that as long as they made money at others expenses) under such pretenses, should we feel sorry for the charity founders? I think we would all agree any receipients of any charity that has been sapped due to the PONZ we should feel sorry for, but I for one do not feel sorry for those who invested with this guy thinking they were doing so in a way that stole from other investors/ market participants.

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