February 2, 2009
FLY FISHERMEN maybe the next subculture tangled up in the Madoff mess, thanks to Bernard Madoff’s younger son, Andrew. As the alleged $5o billion Ponzi scheme continued to claim victims including Manhattan philanthropists, Florida retirees, and Minnesotans (see page 8o), anglers worried how its fallout might affect Abel Automatics, a California-based maker of fly-fishing gear part-owned by Andrew Madoff, 42. Andrew, like his brother, Mark, 44, worked at the separate market-making side of the family firm and frequents fly-fishing hot spots like Baja California and the Catskills…
Abel is not the first time Madoff fits put his own money where his passion was. Until 2007 he was an investor in Urban Angler, a New York City-based retailer. (Another investor is Robert Rubin.) A split with the shop’s owner, Jonathan Fisher, who described it as a matter of “different management styles,” led Andrew and another investor, Catherine Hooper-a mini-celeb among anglers after appearing in a bikini on the cover of Fish & Fly-to leave and invest in Abel. The split might have been more than just business, suggests flyfishing journal The Drake. It wrote on its website that Hooper, who had earlier been in a relationship with Fisher, was now dating soon-to-be-divorced Andrew, with whom she has recently been photographed hopping. (A spokesman for Andrew declined to comment on personal matters; the others could not be reached.)
Anglers are hoping Andrew’s new flyfishing project won’t be drawn into the Madoff pere scandal. Abel is a premier brand, making reels that cost up to $2,000. Fortunately for Abel, no one has so far accused Madoff’s family of having any knowledge of (or role in) Bernie’s alleged scheme, and Abel says it has not been contacted by any lawyers or federal authorities.
Even if Andrew had bought his stake using money generated by the Ponzi schemegains that any Madoff investor could in theory have to hand over to the government-the obligation wouldn’t transfer to Abel. “If you get rich from a Ponzi scheme and buy a boat,” explains Faegre & Benson defense attorney Bill Leone, “the seller doesn’t have to turn over the money.” Even if Andrew is off the hook legally, it hasn’t saved him from the ire of some fishermen. One online commenter at The Drake wrote of Andrew: “His casting sucks. I will not, even if I could afford it, buy an Abel reel.” Ouch. That’s disheartening if Andrew wants to switch from financier to full-time angler.
– Telis Demos