PARIS — Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet saw his fortune and his loved ones' money disappear along with his clients' when he lost $1.4 billion he had invested with Bernard Madoff, the French financier's brother said.
Magon de la Villehuchet, 65, was found dead at his desk in New York on Tuesday, both of his wrists slashed and a bottle of pills nearby.
His brother said Magon de La Villehuchet invested virtually all his own funds, along with money from friends and family, with Madoff, who was arrested Dec. 11 and allegedly told FBI agents he had masterminded a $50 billion fraud.
Magon de la Villehuchet "invested his own fortune," up to several tens of millions of dollars, his brother Bertrand Magon de la Villehuchet told The Associated Press on Friday.
"He was totally ruined," and so was his business partner Patrick Littaye, Bertrand said in a telephone interview from his home on Paris' chic Place des Vosges.
"At first he thought he'd be able to get the money back. He was very determined. Gradually he realized he wouldn't be able to," Bertrand said.
"My brother was a man of simple tastes," Bertrand said. "He was a very modest man."
"A lot is being said about him, like that he flew in by helicopter to his chateau _ that's not true," said Bertrand, 74.
An avid sailor, the younger Magon de la Villehuchet had begun investing with Madoff "three or four years ago," his brother said.
"He trusted Madoff completely," Bertrand said. The two men had been introduced by Littaye, Rene-Thierry's partner in the fund he ran, Bertrand said. Rene-Thierry raised the money he placed with Madoff from friends and family, including his brother.
Bertrand said he's lost 20 percent of his savings in the scam, which he said was much less than what his brother lost.
Contrary to what some analysts say now, Bertrand said the returns on his investment with Madoff were not too good to be true.
"Over four years my gain was 17 percent, that's not crazy," he said.
The Frenchman's fund was among the biggest losers in the Madoff fraud, and one of a handful to get taken for more than $1 billion.
Other famous names reported to have lost their investment with Magon de la Villehuchet include L'Oreal cosmetic empire heiress Lilliane Bettencourt, listed by Forbes as the world's richest woman. Bertrand Magon de la Villehuchet said he couldn't confirm the names of any of his brother's investors outside the family.
Bertrand said he spoke with his brother almost every day. The last time they met was in Paris in October, Bertrand said.
Bertrand said he'll be joining class action lawsuits against Madoff and the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wall Street's regulator.
The Magon de la Villehuchet family traces the origins of its wealth to the 17th century, when Rene-Thierry and Bertrand's ancestors made a fortune in shipping, said Georges le Gorgeu, a local historian in Plouer-sur-Rance, the town in Brittany where the Magon de la Villehuchet family has owned a chateau for several hundred years.
The family was so rich and prominent that it loaned money to France's Sun King, Louis XIV, who ennobled them, le Gorgeu said. Many of Rene-Thierry and Bertrand's aristocratic ancestors died on the guillotine during the French revolution, le Gorgeu said.
Rene-Thierry, who was married and had one sister, spent every August at the chateau, his brother said. In recent years he'd invested a considerable sum to renovate the chateau and protect its archives, which date back to 1200, le Gorgeu said.