Hopper was considered a class act at Lehman, where he had built up the firm’s hedge fund advisory and private client business for a decade, catering to the ultra wealthy.
He was making the rich richer at Lehman Brothers. He’d begun collecting European timepieces — and gotten himself a Porsche. He’d married his second wife and was well on his way to giving her everything her heart desired.
Charles Hopper was the portrait of a Wall Street star. Until the day in 2007 when he was driven out the door at Lehman.
The ouster was the beginning of the end for Hopper, kicking off a financial fall and an emotional ruin that provide a glimpse of the terrible legacy that lingers on, even among the wealthy, years after the economic crash.
On leafy Horseshoe Road in the Greenwich suburb of Cos Cob, past a cobblestone entry and behind whitewashed gates, Hopper left a stack of financial papers on his kitchen table and a note to his wife, Kathryn, on the couch on May 14. Then he went into the garage of his million-dollar home and hanged himself.
“It might have been a culmination of things,” Kathryn, 47, told The Post in a teary interview at their home last week in which she tried to understand what led her husband, who was 63, into such despair. “He was under tremendous financial pressure, and he felt aged out of his industry.”
Hopper grew up in Connecticut, went to college in Indiana and moved to Chicago, where he was a founder of Graystone Partners, which advised wealthy families about investing in hedge funds and private equity. In 1997, he was hired at Lehman, where his division was one of the industry’s top high net-worth management businesses.
Kathryn said she and Charlie, as he was known, met on a blind date in Chicago and married 19 years ago. His first marriage had ended in a bitter divorce that left him estranged from his three children until recently.
In New York, Hopper was considered a class act at Lehman, where he had built up the firm’s hedge-fund advisory and private-client business for a decade, catering to the ultra-wealthy.
“He was one of the elder statesmen of the asset-management advisory industry,” said a hedge-fund executive.
Along the way, he had enjoyed his wealth. He collected a dozen expensive watches, including a Rolex Daytona, Patek Philippe and Girard Perregaux, and bought a 2007 Porsche Cabriolet 4s.
A friend said Hopper earned “in the seven figures” at Lehman, mostly through a fat annual bonus. But, the friend added, he also borrowed heavily against his home about a decade ago to play the penny stock market.
Meanwhile, he was lavishly doting on his wife, the friend said. He paid for her to study urban planning at the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University, bought her expensive sculling lessons, $15,000 worth of cameras when she got into photography, and a
At one point, the friend said, Hopper even considered buying Kathryn an old Stamford, Conn., firehouse where she could work on a new interest — pottery.
It all started to collapse when he was forced out in 2007 after Lehman went on an acquisition spree and began favoring institutional clients over individuals.
“It was getting very cutthroat,” his wife said.
He struggled to find work. He did a brief stint at Citigroup but was let go after the 2008 financial crash.
The crash almost immediately decimated his net worth.
It wasn’t until August 2010 that he got a paycheck again, landing at Appomattox Advisory, which customizes hedge-fund portfolios.
There, he was earning $150,000 a year, according to a Greenwich Police Department incident report made after Hopper’s suicide.
Hopper’s age and vanishing wealth had made him insecure when it came to Kathryn, those close to him said. His hair was thinning, and he had recently undergone hip-replacement surgery.
The couple separated several years ago but reunited in 2010.
Trying to raise cash, they put their 3,200-square-foot, three-bedroom house up for sale in February 2010 for $1.795 million, but took it off the market that May.
The couple paid $1.28 million for the house in 2002 — taking out a $963,750 mortgage — but now owe about $1.9 million on the home, according to the police report. The place is currently worth between $1.2 million and $1.5 million, according to real-estate Web sites.
While friends remembered Hopper as a warm, compassionate man, they admit his troubles were made worse by his penchant for a luxurious lifestyle. Moreover, he was determined to give his younger wife whatever she wanted, a source told The Post.
The earlier separation from Kathryn had shattered him, according to friends. “He was so in love with her,” one said.
In recent years, they had talked Hopper off the ledge many times, several said, and they thought he would pull through.
The Hoppers even rented out a room to a local man they’d known for a few years. In a bizarre twist, that tenant was David Weil, 50, who was convicted in 1996 of raping a 15-year-old model in New York and defrauding young models. He was sentenced to 14 months on the federal fraud charge. In recent years, Weil has been arrested in Connecticut for failure to register as a sex offender and driving under the influence. Weil also had liens against him for failure to pay federal income taxes as well as child support and state taxes.
According to a close friend of Hopper’s, Weil had represented himself as related to the “Weil family” of Lazard, an apparent reference to Pierre and Michel David-Weill, the father-and-son team who ran the investment bank Lazard in Paris.
But the rent the Hoppers were bringing in was a drop in the bucket and, just weeks before he died, Hopper had hoped to land a higher-paying job at financial adviser Nuveen Investments. When the job fell through, it put him in a terrible funk, the friend said.
Kathryn said her husband had never mentioned suicide to her.
“His goal was always to protect me,” she added.
She denied that they had been planning to divorce, as some friends believed. “If anything, the financial problems made us stronger,” she said.
Yet in what now appears an ominous comment three months before he died, Hopper had told Weil that his life insurance would pay out in the event of a suicide, according to the police report.
His policy is believed to be worth several million.
The medical examiner has ruled Hopper’s death a suicide but did not perform an autopsy, as requested by the police. The investigation is ongoing, according to the police report.
Hopper’s professional friends are planning a memorial dinner for him later this summer.
And Kathryn said she plans to put the house up for sale yet again at the end of this month.
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