Another Westporter (Unfortunately) In The News

A dozen alert “06880” readers have emailed me links to the same Wall Street Journal story.

Titled “Young Financier’s Insurance Empire Collapses,” it begins:

Alexander Chatfield Burns cut a dashing figure in young New York financial circles.

Still in his mid-20s, he controlled a private-equity firm that owned several insurance companies. He called late-night meetings at a penthouse cigar club and donated the wine for a Guggenheim museum event from a vineyard he later bought.

Then one day about a year ago, Mr. Burns checked into a mental-health ward at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, leaving behind an affidavit describing an unusual series of asset transfers. Soon after, he resigned from his company, Southport Lane Management LLC.

Now, insurance investigators are sifting through the rubble. Delaware regulators say Southport under Mr. Burns siphoned off millions of dollars of mainstream insurance holdings, replacing them with assets that were “illiquid, grossly over-valued or hard to value, worthless, and in some cases non-existent,” as the state’s insurance commissioner put it in a filing in Delaware Chancery Court….

Alexander Chatfield Burns. (Photo/WSJ.com)

Alexander Chatfield Burns. (Photo/WSJ.com)

The story continues that Burns — now 28 years old — “amassed a business including two U.S. insurance companies, two offshore reinsurers, a brokerage firm and a web of dealings with other insurers that left him in charge of investing hundreds of millions of dollars in additional assets.”

Regulators seized control of the two main insurance companies last April. One in Delaware now is being liquidated, while one in Louisiana has been sold. Insurance-company losses total nearly $250 million, based on write-downs taken, while insurers still hold tens of millions of dollars in other questionable assets, according to insurance regulatory filings and court documents.

The “06880” hook is that, according to the story, Burns grew up in Westport as “a financial prodigy.”

When he was about 13, his mother told Robert N. Gordon, a friend and head of Twenty-First Securities Corp., that her son had determined that a famed options-pricing model “was wrong” and “he had a better idea,” Mr. Gordon recalls. The model, called Black-Scholes, had won its authors a Nobel Prize. Mr. Burns’s mother, a former Citigroup Inc. executive, declined to comment.

Very interesting. What’s even more interesting is that none of the people who emailed me the WSJ story has ever heard of “Alexander Chatfield Burns.”

The article adds that Burns “attended Yale and often wore Yale apparel, and he traced his Chatfield ancestry to the Mayflower, according to former associates.” However, Yale has no record that he went there.

And Twenty-First Securities — where Burns’ resume said he “began his career” — says he was never an employee. (He may have hung around the trading room as “when he was a kid.”)

Perhaps Alexander Chatfield Burns is making up his Westport pedigree too?

10 responses to “Another Westporter (Unfortunately) In The News

  1. Good fact checking!

  2. JIll Turner Odice

    Sounds like the makings of a new movie !

  3. According to the 1/7/04 Hour, an Alexander Burns in Grade 11 at Staples received second honors. That would make him class of ’05. If he graduated at age 18, he would indeed likely be 28 today. See: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1916&dat=20040107&id=1REhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3HQFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2740,944783&hl=en

  4. I thought WSJ was coming back after the disastrous Murdoch anschluss. Maybe not.

    Still, if a movie, I propose the title: “The Junks”

  5. Marcy Fralick

    A simple Spokeo search found a 28 year old Alexander Burns as having lived at 17 W. 70th St. Unit 2, NYC, with a female named Ronni (age 62), and a male named Lex (no age listed, nickname of Alexander? Father?). Previous residents of that Unit, were the Chatfields (interesting)…no record of Mr. Burns ever living in Westport.

    I agree! Made for TV movie…..

  6. I just realized: I’m pretty certain I coached him in the Westport Rec soccer league circa the fall of 1996 or so (and he was in 4th grade at the time I believe). He was known as Lexy; his mom did work at Citibank. And I recall that he was a very bright kid.

  7. I just wanted to add that I believe the reason they moved to Westport (from Manhattan) when Lexy was in elementary school was that Lexy’s dad had died suddenly or after a brief illness and his mom had a relative in the area.