WBIX owner attempts suicide, said to admit scam
Several hours after Bradford C. Bleidt, an investment manager who owns Boston radio station WBIX, drove home from a festive station party last week at one of the city's most exclusive hotels, he attempted suicide. On Friday, Securities and Exchange Commission agents in Boston received a tape in the mail that explained why.
Bleidt confessed on the tape that he bought the business news station with money that he diverted from his clients' investment accounts, according to an SEC complaint. He said he had misappropriated "tens of millions" of dollars of his clients' money over 20 years.
The "day of reckoning" arrived last week when a client, identified by SEC officials as a Greek Orthodox church, wanted $1.5 million of its money, Bleidt says on the tape, which the SEC said he made before he attempted suicide.
"There is a client that needs a million and a half dollars wired into their account that's supposed to be there this morning, and obviously it's not going to be there this morning because the money's gone. I stole it. I used it to buy a radio station, believe it or not," Bleidt said on the tape.
Bleidt's friends and associates were struggling to believe the sudden unraveling of his life yesterday as he lay in critical condition in a Boston hospital and SEC agents worked to freeze his assets and the assets of one his two investment businesses, Allocation Plus Asset Management Company Inc.
SEC agents secured Bleidt's offices on Portland Street in downtown Boston on Friday and began reviewing records for clues about investors who may have been victimized.
The commission released court documents relating to the case yesterday after a request from the Globe. Investigators for Secretary of State William Galvin's securities division suspended Bleidt's license as an investment adviser Friday.
Bleidt's wife, Bonnie, a business reporter for WBZ4, the Boston CBS television affiliate, declined to comment yesterday, said a spokesman for WBIX. Bonnie Bleidt has served as president of WBIX. The Channel 4 website also lists her as a financial planner with her husband's second investment company, Financial Perspectives Planning Services Inc.
The exact circumstances of the suicide attempt at Bleidt's home in Manchester-by-the-Sea could not be learned yesterday. Ronald W. Ramos, the town's police chief, said he could not release details, because it was a medical matter. But friends said Bleidt seemed despondent Wednesday night as he left a WBIX celebration at the Boston Harbor Hotel on Rowes Wharf to drive home alone.
The station threw the party to mark the station's new 24-hour format and the pending ownership transfer from Bleidt to Christopher Egan, the son of
Egan recognized Bleidt during formal remarks and credited him with setting the vision for the station's business format.
The honorary host was Paul Guzzi, chief executive of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. The second-floor room overlooking the harbor was full of media and advertising executives.
Bleidt, 50, felt passionately about WBIX, one of the few independent stations specializing in business news in the country, said business associates. But, as it turned out, he did not own it for long.
He agreed to buy the station in November 2002 for $13.2 million, but that deal was not completed until last January. Bleidt announced just six months later that he was selling the station to Egan for an undisclosed price; that deal is supposed to be sealed this month.
George Regan, president of Regan Communications Group, who spoke for WBIX yesterday and who was at the Boston Harbor Hotel gala, said Bleidt seemed depressed when he spoke to him at the party.
"He wished he did a better job with the station, and he was passing it onto a younger generation that could do a better job," Regan said. "Brad was never a broadcaster, but his heart was in the right place."
Another executive at the party, who is familiar with the station's operation but declined to be identified, said it was a shame that WBIX, a scrappy independent in an era of group-owned media companies, was now associated with such a sad event.
"It's a good and decent and valuable thing to have locally owned stations in big markets. There's almost none left," the executive said. "Toward the end, Brad might have got himself into trouble, and it went bad."
Regan said the SEC investigation and Bleidt's suicide attempt were not expected to interfere with the station transfer to Egan, who has been managing the station since Aug. 1.
But Silvestre Fontes, senior counsel for the SEC's Boston office, said the station's fate remains to be seen. All of Bleidt's suspected assets will be placed in the hands of a receiver who will analyze their status and value, Fontes said.
Fontes said Bleidt sounded upset on the tape that he mailed to the SEC, which was quoted amply in the civil complaint the commission filed in US District Court late Friday afternoon.
"It clearly was the case of someone who had come to a reckoning," Fontes said.
Fontes would not identify which Greek Orthodox church had requested its $1.5 million, triggering the chain of events last week. He said investigators will be poring through records trying to verify Bleidt's assertion that he had cheated investors out of tens of millions of dollars.
The SEC complaint said that Allocation Plus Asset Management had $85 million under management.
On the tape, Bleidt says he improperly transferred investors' funds into an account at Sovereign Bank and had enough money to cover most clients' requests; he said he prepared monthly statements for "close to 100 clients, at least."
"I'm sick," he said on the tape, calling himself a "pyschopath" and a "monster."
"I'm deeply sorry, and I don't expect to ever be forgiven for this," he said. "I'm going to hell, and I've been in hell for years, just with the terror knowing what I've done and the guilt of who I'm doing it to."