Friends stunned by death of John Mulheren, 54


Wall Street icon and philanthropist John Mul-heren, 54, of Rumson, died Monday night at Riverview Medical Center, Red Bank.

The cause of death was cardiac arrest that followed a seizure Mulheren suffered at his Bingham Drive home about 5 p.m. on Monday.

Mulheren was transported to Riverview Medical Center, where he died later that evening, according to Rumson police Lt. Dan Petrucelli.

Friends and family were shocked and saddened at the loss of a man known for his generosity and zest for life.

"I can think of very few people who lived life with such gusto and verve," said Sea Bright Borough Attorney and friend, Scott C. Arnette, who had many dealings with Mulheren. "He was kind and very generous with his money.

"I think both personally and in my observation of how he worked with the town, it’s going to be a tremendous loss," he added. "I’m sure everybody’s heart goes out to his wife, Nancy, and the kids."

Councilman and Mayor-elect John Ekdahl, who has known Mulheren since they were teenagers, said he was shocked by the sudden death of his friend.

"It’s a tremendous loss, not just for Rumson but for the surrounding towns that he’s been generous to," Ekdahl said. "He’s done a lot, not only for Rumson, but for Sea Bright and Fair Haven."

Those sentiments were echoed by Sea Bright Mayor Gregory W. Harquail.

"He was a very philanthropic and generous gentleman," he said. "He tried to do his helping of people and the community in a quiet way. He wasn’t looking for recognition."

He said Mulheren was a reliable contributor to local police and fire departments and was very generous to many individuals as well.

"Only they will know," he added, "because he did it in such a quiet manner."

Even in the case of established charities, it would be nearly impossible to catalogue Mulheren’s generosity; he gave to literally hundreds of causes.

Harquail extended his sympathy and condolences to the family.

"Losing a loved one is a very sad thing for all, and this time of year, around the holidays, compounds it," he said.

Mulheren, who was head of Bear Wagner Specialists LLC and Bear Hunter Holdings LLC, a stock trading firm and market maker on Wall Street, had a well-earned reputation as one of the sharpest minds in the brokerage business.

At age 25, he was a managing director of Merrill Lynch, working in the arbitrage and derivative areas. He began his career at G.A. Saxton as an over-the-counter trader in options, derivatives and risk arbitrage.

From 1985 through 1998, he was a managing partner with Jamie Securities and Caronan Partners. Prior to that, he was a partner and member of the executive committee at Spear, Leeds and Kellogg.

His financial career and personal life were not without their ups and downs, however. He was implicated in the insider trading scandals of the 1980s and his personal animosity toward stock speculator Ivan Boesky, who testified in a stock manipulation case brought against Mulheren, was well known.

On two separate occasions there were reports of him threatening Boesky with a gun.

In one case it was reported that he menaced Boesky with a handgun in his Wall Street office, and in February 1988 he was arrested wile traveling on the Long Island Expressway with a shotgun in his car. At the time, police contended he was heading toward Boesky’s home intending to kill him.

In his trial for stock manipulation and insider training, Mulheren was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. That conviction was subsequently overturned by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Closer to home, Mulheren owns property in many towns and has been embroiled in various land use battles, including contentious hearings in which he was granted a use variance to convert the former Holy Rosary Church of Holy Cross Church on Rumson Road into an office building.

During the hearings on that application he threatened to pursue an affordable housing development on the site if his request for a variance for the office building was denied.

More recently, a land swap between Sea Bright and the Chapel Beach Club, which he co-owned with his wife, was called off after many residents came out to voice opposition to the deal.

For years Mulheren traveled from his home in Rumson to his office in New York via a helicopter that operated at a site in Sea Bright that was never properly granted approval for the use.

The conflicts and battles were part of a larger life in which almost all who met him recall him as gregarious and generous.

Speaking at the 2002 commencement ceremony of his alma mater, Roanoke College in Salem Va., to which he donated more than $500 million over the years, Mulheren opened his remarks saying, "As I recall, the last time I was in front of a group this large, I think the day started with the statement, ‘May the defendant please rise.’"

The sense of humor extended even to his well-documented battle with manic depression. In a nod to his disorder the ice cream store he owned on River Road bears the colorful moniker Crazees.

Jody Calendar, of Tinton Falls, a friend of Mulheren’s since their days at Red Bank Catholic High School, added to the chorus who remember Mulheren as a very kind and generous person who had a lot of fun along the way.

"He really was bigger than life," she said. "He couldn’t get enough of life."

Mulheren is survived by his wife Nancy, a real estate manager and investor, and their seven children, Alexander "Sandy," Nora, Clark, Timothy, Dakota, Harley and Wyatt. He is also survived by his sisters Maureen Mulheren, Colleen Wood, Patricia Skinner, Katie Cabrera and brother Michael Mulheren.

In a tribute to his philanthropic efforts, the family has established JAM Anonymous Foundation. Contributions can be sent in care of: Rumson Management, 95 Avenue of Two Rivers, Rumson, New Jersey 07760.

Visitation will be held at Rumson Holy Cross today, Friday, Dec. 19 at 10 a.m. followed by a funeral service at 11 a.m.