Adela Holzer, Whose Fall From Grace Was Theatrical, Is Dead

Adela Holzer, Whose Fall From Grace Was Theatrical, Is Dead

In the same article, Mark Tepper, who prosecuted Ms. Holzer’s 1979 case as an assistant New York attorney general, called her “one of the cleverest and most successful white-collar criminals in the history of this state.”

Ms. Holzer’s theater career began when she invested in the Broadway production of “Hair,” the blazingly original counterculture musical that ran for four years after its move from an Off Broadway theater in 1968. Magazine and newspaper articles recounted her good fortune, turning a $57,000 investment into more than $2 million. New York magazine later reported that she had put in only about $7,500 and earned $115,000 or so.

Whatever the exact numbers were, Ms. Holzer was inspired to do more theatrical investing. Her next shows included hits like “Lenny” and “Sleuth.” But she wanted to be a hands-on producer, not just a signer of checks. One of her first efforts, “Dude,” a 1972 musical by two of the creators of “Hair,” bombed with a vengeance, closing after 16 performances. But she persisted.

In 1975, she was riding high. Then she wasn’t. By the next spring, she had produced three new Broadway flops: The Scott Joplin opera “Treemonisha” held on for almost two months, but both “Truckload” and “Me Jack, You Jill” closed in previews. She followed those with “Something Old, Something New,” starring Hans Conried and the Yiddish theater star Molly Picon; it closed on opening night, Jan. 1, 1977.

At that point, theater was the least of Ms. Holzer’s problems. She had declared bankruptcy seven weeks earlier. She had been arrested on fraud charges over the summer and was free on $50,000 bail, awaiting the first of the three criminal trials that would shape the rest of her life.

The indictment, which finally came in 1979, was for a classic Ponzi scheme: paying her earliest victims “profits,” which were really just funds from her next group of investors, and so on. One of those early investors was Jeffrey Picower, who was later implicated in the Bernie Madoff scandal, a much larger Ponzi scheme.

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