Louis Ellwood Wolfson, the controversial industrialist/financier who owned 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed and went to prison for selling unregistered stocks -- an event linked to the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas in 1969 -- died Sunday, on his 35th wedding anniversary, at his Bal Harbour home.
He was 95 and had been afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and colon cancer.
Born Jan. 28, 1912, in St. Louis, Mo., Wolfson grew up in Jacksonville, a junkman's son and college dropout who became one of the world's richest men. At the time of his death, he was married to the former Patrice Jacobs, whose father was the famous trainer Hirsch Jacobs.
His first wife, Florence Mosky Wolfson, died of cancer in 1968.
Louis E. Wolfson is not part of the Wolfson family associated with Miami-Dade College or the Wolfsonian museum.
He boxed as ''Kid Wolf'' in his teens, was an All-Southern end for Jacksonville's Andrew Jackson High School, played football at the University of Georgia and made a fortune in business -- initially with construction and ship-building operations. He mounted an unsuccessful hostile takeover of Montgomery Ward and Co. in 1955, and in 1960 established Harbor View Farm in Marion County, where he bred generations of winning Thoroughbreds and brought three sons -- Gary, Steve and Marty -- into the racing industry.
He sold the operation in 1977, won the Eclipse Award as nation's outstanding owner/breeder in 1978 and again in 1979 as outstanding owner.
He tried unsuccessfully to buy Louisville's Churchill Downs -- home of the Kentucky Derby -- in 1985, for $46.1 million.
In 1951, Wolfson was named chairman of the board of Merritt-Chapman & Scott, an industrial conglomerate that built Arizona's Glen Canyon Dam. He was 39 and already had a formidable business track record.
Even before dropping out of the university as a senior, Wolfson was running Florida Supply & Pipe with one of his brothers. They changed the name to U.S. Wolfson Bros., and became one of the nation's leading mill suppliers.
He became a principal stockholder in Capital Transit Co., which operated all of the nation's capital's surface transportation, and of American Motors Corp.
But by the mid-1960s, he was facing securities-related criminal indictments: one for conspiracy to defraud Merritt stockholders in a stock-purchase plan, the other for allegedly selling $2.5 million unregistered stocks.
The second charge stuck. Federal juries convicted him of selling $2.5 million in unregistered stock, a charge he denied. Wolfson served almost a year at Eglin Air Force Base's minimum-security prison, an experience that turned him into a prison-reform advocate.
The case indirectly brought down Justice Fortas, who accepted $20,000 from Wolfson's family foundation before Wolfson's indictment. He returned the money afterward but it was too late to save him from disgrace, and he resigned.
In April 1969, preparing for prison, Wolfson told the Wall Street Journal that he didn't know he was doing anything wrong.
``I didn't use any fictitious names in selling the stock. No Swiss banks. When I made the sale, I reported it to the SEC. I'd have had to be an idiot to do anything willfully wrong.''
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Published in The Miami Herald from Dec. 31, 2007 to Jan. 5, 2008