Matthew Mellon, the dashing heir to one of the world’s great banking fortunes, has become the latest victim of the opioid crisis sweeping America.
The blue-blooded ex of Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon—who was not told until he was 21 that he would inherit the Mellon millions—has died suddenly, while attending a Cancun rehab facility to try to kick his well-documented addiction to OxyContin.
Mellon was open about his addiction; in 2016, he admitted he was spending $100,000 a month and taking about 80 pills a day when he checked himself into the luxury Passages addiction-treatment center in Malibu.
At that time, he described the amount of pills he was taking as being in “the death zone.”
Mellon said he got hooked after sustaining a surfing injury: “The doctors kept writing prescriptions like they were Smarties. It’s very irresponsible,” Mellon told the New York Post’s Richard Johnson at the time.
Mellon, a former chairman of the New York Republican Party’s finance committee, was 21 when he inherited $25 million, the first of 13 trusts that would pass to him.
The inheritance came as a shock, as his mother had always maintained they were not from the “rich side” of the family.
Mellon made a fortune in recent years as an early backer of the cryptocurrency Ripple, a source of considerable pride to him, which was referenced in the statement issued by his family today:
“Billionaire Matthew Mellon, 53, died suddenly in Cancun, Mexico, where he was attending a drug rehabilitation facility. Mellon made his fortune in cryptocurrency, turning a $2 million investment into $1 billion. He is survived by his three children, Force, Olympia, and Minty. The family asks that their privacy be respected at this very painful time.”
Mellon became a fixture on the London fashion scene in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
He moved to the U.K. after falling in love with the British shoe designer Tamara Yeardye, whom he met at a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous. She was the daughter of Tom Yeardye, a stuntman who later made millions developing the Vidal Sassoon line of hair products.
Mellon lived at one of London’s most sought-after addresses, Eaton Place.
Matthew and Tamara were married in 2000 in a lavish ceremony at a stately British home, Blenheim Palace.
During the course of their marriage, Tamara developed the hugely successful Jimmy Choo brand.
But Mellon struggle to cope with his wife’s success.
“When your wife makes $100 million during the course of your marriage, it’s quite a shocker,” he said in a 2007 interview with W. “I felt like my masculinity had been stripped from me. I was no longer the big man in the relationship… I feel like my balls are in a jar, like a Damien Hirst artwork on the mantelpiece. And here I am, ball-less.”
They had one child, Araminta, but split in 2004 and later divorced.
In 2007, Mellon was hauled into a British courtroom to face charges that he had spied electronically on his wife during the divorce.
He pleaded not guilty and was cleared—thanks in part to his ex-wife’s testimony that he suffered from an inability to focus his attention.
She said Matthew struggled to read a comic book, and suggested that the idea he would be able to study a document detailing her computer keystrokes was laughable.
“Being married to Matthew was like having another child,” she told the court, “When I was married to him, I had to take responsibility for his bank accounts and bills. He is totally incapable.”
Tamara remained friends with Matthew to the extent that she was a guest when he married his second wife, Nicole Hanley, in the Bahamas.
Mellon subsequently had a relationship with the late fashion editor Isabella Blow during a period when she was separated from her husband, Detmar Blow, a gallerist, but he remained good friends with them both after the affair ended and the Blows reconciled.
He subsequently supported Blow’s decision to admit his wife, who struggled with chronic depression, to a “grim” public mental-health hospital rather than an expensive luxury facility, telling him the shock might prompt her to focus on her recovery, saying that when he had been sent to a public facility it “sure as hell” had “shook” him.
Detmar Blow told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that he believed Mellon had struggled to cope with the emotional impact of his father’s death; Mellon’s father, Karl, abandoned the family when Matthew was 5, but later re-entered his son’s life.
“He certainly made a wonderful attempt to capture the years that we lost; he was not only a father but a true friend,” Matthew told W magazine in his 2007 interview.
But in 1983, Karl committed suicide, just before Matthew’s high-school graduation from Phelps, in Pennsylvania.
“He carried the burden of his father’s death with him,” Blow said. “The demons were very strong.”
Blow said, “Of course there was a wild side—he’d get out of a Cadillac in bare feet—but there was also the business side. He was very proud of what he and Tamara achieved with Jimmy Choo shoes, although he never got much acknowledgement for it. I’m so happy for him that he made it with the cryptocurrency.
“He was a wonderful man. He was cool and savvy and a very interesting character.
“He was very kind to Isabella when we were separated, a really good friend, and I was happy for them. Isabella called him ‘Mellon Juice’ and she once rang up my mother, who was very upset for her at our separation, and said ‘Oh, you don’t need to worry about me, I’m going to marry Matthew Mellon.’”
Mellon was left a number of Isabella’s famous hats in her will after she took her own life in 2007, and he donated money to London’s Serpentine gallery in her memory.
Tributes have been paid to Mellon from a wide circle of friends on social media today.
Mellon’s investment in Ripple was a source of personal satisfaction.
He said that because of his history of drug addiction, friends and family—who thought he was “insane”—tried to dissuade him from investing in cryptocurrencies.
He told Forbes that he preferred Ripple over Bitcoin because it was seeking to work within the banking system. “Crypto is scary and dark. It’s anti-America,” said Mellon. “I am pro-America, pro-business, and pro-bank. That’s why I went with Ripple. It’s $1 billion virtually for free. I actually have earned it because I was the only person who was willing to raise his hand.”