Saturday, February 20, 2016

How the $100 Million 'NYPD Blue' Creator Gambled Away His Fortune

I've noted a couple times:
There's a reason the Hong Kong billionaires decry gambling as the worst of the vices.
There is a natural limit on how much you can spend drinking, whoring or eating before it kills you.
With gambling there is no limit and you can destroy not only yourself but the family and not just the family but future generations of the fam.
As one of my favorite translators says, "No good".
From the Hollywood Reporter:

David Milch, the storied mind also behind 'Deadwood,' changed television. Now, according to a lawsuit, the racetrack regular has lost his homes, owes the IRS $17 million and is on a $40-a-week allowance. Still, his supporters stay close: "He's brilliant.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
The Santa Anita racetrack sits in silence at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, bathed in sunlight, steaming in the heat.

As I pull into its parking lot, I'm struck by the uncommon calm. A few hundred cars are parked in perfect alignment, but space after space is empty. Perhaps that's because it's Super Bowl Sunday, and only hard-core horse-racing fans (or football haters) have peeled themselves off their couches to venture 30 minutes northeast of Los Angeles.

I pay the $1 entrance fee and place my $2 bet, and 10 minutes later I'm standing by the finish line, transfixed, as six horses thunder around the track. For a moment, it looks as if my pick, a mottled gray beauty named Rocket Heat, will break from the pack. Then he falls back. Seconds later, the race is over. Rocket Heat has come in fourth.

"How much did you lose?" a heavyset peroxide blonde asks the man standing next to me.

"Seven bucks," he answers, with a shrug.

"Well, it's either you or me," she says.

Multiply that man's losses by 17 billion, and you'll have something like the annual damage suffered by U.S. gamblers each year, a total of $119 billion in 2013, or about the same as Americans spent on fast food, according to research group H2 Gambling Capital.

Most gamblers limit themselves to modest amounts, and the average American wagers only a few hundred dollars a year. But a small percentage risk everything. Their habit has cost them pain, suffering, embarrassment and debt. They've lost houses, property, friendships, dignity, self-respect, the faith of others and perhaps their faith in themselves. They are addicts.
David Milch is one of them.

Milch, 70, is a four-time Emmy-winning writer-producer who co-created the classic series NYPD Blue and HBO's acclaimed Deadwood. A former English literature professor at Yale, he is known for his cerebral and unorthodox approach to writing, for the profanity of his dialogue and the precision of his plots, for elevating the very possibilities of the once-maligned medium in which he works.

For the past few years, he has been based in an exclusive deal at HBO and is in negotiations to renew it. He is working on an adaptation of Peter Matthiessen's novel Shadow Country, with Jeff Bridges attached to star as 19th century outlaw Edgar "Bloody" Watson. He also is devel­oping a two-hour TV movie version of Deadwood. He has admirers and fans across the spectrum of the television world, though he has not had a successful show since Deadwood ended in 2006.

"We have always felt very lucky to have had David in our family," says HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler. "It is obvious to everyone that he is a preternatural talent. What might be less obvious, because he doesn't ever talk about it, is how much time and energy he spends mentoring young writers. I think it speaks volumes about him and reflects his decency and generosity, which is one of the reasons all of us at HBO love him. Over many years, I've watched him treat everyone throughout the company with enormous respect, no matter what their title. He takes time to show his appreciation to everyone. It's why he has so many fans all throughout HBO."

Judging from the accounts of several men and women who know him well, he is a person of extreme talent but also extreme behavior. Now a lawsuit, which was filed last year and is proceeding in Los Angeles Superior Court in Santa Monica, indicates that he lost $25 million from gambling between 2000 and 2011 alone. Colleagues estimate he has earned more than $100 million across his three-decade Hollywood career, but the lawsuit reveals he is left with $17 million in debts.

That marks a breathtaking financial fall for one of the most admired creative figures ever to grace the world of television. "He's in debt to the IRS," says one friend. "He's doing what he can, but it's hard for him and everyone close to him."

A publicly available legal complaint obtained by The Hollywood Reporter and filed last year by attorneys for Milch's wife, Rita S. Milch, details the couple's finances and seeks damages from their business managers, Nigro Karlin Segal Feldstein & Bolno LLP (NKSFB), for not informing her of the full extent of her husband's losses.

These legal documents do not indicate how much Milch has made from his TV work, but a New Yorker profile of him that ran in 2005 said he earned $12 million in his last three years on Hill Street Blues, on which he was co-executive producer, and noted he had made more than $60 million from NYPD Blue, the ABC hit drama that ran for 12 seasons from 1993 to 2005. That article appeared before he was due to receive many millions of dollars more from NYPD's syndication sales. He used some of his money to buy houses in the tony Brentwood section of Los Angeles and on Martha's Vineyard, together worth more than $13 million.

But nearly everything he made is now gone.

Since Milch and his wife agreed to a payment plan with the IRS, according to the complaint, they have sold one of their two homes and put the other on the market. Real estate records indicate that the Milches sold their Brentwood house (on Moreno Avenue) for $4.8 million in May 2014, having lived there for a quarter of a century. According to Zillow, the house has six bedrooms, five bathrooms and more than "7,500 square feet of living space."

Their 22-acre Martha's Vineyard estate is listed for $8.95 million, but has not yet found a buyer. That home, built in 1880 with eight bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, was purchased for $4 million in 1996 but has liens against it. It features a guesthouse, a writer's studio and a beach cottage as well as the main building.

At the time it was first listed, Janet Federowicz, a realtor representing the property, told Variety (in that publication's words): "With their children grown they [the Milches] don't use the compound as much as in the past and it's time to pass the compound to another family."

At one point, documents obtained by THR reveal that Milch took out a loan for $3 million from Laughlin Phillips. THR could not confirm that this is the same Phillips who was a onetime CIA agent, then museum director and founder of Washingtonian magazine, or if the loan ever was repaid....MORE