"He was a brilliant guy," one of the seamen says. "Colin was a great conversationalist."

"We're already divorced," she remembers him saying. "I got a quickie."

Lest there be any doubt about Colin's bona fides, the men in his life were treated to private viewings of his personal financial statement. After dinner, he would pull them aside — away from the ears of the wives — and reveal the wonders of his treasure chest.

It was almost pornographic: $67,500 in antique furniture alone; a 1950 Chris Craft U-22 and 1968 Chris Craft 26-foot Cavalier estimated at $72,000. When you factored in the successful media businesses, the Chisholms proudly claimed $97.3 million on paper.

Colin appeared to be passing out during his April 3 extradition hearing in Broward County, which prompted the judge to ask if he needed a doctor.
Photo by Allie Conti
Colin appeared to be passing out during his April 3 extradition hearing in Broward County, which prompted the judge to ask if he needed a doctor.
The Wishing Star — an 83-foot 1963 Trumpy yacht the Chisholms once called home —  
sails in Palm Beach in 2010.
Photo by Billy Black
The Wishing Star — an 83-foot 1963 Trumpy yacht the Chisholms once called home — sails in Palm Beach in 2010.

Best of all, Colin wasn't shy about sharing his good fortune. He found a willing pool of investors at Episcopal and Catholic churches throughout the Twin Cities. If holding out a collection plate for business endeavors seemed odd, no one questioned his motives. After all, Colin was a member of the exclusive Knights of Malta, the world's oldest surviving order with roots in the First Crusade.

A local Catholic newspaper thought so highly of Colin that he was profiled in an article about the employment ministry at the Basilica of St. Mary. After becoming a member in 2007, Colin began volunteering his time as a job coach, preaching the virtues of teamwork and encouraging his pupils to think like "C-level employees" — the executives at the top of the food chain with titles that started with "Chief."

Even more impressive were the connections he'd made as a businessman. One day at the Basilica, Colin pulled out his cell phone and rattled off contacts that included high-ranking officers at national broadcasting companies, according to Kim Ritter.

At 52, Ritter was down on her luck and questioning the value of networking events. Finally, she had found someone sincere.

"Out of all the people when I was unemployed, he made me feel good about myself," Ritter says. "He never said I couldn't do anything."

Colin's reference helped her get a full-time job, and the two maintained a friendship outside the Basilica. When she was diagnosed with cancer the following year, Colin offered to drive her to treatment. He asked a prayer group to knit her a shawl.

She sold her house in Apple Valley and moved in with her folks while looking for a smaller place. She reached out to Colin for help, noting that she'd made $20,000 off the previous home sale.

It didn't take long for Colin to get back to her with an odd request. He agreed to negotiate the purchase of a new town home but asked if he could borrow that $20,000, Ritter remembers.

Which got her thinking: Why would a successful CEO ask a sick woman for a loan?

In light of the new revelations, Ritter is compelled to ask herself today whether the friendship was ever real. Choking back tears, she says, "I don't know the answer to that question."

Colin came by his ambition honestly. His mother, Mary, became Maine's first female Democratic state senator in the fall of 1964, when he was 12. She assumed her seat from Cape Elizabeth with a promise to represent the voices of the dispossessed.

"I campaigned on them," she confidently told a reporter, "and I campaigned hard."

It would be his first taste of the spotlight. As he grew, however, Colin defied the popular knock against being a senator's son. Whereas future movers like Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney took pains to dodge the draft, Colin willingly signed up for the armed forces during the Vietnam War.

The call of duty brought Colin to the Marine Corps Air Station in Jacksonville, North Carolina. There he bought his cigarettes from a Southern belle named Virginia Nance. She hardly knew the young man but followed friends back to his apartment one night. The lawn furniture he used as a living-room set did not impress, though she was taken by his charms.

"He could sell a snowball to an Eskimo," Virginia recalls. "I loved the man."

There would be no pickup line, no pitch. Instead, Colin put on his best suit and tie and showed up at the Nance family doorway to ask for her father's blessing of the courtship. A fellow Marine, her dad approved. One dinner led to another, and a year later, in the summer of 1973, the couple said, "I do."

With the threat of war behind him, Colin moved his family — including Virginia's 4-year-old daughter, Mary Kathryn — back to New England to follow in his father's footsteps out of the armed services and into sales.

By 1980, Colin had talked his way into a job at CNN's New York office. At a media event in Atlanta, the presence of a certain mustached mogul made such an impression that Colin decided to strike out on his own.

"He wanted to become the next Ted Turner," Virginia says, "so he quit."

Over the next three decades, Colin would craft several companies out of a single idea: piping American television to cruise ships and resort hotels in the Caribbean. He relied on investors and whatever money he could scrape up from family, including $68,915 from his wife's 401(k) after an early retirement from AT&T. He struck a tentative $26 million agreement with General Electric to rebrand existing CNBC and E! programming.

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