Scott and Kim Rothstein's million-dollar wedding at the Versace mansion. The public pronouncements about how nothing was more important to him than his wife. The countless photographs of the couple in society publications, playing the role of Broward royalty.
Behind the Rothstein facade, behind the $6.5 million house, the millions in jewelry, the finest automobiles in the world, the gold-plated toilets, Kim Rothstein described a life of isolation and discontent. She said Rothstein was consumed by his work, never slowed down, and kept accelerating at a more and more frantic pace until everything collapsed.
She said that not only did she have no idea that he was running a Ponzi scheme but that she didn't even know what one was until she looked it up after the news broke that her husband's scheme had imploded.
"He just kept getting more and more and more. I never saw the numbers. I couldn't tell you about the billable hours. He kept work separate from me. Everything was attorney-client privilege," she said. "He password-locked me out of everything -- his phone, his computer. I would get irritated; I would get angry. If you don't want to talk about work, which is all you do, what the hell do you want to talk about then?
"I would ask him, 'Why do you keep buying these businesses when you already don't have any time? It was like he couldn't help himself. It was compulsive behavior. He didn't like it when I confronted him with stuff like that. I learned to pick and choose my battles with him. He was so stressed, I didn't want him to take his stress out on me. He didn't like me inquiring about his business."
By the end, she says, her life was almost as frantic as her husband's.
"With the real estate, I tried to start a concierge service. I said, 'You have all these properties; let's try to do something with them.' He was so busy that my life was just supporting him," Kim said. "Stuff was falling off his plate left and right, and I was trying to pick up the
pieces. He wouldn't show up where he said he would show up, so I would have to go. I went to [Bova] restaurant meetings -- 'How are things going with the restaurant? What are the numbers like? Does anybody have any idea what's going on?' I had a background in the restaurant business, and I would give Scott updates.
"And I went to the events all the time. He had a thing where he couldn't say no to charities. Instead of picking four or five that he could help a lot, he picked 30 that I had to get scatterbrained about. It was a lot. It was too much. I was running around frantic."
But she says all she really wanted was a semblance of a normal life, and that was something Rothstein couldn't begin to give her. After the spectacle of a wedding at Casa Casuarina, there wasn't even a honeymoon. Rothstein immediately went right back to work.
"The only thing I ever wanted was his time," she said. "He couldn't understand why I couldn't be happy. He would say that I can have anything I want, why can't I be happy? But you have to understand, he could do no wrong. So it meant I must be being selfish.
"At the end, I began to resent the jewelry. It became an apology. 'I'm sorry I can't be in your life. I'm sorry we don't talk.' With the jewelry and the all the other things, in the end you can't take it with you. I'm the same person whether I have a million dollars or one dollar. It doesn't change me. I was always the same person."
The hardest part of it all, she says, was the waiting.
"I hated waiting for him to come home," Kim said. "He was not the best at returning phone calls and text messages. I got a phone call a day, maybe. He would come home on average at about 9, sometime a little earlier, sometimes later. And he was baked; he was fried from the day. He would be starving. I made him dinner, and he would stare at the TV. You couldn't talk to him; he was like a zombie. He was fried. Whatever kind of day he had, he was used up before he got home to me. He was done."
One member of Rothstein's social circle told me that Kim basically became like a mannequin. She was there as part of the show, but she wasn't allowed to do anything, like she was trapped in a luxurious prison.
There are also the stories of other women, of his trips to Solid Gold, of the stripper Rothstein kept in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton on Fort Lauderdale Beach, where he sometimes took Kim for breakfast. When I asked her about that, her eyes instantly filled with tears. "I'm not going to talk about that now," Kim said.
Later, during a lighter moment, she quipped, "Maybe he had the time-management skills of Tiger Woods."
"All I wanted was a family, to do normal things like other people," she said. "We did none of that. It was like a whirling dervish. He had this charisma. He had this thing where he could stand out in a crowd. He was built to socialize. It was his thing."
They traveled outside the country three times, once to London and twice to the Bahamas.
"The London trip had to do with Silversea [Cruise Lines, which Rothstein represented]," she said. "I was so excited about going. He had a partner with him, I won't say who, and they did not leave the hotel. They worked the whole time. I literally saw London all by myself. I did sight-seeing with the wife of the business partner. It was such a shame. I had to go with the wife. We saw Big Ben; he worked the entire time. We had dinner at the hotel. He worked the entire day.
"For the Bahamas, one time it was for the RRA retreat, and once it was our one-year wedding anniversary. We didn't go on a honeymoon, and I always threw that in his face. So we spent a weekend there, and by the end of it, he was ready to get the hell out of there. He is not like the islands, laid-back; he's a city guy. For him to be stuck on an island alone with me, I'm sure he was ready to lose it."
She said there was only one place Rothstein seemed to be able to relax: On the yacht. He bought the 87-foot Warren, which he named Princess Kimberly, as a surprise gift for her in early 2009.
"He brought it home and surprised me with it," she said. "I was working, and he called me and said I want to meet you at the house. I didn't know what to think -- he didn't usually call me during the day. It was very cute. There were candles lit and there was music playing from the Titanic movie. He gave me a little presentation... I'm going to cry talking about it."
She composed herself and continued.
"We'd go out on the boat on a free day on the weekend," she said. "The only time I ever saw him relax was on the boat. Most of the time, we'd just go up and down the Intracoastal. We never went anywhere exotic. We never went far."
As the year went on, Rothstein worked himself more and more ragged, and his behavior became more erratic. When he lashed out at me and I wrote the "Jewish Avenger" cover story about him, she says she related to the article.
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"I loved that story," she said. "I went out and got it. He actually got a really big kick out of it too, the superhero thing. He could be vicious, and he could be sweet. We would get in arguments like that too. I would just sit there and listen. I got used to it -- it rolled off my back. You get used to that kind of personality."
One day in late October, she says, he told her he was going on a business trip out of town. She says he didn't ask her to come along. He didn't tell her anything was wrong. He seemed his normal workaholic self.
She says she didn't even know he was going to Morocco.
[One installment to go; expect it out later today].