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May 22, 2018

Up Front

Lessons Learned From Dethroned Banking King

Florida Trend's First Ex-con Icon: David L. Paul,

Andrew P. Corty | 7/1/2010

Andy Corty
Andy Corty, Publisher

The monthly “Icon” feature always gets rave reviews from Florida Trend readers, who get unguarded glimpses into the characters of well-known people with fascinating personalities and life histories.

When we started this feature in 2006, we weren’t sure if we’d find enough recognizable “icons” to keep it going this long. We’ve covered sports stars such as Don Zimmer, former governors, including Claude Kirk, Bob Martinez and Reubin Askew, and other luminaries such as former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. And we still have a long list of prospects.

This month, David L. Paul becomes our first ex-con Icon. Though perhaps not familiar to all current readers, Paul was a transformative figure in Miami, in Florida and in national banking through his leadership of the savings and loan known as CenTrust.

Paul built the I.M. Pei-designed tower that graces Miami’s skyline. He was active philanthropically, from the arts to diversity education for school kids. He was a Democratic Party patron. His S&L helped finance cruise lines and the construction of what was once called Joe Robbie Stadium.

Paul’s dealings with Drexel Burnham Lambert and junk bond king Michael Milken helped make CenTrust Florida’s largest S&L. In a memorable 1992 article, Florida Trend offered glimpses of Paul’s phone message log, replete with names of the rich, famous and powerful. Paul embodied a kind of personified banking presence Florida hasn’t seen since Barnett Bank was sold and the state marketplace got gobbled up by out-of-state giants.

As a leader in his industry, Paul was a lightning rod to regulators; he was a vocal critic of those regulators and of measures taken in the nation’s last financial crisis, the S&L meltdown of the late 1980s.

Floridians who remember the era will recall tales of lavish living, a yacht, art masterpieces in Paul’s home, gold-plated fixtures and an outsized salary. You may also remember that Paul served nine years in prison for financial misdeeds at CenTrust, which at the time was one of the largest failures in U.S. banking history, costing the government $1.7 billion.

South Florida editor Mike Vogel’s interview with Paul is the former banker’s first since leaving prison in 2004. Though convicted on multiple charges by a jury, Paul maintains his innocence and offers to rebut the charges against him, whether they were made in a law court or the court of public opinion. It’s worth hearing from this dethroned banking king, especially as we are in the midst of a new financial crisis and Paul sees unhappy parallels.

Vogel, a 10-year veteran at Florida Trend, was just named a finalist in the business reporting category of the Green Eyeshade Awards offered by the Society of Professional Journalists. The honor comes for his September ’09 article “A Matter of Chemistry,” about travails at Dyadic International, a promising enzyme maker in Jupiter.

New Year’s Resolution Update: Last month, when I had coffee (no cream) with Mayor Ken Bradley in his beautiful hometown of Winter Park, he mentioned working off some pounds gained in his first year on the job. He’s doing great with the help of a low-impact training regimen. And I can report my own loss of 3 pounds in May, for a YTD total of 11 pounds. I won’t report my gym attendance for a reason you can readily guess.

— Andy Corty

Tags: Publisher's column

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