Fairfield Greenwich's Noel Family: Not That Big Into Charity

Walter Noel and his wife Monica don’t regard themselves as wealthy, and their charitable donations appear to bear this out. In 2006, the Walter and Monica Noel Family Foundation handed out just $169,000, most of it distributed in tiny amounts of $250 or $500.

In many ways, the Noel’s lived a grand life that you might associate with the very wealthy. Walter ran a fund of funds that handled billions of dollars and took in hundreds of millions. They own five homes: a Greenwich mansion, an apartment on Park Avenue, a classic Southampton mansion called “Dolphins, a place in Palm Beach, and a huge resort like home on the private island of Mustique.

But unlike wealthy Madoff associates like Frank Avellino, Michael Bienes or even Madoff himself, the Noels don’t seem especially well known for their charity. They were certainly involved in lots of organisations that may be non-profit or even charitable, but this may have arisen from their desire to appear as members of the New England aristocracy rather than a spirit of giving.

We don’t know much about the Noels, of course. It goes without saying that we’ve never met. Nevertheless, if ever we are satisfied they were purely innocent victims of Madoff’s crimes, having been duped despite living up to their promises of diligence and monitoring, we will mostly likely feel bad for them.

We had only heard of Noel family once before we learned they had helped incinerate billions of investor money. That was in a 2002 Vanity Fair profile called “Golden in Greenwich” (apparently not online) that we don’t recall very much about except that we emerged with a slight feeling of disgust. Their daughters were supposedly beautiful and wealthy, which found an attractive combination. Unfortunately, they were mostly married to men who were willing to go work for Walter.

But we do know that when we speak to people about one time Madoff fund raiser Avellino, for instance, they gush about his overwhelming generosity. Madoff himself was famous for his giving, often giving anonymously. The Noels? Well, yes, they attended the right charity balls and parites. But as far as we can tell, they lived within their mental means, as people who apparently didn’t regard themselves as wealthy in spirit despite the size of their bank accounts. One wonders what will become of them now.

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