Obituary: David Paul, former president of Miami CenTrust, dies at 82


In a 1993 Miami Herald file photo, former CenTrust chairman David Paul is seen in a Greater Miami office.

In a 1993 Miami Herald file photo, former CenTrust chairman David Paul is seen in a Greater Miami office.

Miami Herald File

David Lewis Paul – the famously opulent and brilliantly detail-oriented founder of CenTrust Bank in Miami whose dizzying fall stood out as one of the most infamous instances of the savings and loan crisis of the late 1900s. 1980s – died, his family said. He was 82 years old.

Paul died Tuesday morning in a Manhattan hospital from complications related to COVID, his daughter Deanna Paul said.

In 1992, federal prosecutors charged Paul, the president of CenTrust Savings Bank of Miami, with 69 counts of tax evasion and using CenTrust money for personal gain, namely the 3, $2 million spent on his La Gorce Island home, according to Miami Herald reports.

Paul also pleaded guilty to 29 violations of securities laws, such as racketeering and lying to regulators. The charges focused primarily on CenTrust’s financial dealings with other scandal-ridden institutions, “including junk bond powerhouse Drexel Burnham Lambert and rogue financial institution Bank of Credit and Commerce International, founded by a Pakistani financier,” according to the Herald.

In 1993 he was convicted of 68 counts of bank fraud and 29 securities law violations and sentenced to 11 years at Miami-Dade Southwest Federal Correctional Institution.

“His final sentence was, at the time, one of the longest given to a white-collar criminal in United States history,” the Herald reported.

“I would say 75 to 80 percent of the people I used to hang out with never spoke to me,” Paul told the Herald in an interview from inside federal prison in 2002.

“I think I’m a better person for going through that,” Paul said in the interview. “But there are other ways to get there.”

The roots of Miami Beach

Born in Miami Beach on May 1, 1939, Paul moved with his family to New York as a child. His father, Isadore, had founded a chain of dry-cleaning stores and died when his son was 10.

Paul then attended Cheshire Academy in Connecticut, received his bachelor’s degree from Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania, and earned both his master’s degrees in business administration and doctorate in law from Columbia University.

In 1983, Paul moved back to Miami Beach and took over a failing savings named Dade Savings across the street and renamed it CenTrust. Housed in its famous CenTrust Tower building (now Miami Tower) designed by IM Pei, the bank would see its facade become a national image thanks to the airing of NBC’s groundbreaking Friday night crime show, “Miami Vice.” The series ran for five seasons from 1984 to 1989.

Attention to detail

Pei designed the building, but it was Paul who transformed the CenTrust Tower into one of Miami’s most extravagant showcases for those who passed through its front doors.

“You meet a lot of people who know a little bit of a lot. David Paul knew a lot about a lot of things,” added his friend and former CenTrust colleague Lee Brian Schrager, who went on to found the Food Network’s popular South Beach Wine & Food Festival a decade later in 2002.

Schrager became Executive Vice President of Administrative Services at CenTrust in 1987 and worked alongside Paul until the bank went public in the early 1990s. for the executive dining room.

And his friend was a brilliant teacher. “Rough and gruff” sometimes, of course, Schrager said. But he had an eye for detail.

“I probably learned more about luxury, and not just luxury but a luxury lifestyle, from David than I learned from anyone,” Schrager said. “He just knew all the little details of linen, porcelain, crystal, glassware. I will never forget traveling with him to France to buy linens and learn how to hang linens properly. I never even knew that.

Schrager remembers walking through the lobby of the CentTrust Tower before it opened to the public while Paul inspected the work. Paul walked on the marble floors and scored with yellow sticky dots. He used the marks to note imperfections. He insisted that the pieces of marble that did not meet his approval be removed.

The CenTrust offices would have featured gold-plated plumbing and gold-leaf ceilings and a million-dollar Italian marble staircase. According to reports from the Herald, Paul has amassed a $30 million collection of Old Master paintings for CenTrust’s executive suite. The centerpiece was a $13.2 million Rubens that ended up hanging in Paul’s mansion.

“He really had the most extraordinary attention to detail. And he knew really, well, how to entertain and how to do it right,” Schrager said.

Schrager remembers his phone ringing at 6 a.m. Miami time. At the other end of the line, Paul from the French ambassador in Paris. He loved chefs, he told Schrager, and had a brilliant idea to fly six of France’s discerning chefs to Miami to serve at a large, private charity dinner that Paul had planned.

Paul’s charitable interests

Schrager also credits Paul with helping bring the New World Symphony to Miami. When Michael Tilson Thomas was first hired to conduct the new symphony, he lived for a time in a guesthouse with Paul and his then-wife, Sandra.

During the CenTrust years, Paul also reportedly donated $500,000 to the University of Miami and $100,000 to Barry University, in addition to serving on the board of Jackson Memorial Hospital.

A girl’s acceptance and love

Paul’s children refused, at that time, to discuss their father’s death.

His daughter Deanna, a former New York prosecutor, became a journalist for the Washington Post. She wrote a moving article about her relationship with her father for the Post in 2020 after they reconciled following his release from prison in 2004.

“I struggled with the stigma of having an incarcerated father, and my attitude towards him changed,” she wrote in her essay titled “When my dad went to jail, I wrote him off. We found a way to get back together.”

Deanna Paul closed her Post feature as follows:

In 2014, after I began to study my father’s legal history and learned to view his incarceration with more sympathy, I wrote him an email – to remind him that I, too, was always thinking of him and to tell him how much I had come to regret the distance I had kept. “I am so proud to call you my father. I admire you, I tell him. “For your love, support, resilience and guidance, I will be forever grateful. And know that I still love you, with all my heart.

A familiar ping quickly bounced off my phone. My dad had emailed a response: “WOW . . . nothing to say except I’m proud of you and love you love you . . . love dad.

Survivors, services

Besides his daughter Deanna, Paul is survived by his sons Michael and David, his brother Robert, four grandchildren and his longtime partner, Fritzie. He will be buried in New York.

This story was originally published January 19, 2022 8:03 p.m.

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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, winner of the 2017 Media Excellence Awards, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, city government and general missions. He began his career in the Features department of the Miami Herald in 1991.
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