If you are under 25 years old, you might not know the name John du Pont first hand, but you have probably heard of his family or the movie based off of part of his life, “Foxcatcher”. Du Pont’s family is one of the longest running wealthy families in United States history, and is currently worth an estimated $15 billion spread across a few thousand living relatives that have never met.
Out of the family members, John du Pont was the most notable as he was the heir to the fortune. du Pont started an amateur wrestling facility at the Foxcatcher Farm in the 1980’s that churned out some of the country’s best wrestlers. One of his biggest stars was Dave Schultz, who won a gold medal at the Olympics. Several wrestlers, including Schultz, were paranoid of du Pont’s sporadic ways, but he wasn’t busted for any crimes until he murdered Schultz in 1996.
In 1997, du Pont was sentenced to up to 30 years in prison, and he passed away after his minimum sentence of 13 years in December 2010, becoming the only person on the list of the 400 richest Americans ever to serve time in jail for murder. du Pont was incredibly wealthy by the time he went to jail, having an estimated net worth of $200 million.
du Pont was truly a strange and eccentric man, spending his money lavishly. USA Wrestling is the governing body of amateur wrestling in America, and du Pont gave them $3 million in what is considered a non-profit sport. At the Foxcatcher Farm, du Pont was even said to roam around in his tank to make sure there were no trespassers after heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped.
A somewhat failed athlete himself, du Pont wanted to be a swimmer so badly that he built himself a 50 meter long pool, but could never make the cut into the Olympic team. du Pont also spent a lot of money on his stamp collection, spending $935,000 on the British Guiana 1856 1c black on magenta stamp, one of the rarest in the world. When he died in 2010, du Pont’s precious stamp sold for more than 10 times what he paid for it.
Stamps weren’t the only expensive collectors items that du Pont wanted in his home. He also spent millions hundreds of thousands (and sometimes millions) on rare silverware, tin toys and even bought himself a fleet of horse carriages. Even while spending money on himself, du Pont would also reward his wrestlers with huge checks if they were to win big matches…and even to search the attic for ghosts.
Some thought that because of his collections and obsession with amateur wrestling that he was eclectic, while others saw this as his descent into madness that culminated in shooting Dave Schultz in the driveway of his estate three times. The signs were there, as du Pont had claimed that horses on the estate were sending him messages directly from Mars and that drugs only made it worse.
After his guilty conviction, du Pont still displayed his madness, having those that took care of his estate to change the sign to say “Foxcatcher Prison Sign”. He also ordered them to paint every building pitch black and became an eyesore to the neighborhood before it was sold for nearly $30 million before his death and was torn down in favor of high end suburban houses.
When he died in prison, du Pont was still filthy rich despite reportedly having to pay Schultz’s family a minimum of $35 million, and it was estimated that his net worth when he passed away was still $125 million. There was also an interesting part of his will that said that Bulgarian wrestler Valentin Yordanov would receive 80 percent of his estate, instantly making him one of the richest athletes ever without ever competing professionally.
What caused du Pont to act so erratically over the years is still somewhat of a mystery. Some blame the drugs, some blame mental illness, some blame his ego and others blame his high pressure upbringing in one of the world’s wealthiest families. Whatever it was, it was tragic to see how it all unfolded, especially since it cost the life of someone who didn’t deserve to have it taken from them.