Millionaire Hospitalized After Bipolar Spending Spree

PHOTO: Ed Bazinet, Lisa Phillips, Richard Flood arrive at the New Museum Gala & After Party Sponsored by Interview Magazine, World Trade Center 7, New York, April 6, 2011.Nicholas Hunt/
Ed Bazinet at the New Museum Gala and After Party Sponsored by Interview magazine, World Trade Center 7, New York, April 6, 2011.

One of New York City's wealthiest men went on a manic five-day spending spree, reportedly buying more than $20 million in throw pillows, furniture and wall art before checking himself in to a psychiatric clinic.

Ed Bazinet, 68 -- who, according to the book, "Richistan," by Robert Frank, made $100 million from selling miniature ceramic houses -- was hospitalized after he reportedly went wild two weeks ago at New York International Gift Fair.

The story first was reported by the news and gossip website Gawker.

Among his purchases at the gift fair, Bazinet bought nearly 100,000 units of Elizabeth W sachets, hangar covers and soaps worth $1.6 million.

Michael Lindsay, president of Elizabeth W, told ABC News that word got out at the trade show that someone chomping on a cigar was walking around making huge orders.

"I saw his name tag and knew exactly who he was," Lindsay said.

Lindsay said he questioned Bazinet, who "was getting tired of all the vendors asking him about the quantities he was purchasing."

Bazinet checked himself into the hospital, realizing he was having a bipolar incident, said his publicist, Katherine Roepke. Although she said the amount Bazinet is reported to have spent was exaggerated, she would not confirm the exact amount.

Roepke told ABC News it was the first time Bazinet had experienced a manic episode.

Today, his staff has called each vendor to cancel his orders and explain the situation, she said.

"There is no shame with seeking help for this treatable illness, and we hope that this opens a dialog to educate others," said Roepke.

Psychiatrists say that out-of-control spending is not an uncommon symptom in bipolar disorder during the high of a mood swing.

"I am not at all surprised," said Dr. Igor Galynker, a psychiatrist and the director of the Family Center for Bipolar at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "I deal in my practice with similar situations.

"When people are manic," he said, "they have an inflated self-esteem and view of themselves -- their sex appeal, their resources -- and they have the inability to process the consequences of their actions, which leads to staggering indiscretions."

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a disorder of mood and arousal. The neurological condition causes shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Usually, a first episode happens in a sufferer's early 20s, but many people are not diagnosed until a "decade later," according to Galynker. There is no cure, but treatments are effective.

Family is important in the diagnosis.

"They have a better perspective [on the patient's behavior] and they are the ones who suffer," he said. "They get ravaged when this happens. The children and their spouses are the casualties."

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), these so-called "mood episodes" are more severe than the normal ranges of life's ups and downs and can damage relationships, jobs and school performance.

One of the many symptoms is impulsive, pleasurable, high-risk behavior such as "spending sprees, impulsive sex and business investments," according to NIH.

A patient's "unrestrained spending" is different from a compulsive shopper's, according to the advocacy and support website Bipolar-Lives. In bipolar disorder, those sprees coincide with euphoria and grandiosity and "often a giddy, overly bright affect."

The compulsive shopper continues the habit year round and not in association with a manic incident.

Actress Patty Duke, the original "Parent Trap" twin, disclosed her bipolar spending in her autobiographies, "Call Me Anna," and "A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness." She described meeting two strangers in a parking lot and asking them to be business partners.

An estimated 4.4 percent of the population has bipolar disorder, according to the Family Center for Bipolar.

Ed Bazinet Could Have Mild Bipolar

Bazinet's wealth reportedly is up there with Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Warren Buffet.

"The fact that he had money may mean he is not even severely manic," said Galynker, who has not treated Bazinet. "If it were severe, he would have little money, what is called the downward drift of mental illness. They don't have much status in society and cannot do much damage unless they are aggressive."

But those with Bazinet's wealth can have mild symptoms and function seemingly normally within the context of their fast-driven worlds. They can do the most damage to those around them, according to Galynker.

"Most around them don't even realize it's an acute manic episode," he said. "He can squander $2 million and then go to work. He is in a contagious good mood. These people are charismatic, attractive to women and good salesmen, and no one sees their indiscretions and poor judgment."

He called it the "Teflon factor."

Although Bazinet is well past his 20s, Galynker said the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder may have begun earlier in his life.

"And when you are hyperactive, you can be highly productive," Galynker said. "In fact, some of his fortune may have resulted from his symptoms."

Bipolar expert Dr. Ronald R. Fieve described bipolar excessive spending in his book, "Moodswing": "The lifestyle of the manic-depressive who is in a high tends to be a glorious scattering of money," he wrote.

It can also manifest itself as giving grandiose gifts to others or overspending on pornography or prostitution.

Fieve, who works in private practice in New York City and is on the faculty of Columbia Presbyterian Hosptial, said the understanding of the disorder "is not new -- it's old hat."

In 1958, he did clinical trials on the drug lithium that was a breakthrough in the treatment of bipolar disorder.

"It's been hot news lately," said Fieve. "There is hypersexuality around the world and not just spending sprees -- the whole Eliot Spitzer story and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Celebrities such as Hollywood producer Josh Logan and CNN magnate Ted Turner also have struggled with bipolar disorder.

"Most of these people are not wealthy to begin with -- they are self-made men with incredible energy and conquer the world," Fieve said. "It starts when he drops out of college at 25 and makes a couple of million by 26 and by 28 or 29 he gets $100 million. ... He gets higher and higher with minor lows and the highs get bigger.

"[Bipolar individuals] start themselves on cocaine and alcohol and that fuels the depressed side," said Fieve.

The Bazinet story is "absolutely classic," he said. "I have treated more people on Wall Street and some pretty good scandals have come into my office over the years."

But, he cautioned, it's not the money that causes the disorder, but genetics.

"Most of them have not inherited their wealth," he said. "They begin from the bottom up and go to the top. They are incredibly ambitious and extroverted and don't need more than four of five hours of sleep a night."

"They have a father, an uncle a mother or a cousin who had a suicide or abused alcohol or who was manic depressive," said Fieve. "They are born this way."