The wealthy head of multi-billion dollar private equity firm is under investigation by Nantucket Police and the state Environmental Police for purposefully untying a 32-foot boat from a slip at Old North Wharf, allowing it to drift out of the Easy Street Basin and into the ferry lane.
The suspect is Marc Wolpow, the co-CEO and co-founder of the The Audax Group, who allegedly found an unknown boat in the slip he uses on Old North Wharf on the morning of Sunday, Oct. 16. Believing it should not have been tied up there, Walpow taped signs to the boat’s interior GPS screens that read “Parking By Permit Only. Violators Will Be Towed" and then untied the vessel, allowing it to float free into the Easy Street Basin.
The 32-foot Hunt center-console boat - ironically named "Fair Play" - is worth approximately $500,000. After Wolpow untied it, the boat drifted dangerously past Steamboat Wharf, got pushed northward in the wash of the car ferry the M/V Woods Hole, then collided with the $5 million, 70-foot Viking sportfishing boat "El Jefe" causing damage to that vessel. It eventually ran aground near 22 Easton Street.
Reached by phone this week, Wolpow declined to comment.
The ongoing investigation into the incident was confirmed to the Current by both the Nantucket Police Department and the state Environmental Police. Others involved in the situation told the Current the individual identified as a suspect by authorities is Wolpow. It’s unclear if he will face charges, but a source with knowledge of the investigation said authorities are indeed considering charging him.
At the time of the incident, the Fair Play was under the care of Nantucket fisherman Bruce Beebe, who was preparing to deliver it to the MacDougalls marine yard on the Cape for its winter layup. Beebe has his own slip on Old North Wharf, and received permission from wharf co-op representative Chris Quick to tie up the boat for the night at another slip that is normally used by Wolpow, as it was wider and due to the fact that Wolpow had already hauled his boat for the season.
But after attending mass at St. Mary's church the following morning, Beebe showed up at Old North Wharf to find the 32-foot vessel missing.
"I went down there and the boat wasn't there," he said. "No lines, nothing."
After searching the entire harbor and calling Pat David, the wharf manager, and others for assistance, Beebe said he eventually located the grounded and damaged boat off Easton Street, and pieced together not only what had happened, but also who had untied the half-a-million-dollar vessel.
"To see a guy do something that intentionally dubious, to me, was just shocking," Beebe said. "You want friends on the waterfront, not enemies. It's just really disappointing that that kind of thing happened on Nantucket, with someone with that kind of elitist entitlement thinking that's okay? I like that both (Harbormaster) Sheila (Lucey) and (police) chief Pittman, they're pretty upset about this too and don't want to see this. So you're a billionaire and think you can just buy your way out of this behavior?"
Wolpow, who founded the Audax Group in 1999 and was a former managing director with Bain Capital, resides in New Hampshire but owns property on Nantucket near Brant Point as well as a cottage on Old North Wharf, which gives him access to the slips via the wharf’s cooperative association.
Beebe initially reported the incident to Harbormaster Sheila Lucey and Coast Guard Station Brant Point, and eventually filed a report at the Nantucket Police Department on Oct. 16 around 2:30 p.m.
“I’ve heard people threaten to untie someone’s boat a thousand times over the years, but this is the first time that I know of where somebody actually did so,” Lucey said. She declined to comment further on the incident.
After the initial investigation by the Nantucket Police Department, the case was turned over to the Massachusetts Environmental Police on Oct. 24. The following day, Environmental Police Sergeant David Wright was on Old North Wharf investigating the case and interviewing witnesses. While he declined to comment to the Current, a representative of the Environmental Police stated that the suspect “untied the lines causing the small work boat to drift away and make contact with other vessels, causing damage. MEP’s investigation into the incident is ongoing.”
The incident caused thousands of dollars worth of damages to the Fair Play, according to Beebe. Depending on the assessment of damages to the El Jefe - the vessel that the Fair Play collided with off Easton Street - that bill could approach $100,000, he estimated.
"I try to work with everyone down there and I've gotten to know everyone on the wharf except for this guy Marc Wolpow," Beebe said. "It’s a very amiable situation down there, it’s a nice little community. It’s just shocking someone in that community would take those kind of measures without asking around. I mean, he did ask around, he just couldn’t wait around an hour for an answer (as to why someone was in his slip). He wasn’t using the slip and had no intention of using the slip, it’s just a kind of possessive thing or suspicion of another. I don’t know."
Beebe said the Environmental Police are in possession of a security camera video from the Steamship Authority that shows the Fair Play drifting free out of the Easy Street Basin.