Harbour Island developer dies in apparent suicide
TAMPA - Finn Caspersen, the financier and philanthropist who developed Harbour Island in the 1980s and 90s, died Monday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound near his summer home in Westerly, R.I. Caspersen, 67, the former chief executive officer of Beneficial Corp., labored for 15 years to transform Harbour Island, from an industrial wasteland inhabited by wild pigs into an upscale residential development near downtown Tampa. Westerly police told The Associated Press they found Caspersen's body on Labor Day near a golf course he helped to build there. Police told AP he died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the head. A gun was found near his body. Caspersen broke ground on Harbour Island in 1983, after purchasing it from a Beneficial subsidiary in 1979. It was a time when Tampa was known as "America's next great city,"To show its close proximity to downtown Tampa, Caspersen had former President Gerald Ford hit a golf ball across Garrison Channel to celebrate the island's groundbreaking. Builders rushed to build luxury homes for wealthy executives who could walk across a bridge to the Channelside District. Caspersen had envisioned Harbour Island as a bustling waterfront with offices, shops and restaurants, much like Baltimore's Inner Harbor. But the development didn't progress as expected. And the island didn't reach full development until about 1999, when Beneficial began selling pieces of its real estate directly to builders. Caspersen remained chairman of Beneficial until 1998 when it was taken over by Household International that year. He never saw Harbour Island reach its full potential. In recent years, Caspersen has split his time between Jupiter Island on Florida's east coast, where he served on the Town Commission and his home in Westerly. A graduate of Brown University and a 1966 graduate of Harvard Law School, Caspersen was the former chairman of the U.S. Equestrian Team and contributed heavily to Harvard Law School. According to the school's law bulletin last year, education was at the heart of Caspersen's philanthropic interests. He told the bulletin, "If there's any one area of charitable endeavor that should be highlighted, it's education, because it's an investment in the future - an investment in human capital." He leaves behind a wife, Barbara Caspersen, and four sons.
Information from The Associated Press, nj.com and The Stuart News contributed to this report.
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