Douglas Faneuil used to live a fairly privileged life. His father is independently wealthy. He grew up in a well-to-do Massachusetts suburb. He graduated from Vassar College. And then he came to New York and got a sought-after job at Merrill Lynch as a broker to the celebrities.
But now the embattled assistant to Martha Stewart’s broker has been playing ball with the feds and is living the life of a fugitive.
Sources say that after a harrowing summer, the ex-banking assistant wants to drop out of the rat race and maybe turn to sculpting.
In the four months since accusations first surfaced that Stewart and her broker, Peter Bacanovic, traded ImClone stock after learning privileged information that would likely send the stock’s value south, the fair-faced Faneuil has been sleeping on pals’ couches, flitting from apartment to apartment, and staying one step away from newsmen hounding his every move.
“He couldn’t even talk to some of his friends,” a source close to Faneuil said. “There were a couple of occasions when he told one or two people what he was doing on the weekend, and then surprise, surprise photographers would end up being there.”
He has hardly been home for fear of photographers staking out his Brooklyn pad.
“He’s leading a gypsy life,” a pal told The Post. “He just wants this whole thing to be over.”
This itinerant existence is just part of the bizarre, new reality Faneuil has been enduring since it was alleged that he, as Bacanovic’s assistant, helped domestic doyenne Stewart dump about 4,000 shares of ImClone, a biotech company.
Faneuil pleaded guilty last Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of taking a payoff including vacation time, a percentage of his boss’ commission and Knicks basketball tickets to support Stewart and Bacanovic’s account of the stock deal.
“I’m sure that he knew what was going on [at Merrill] was wrong, and he probably felt bad about it,” said a friend close to Faneuil, “but he went along because he knew that was just the way that world works. But when it became a criminal matter, he decided it wasn’t worth jeopardizing himself any longer.”
Faneuil, 26, who last week was sacked as a sales assistant at Merrill Lynch, is now cooperating with the FBI’s probe into Stewart’s transaction, and could prove a damaging witness if charges are brought against the hearth heavyweight who resigned from the board of the New York Stock Exchange a day after Faneuil’s court appearance.
“It’s shocking to anyone that knows him,” an old high-school friend from Newton, Mass., told The Post. “We’re all taken aback at the way his life has taken a turn.”
Described as artistic and bohemian, Faneuil graduated from Vassar in 1997 and came to New York with dreams of being an actor.
“He was really into the arts and the theater,” Dean Chronopoulos, the owner of a Newton pizzeria where Faneuil worked as a delivery boy, told a local paper. “I definitely didn’t expect Doug to be in the financial business.”
But Faneuil, the son of an independently wealthy father, also had a taste for the high life. “He’s really attracted to glamour and is easily star-struck,” said one acquaintance.
With the help of his friend, W magazine “Eye” editor Rob Haskell, Faneuil soon started moving in the city’s rarefied society circles.
With an innate sense of taste and comfort in dealing with the rich and famous, he fitted in well at his day job, working as an assistant to Bacanovic on what is thought to be about $35,000 a year.
Faneuil would answer telephones, execute trades and do other grunt work, colleagues say. It was allegedly performing this lowly task on Dec. 27, 2001 – executing the ImClone trade for Stewart – that thrust him into the limelight.
At first, it seemed Faneuil would deal with his sudden infamy like ImClone boss Sam Waksal, who was spotted sucking up the limelight at a party at the Upper East Side hot spot Elaine’s last August.
In fact, Faneuil was spotted at about that time partying with Haskell at a Mary J. Blige concert at the Apollo Theater.
But sources say that after he saw an account of his high living in The Post’s Page Six, he decided to dodge the spotlight and even wore disguises when he moved about.
Just last week, he had to evacuate Haskell’s Chelsea apartment when a Newsweek scribe caught him there.
Meanwhile, friends wondered what would be next for this young man, who many described as a loyal pal and an honest person caught up in circumstances he couldn’t control.
A colleague of Faneuil says that before the scandal, he was determined to forge a career as a broker. Now he realizes that dream has been swept away for good.
“The reality is he’s been terminated from Merrill Lynch, and he’s pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge,” the colleague said.
“He won’t go back into to finance,” added a friend. “He will most likely do something more â€˜bohemian’ he’s an artist who has done sculpture in the past.”
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