He said he was rich beyond belief. A billionaire. “The second Bill Gates.” Close friends with Steve Jobs, the Sultan of Brunei, and Carlos Slim, once the richest man in the world.
He was a member of the Rothschild family as well as the nephew of former French president Jacques Chirac. And related to Elizabeth Taylor. He had a degree in psychiatry and a deep knowledge of pharmacology and owned his own American independent movie studio.
He worked with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Altman, he said, knew Madonna and Elton John, and maintained palatial residences in far-flung cities, which he needed to lead his multi-national I.T.-and-telecommunications company, which had offices and thousands of employees worldwide.
This is the web that Alexandre Despallières spun, and it entangled worldly, wealthy, highly educated people in Paris, Beverly Hills, New York, London, Sydney, Normandy, and beyond, and all of them learned the hard way—some giving their time, love, and money, others their lives—that Alexandre was none of the things he claimed to be.
He was a con artist and, allegedly, a serial killer.
Alexandre Despallières spun a web that entangled worldly, wealthy, highly educated people in Paris, Beverly Hills, New York, London, Sydney, Normandy, and beyond.
He came from the Paris suburb of Bois-Colombes, a wannabe singer who, as a very young man, recorded a pop single entitled “L’Amour à Mort” (Love Until Death). The title turned out to be his epitaph, because Alexandre enticed and entrapped people with his love and everlasting beauty, and then some of them mysteriously died. First his family’s dog, Dengil, on whom someone would later say he practiced the fine art of poisoning, then his parents and his grandmothers, and, finally, Peter Ikin.
Ikin was the senior vice president of marketing and artistic development of Warner Music International, where he helped guide to glory a long list of artists, including Elton John, Rod Stewart, George Harrison, the Eagles, and many others, while living what one friend called “a rock-star life.” He and Alexandre had been lovers when Alexandre was 19 and Peter 41. Then, in the spring of 2008, the dashing Alexandre reappeared in Ikin’s life and convinced the music impresario that he was now a billionaire and wanted to leave him his immense fortune and his multi-billion-dollar company. Because he was suffering from a variety of fatal illnesses and had only months left to live.
“No jokes, please, about who is wearing the dress!!!,” Ikin wrote in an e-mail before he married Alexandre in a civil ceremony in London on October 10, 2008.
Thirty-three days later, Ikin was dead in a Paris hotel, possibly of poisoning, and Alexandre was in line to inherit his $21 million estate—complete with a forged will.
The following excerpt of my just released Audible Original, Love Until Death: The Sudden Demise of a Music Icon and a Trail of Mystery and Alleged Murder, tells the twisted tale of the twisted man who dispensed love, lies, and, allegedly, poison to a world of true believers.
Love, Lies, and Poison
Listen to an exclusive excerpt of Love Until Death here.
Mark Seal is a special correspondent for Vanity Fair and the author of many nonfiction books, including The Man in the Rockefeller Suit and Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli. His new Audible Original, Love Until Death, is available now