In 2003, Guma Aguiar was a 26-year-old college dropout teaching tennis to wealthy Wall Street investors who wintered in South Florida.
Smart and charismatic, Aguiar inherited the model good looks and charm of his father, Otto de Souza Aguiar, a Brazilian artist whose colorful paintings graced the walls of Miami Beach’s City Hall.
The younger Aguiar, born in Brazil but raised mostly in South Florida, was a renaissance man like his father, but he had little interest in the art world.
Instead, he schooled himself on how to influence people and make money.
After a stint on Wall Street trading commodities, Aguiar joined his uncle, Thomas Kaplan, in Houston, where the two embarked on an ambitious venture. A geologist had steered them to some land in east Texas that contained large quantities of natural gas. They formed a company, Leor Energy, and began drilling, unearthing 2.4 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to Forbes magazine. In 2007, they sold their company for $2.55 billion.
At the age of 31, Aguiar was a rich man, anointed Executive of the Year by Oil and Gas Investor Magazine. He was living a lavish life in a $5 million, six-bedroom waterfront mansion in Fort Lauderdale’s lush Rio Vista neighborhood. He and his high school sweetheart, Jamie Black, had four young children, 10 servants, two nannies and a $2.1 million yacht.
But Aguiar’s path from aimless college student to energy industrialist was filled with demons, both real and imagined.
On June 19, Aguiar, 35 — anguished over his tenuous marriage, locked in a vicious court battle with his uncle and struggling to hold onto his sanity — vanished.
He took his 31-foot fishing boat out to sea from Port Everglades in choppy seas and inclement weather. More than five hours later, the boat ran aground on Fort Lauderdale beach. Its engine was running, its lights were on, but no one was aboard.
It’s not clear whether Aguiar was swallowed by the sea, staged his disappearance, was kidnapped or murdered.
Fort Lauderdale police so far have found no signs of foul play, and sources say there’s no evidence his passport was used to leave the country.
Travis Mandell, a police spokesman, told reporters the next day that Aguiar got into the boat alone, “but that’s not to say he didn’t meet up with anyone.”
His mother and wife immediately filed court motions to take control of his $100 million estate, and have accused each other of using the tragedy to their own advantage. At a Broward probate court hearing Thursday, attorneys representing Aguiar’s mother said that under a codicil to her son’s will, his mother had been given power of attorney and named personal representative over his affairs. They also claimed that because Jamie Aguiar had been suing her husband for a piece of his fortune, appointing her in charge of his money would be a conflict of interest.
Jamie Aguiar’s lawyers, however, lashed out at his mother, saying that she was responsible for leading him down the road to despair, calling her an “enabler” who lived off of him while fanning the flames of the feud with his uncle, her brother. The tangle of lawsuits and lawyers had cost him half of his $200 million fortune, said Jamie Aguiar’s lawyer, William Scherer. And any documents he signed designating his mother in charge of his affairs were done when he was mentally unstable, Scherer told the judge.