People walk by advertisements for the the cancelled musical, "Rebecca,"...

People walk by advertisements for the the cancelled musical, "Rebecca," which was set to open at the Broadhurst Theatre on West 44th Street in Manhattan. (Oct. 3, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

A West Islip businessman is a figure in the collapse of financing for the much-anticipated Broadway musical "Rebecca," according to a source familiar with the matter.

The demise of the show is under federal investigation, theatrical officials and lawyers involved in the case said.

The name of Mark C. Hotton, an investment adviser and stockbroker whose clients said he had over $200 million under his management, surfaced in the mystery surrounding the failure of the producer to raise cash for the show just as rehearsals were supposed to begin last month.

Hotton, who court records show is a former executive at Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., has a litigious past and has sued and been sued many times. He filed for bankruptcy last year, an action that has put on hold millions of dollars of lawsuits and arbitrations against him by aggrieved investors and former associates.

Philip J. Smith, chairman of the Shubert Organization, which reportedly had a stake in "Rebecca," said he couldn't discuss the matter because of the federal probe, but confirmed that federal investigators visited Shubert's offices Tuesday. Ron Russo, an attorney for producer Ben Sprecher, also said the financing was under investigation by federal authorities.

According to a source familiar with the producer's account, Sprecher sought additional investors several months ago. He was referred to Hotton, who was able to bring in about four possible investors, including a man identified as "Paul Abrams," said the source.

It is now uncertain whether Abrams existed. Sprecher was told that Abrams got sick on safari in Africa and died of malaria before investing in the show, said the source.

Sprecher then went to Europe to see if he could get Abrams' estate attorney to provide the funding, but couldn't find the lawyer, said the source. The show was postponed, though Sprecher has said it's not dead.

"The evidence I have looked at is that Ben Sprecher is blameless," said Russo, a criminal defense attorney. "Ben Sprecher had every reason to believe there was a Paul Abrams, and if there was not Paul Abrams, then Ben Sprecher is blameless."

Hotton, who lives in Babylon Cove, couldn't be reached for comment. It was unclear what he would have gained from either his referral of investors or direct investment of his own in "Rebecca," which is based on a Gothic romantic mystery novel by Daphne du Maurier.

Garden City attorney Jerome Reisman said FBI officials told him they have been monitoring unrelated lawsuits against Hotton. A federal law enforcement official confirmed this.

A federal lawsuit by Louis and Donna Pitch of West Islip claimed Hotton bilked them of over $4 million, court records show. In a filing in Hotton's bankruptcy case, attorneys for the Pitches alleged that he put some of their money in a nonexistent investment and used it to pay off another investor.

With Linda Winer

and Chau Lam

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