He seemed, in many ways, like a man from another time, a Gatsbyesque figure who glided through a world of old money, private clubs and pedigree horses, his family name emblazoned on Ivy League halls.
Then, in an instant, he was gone — his privileged life ended, by his own hand, with a single gunshot to the head.
No one can know exactly what Finn M. W. Caspersen, a prominent philanthropist and the heir to the Beneficial Corporation fortune, was thinking when he decided to take his life on Labor Day. Although Mr. Caspersen, 67, was battling kidney cancer, his suicide shocked his family and friends.
But Mr. Caspersen, a patron of Harvard and Princeton who gave away tens of millions of dollars to charity, apparently harbored a secret: He was suspected of dodging many millions in federal taxes. The authorities, it seemed, were closing in.
At the time of his death, investigators were building a case against Mr. Caspersen on suspicion of using secret offshore bank accounts to evade taxes.
The authorities had asserted he might have owed as much as $100 million in back taxes and fines or, possibly, even have faced prison, according to a person briefed on the investigation, who was granted anonymity because of the delicacy of the case and the events surrounding Mr. Caspersen’s death.
Whispers of some sort of tax trouble went through the crowd at Mr. Caspersen’s funeral on Tuesday. About 800 people attended the service in Morristown, N.J.
“He made everything right for so many people, and that is why this is such a tragedy,” Susan Wachter, a friend and former Beneficial board member, said of Mr. Caspersen’s death.