Entrepreneurs: Downed Eagle

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"When you soar like an eagle, you attract the hunters." So said Attorney Milton S. Gould last September in arguing that his client, Miami Beach Industrialist Louis E. Wolfson, 55, was the innocent victim of a U.S. Government vendetta. A New York federal jury disagreed, found the high-flying Wolfson guilty on each of the 19 counts against him. Last week that conviction brought Wolfson, chairman of the Merritt-Chapman & Scott construction complex and one of the U.S.'s most controversial corporate raiders, a one-year prison sentence and $100,000 fine. Federal Judge Edmund L. Palmieri also sentenced a longtime Wolfson crony, Elkin ("Buddy") Gerbert, 58, to six months in prison and fined him $50,000.

The two men were convicted on charges arising from the 1960-62 sale of stock in Continental Enterprises Inc., a Jacksonville theater-management company controlled by Wolfson, his family and associates. According to the Government, while Continental was generating favorable publicity that increased its stock prices, Wolfson was unloading his own stock at an estimated $1,500,000 profit — without bothering to register the transactions with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The federal law requiring registration of sales of "control" stock is believed to be violated frequently, and the case was a clear signal that the Government intends to start cracking down. For Multimillionaire Wolfson, who plans to appeal his conviction, the trouble could be just beginning. Next February he, Gerbert and three other associates go on trial — on federal charges of fraud, perjury and falsification of official reports—involving Merritt-Chapman, which is now in the process of liquidation. Insisted Wolfson in court last week: "I certainly never intended to do anything wrong."