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Published: Apr 17, 2018 5 min read
We Are Family Foundation 2014 Gala
Nicole Mellon and Matthew Mellon attend We Are Family Foundation 2014 Gala at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
Shahar Azran—FilmMagic

Matthew Mellon, a prominent member of the wealthy Mellon and Drexel banking families, and an entrepreneur who spent decades working in fashion and earned a fortune in cryptocurrencies, died on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Mellon, who has opened up in the past about his addiction to OxyContin, reportedly died at a drug rehabilitation facility in Mexico. “Billionaire Matthew Mellon, 53, died suddenly in Cancun, Mexico, where he was attending a drug rehabilitation facility," a family representative said in a statement sent to Page Six. "Mellon made his fortune in cryptocurrency, turning a $2 million investment into $1 billion."

Cryptocurrency Billionaire

In February, Forbes reported that due to Matthew Mellon's longstanding problems with drugs, his family initially regarded his interest in cryptocurrencies as just "another erratic obsession." But at least at one point, the interest in cryptocurrencies gave Matthew Mellon a net worth of around $1 billion on paper.

While Mellon sold off his early investments in Bitcoin before its value skyrocketed in 2017, Mellon seems to have made a fortune in Ripple, or rather XRP, the native currency of Ripple, which was one of the hottest cryptocurrencies toward the end of last year and start of 2018.

Mellon explained to Forbes that he was drawn to XRP because, at the time, it was one of the few cryptocurrencies working within the mainstream banking system. "I am pro-America, pro-business and pro-bank. That's why I went with Ripple," he said.

Matthew Mellon during the "Colour and Cocktails" preview of New Collections at Garrard in London.
Nick Harvey—WireImage

At one point, Mellon's stake in cryptocurrencies was reportedly worth over $1 billion. It's unclear how much XRP Mellon owned at the time of his death. Like many other cryptocurrencies, XRP plunged in early 2018—the value of Ripple's XRP was down 78% overall in the first quarter of 2018, Coindesk reported.

Heir to Two Wealthy Banking Families

On his father's side, Matthew Mellon is a direct descendant of Thomas Mellon, a judge in Pittsburgh who founded T. Mellon & Sons' Bank in the post-Civil War era. The name was changed to Mellon Bank, and eventually it became the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation. One of Thomas Mellon's sons, Andrew Mellon, served as U.S. Treasury Secretary for more than a decade under three Republican presidents and was one of the founding benefactors of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (Matthew Mellon himself was active in politics, and served for a spell as the chairman of the Republican Party finance committee in New York.) The Mellon family also helped create and maintains support for Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University.

Matthew Mellon's mother's side of the family can be traced back to Anthony J. Drexel, who founded the company that evolved into Drexel Burnham Lambert, the notorious investment bank that filed for bankruptcy in 1990. Anthony J. Drexel is also known as the financier and philanthropist who in 1891 opened Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, which became Philadelphia's Drexel University.

A Life in Fashion and Luxury

Matthew Mellon's career and personal life were intricately laced with connections to the fashion industry. He founded the Harrys of London men's fashion brand, named to honor his grandfather Harry Stokes. His first wife was Tamara Mellon, the British fashion designer and magazine editor who co-founded the upscale Jimmy Choo footwear brand with the company's namesake.

Matthew Mellon and Nicole Hanley attend the 17th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar in 2009.
Dimitrios Kambouris—WireImage

Mellon lived with his second wife, the fashion designer Nicole Hanley, in the Pierre Hotel in New York City. Before divorcing in 2015, the couple launched the Hanley-Mellon clothing line, and Matthew had "a 100 percent input on the design," one consultant told Women's Wear Daily of the collaboration at the time. "He knows color and he has a great eye. Matthew’s background is luxury.”