Denny Hecker's fall from grace

Once, Denny Hecker's kind face, big smile, and grandfatherly white hair graced billboards, television screens, and the sides of buses all over the Twin Cities in ads for his auto empire. Then in late 2008, Hecker began his long and embarrassing fall from grace when the recession began eating away at his heavily leveraged auto dealerships and rent-a-car business. More than a dozen of his businesses were shuttered and hundreds of employees were put out of work. But that was only the beginning of his troubles, as bankruptcies turned into allegations of fraud and salacious tidbits began to surface about Hecker's personal life, including almost comically lavish homes, a DWI charge after driving his Land Rover into a utility pole, and a bankruptcy cat fight over a $60,000 fur coat he gave to a gal pal. Throughout his spectacular collapse, Hecker, along with Tom Petters, has come to represent a local microcosm of all that went wrong in business leading up to the Great Recession: unchecked greed, a misplaced sense of entitlement, an ego large enough to block the sun, and complete disregard for the well-being of the workers who made him wealthy. Even more pathetic, Hecker still refuses to accept responsibility for his actions and behaves like a child in court. He has been known to storm out of courtrooms cursing when things didn't go his way. Then in March Hecker's downfall turned tragic with the suicide of his former father-in-law, Bill Prohofsky, whom Hecker reportedly asked to hide assets from his bankruptcy receiver. It's the rare scandal that even scandalmongers can't bear to watch, but Hecker has managed the feat.


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