Scott Borgerson updated his LinkedIn profile recently. Like many men of his age and narrow interests, the professional networking site is the American tech entrepreneur's social media platform of choice. There, he can be found sharing articles about innovations in the global shipping industry, discussing untapped resources in the Arctic, and "liking" a seemingly ceaseless stream of motivational military memes.
For a long time, the profile page of "Scott B" (as he styles himself) went relatively unchanged, such was the steadiness of his world. Not any more. Over his moody black-and-white headshot, a badge now reads: "#OpenToWork". No wonder. It isn't every week you pledge US$25m (NZ$35m) to free your infamous secret wife from prison in time for a family Christmas, just before it is revealed she was divorcing you.
After months of rumours, early this week, 44-year-old Borgerson was finally unveiled to the world as the clandestine husband of Ghislaine Maxwell, the 58-year-old British socialite currently languishing in a detention centre in Brooklyn, New York, awaiting trial on charges of recruiting three teenage girls for the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell, who denies any wrongdoing, had long been suspected of having a secret man in her life before her arrest in July, but surprised even close friends when she told prosecutors she was married. At the time, Boston-based Borgerson, who had first been publicly linked to her the year before, became the chief suspect. On Monday, a bail application agreeing to a US$22.5m bond, with five additional bonds totalling US$5m co-signed by seven of Maxwell's close friends and family, appeared to confirm it.
"The person described in the criminal charges is not the person we know. I have never witnessed anything close to inappropriate with Ghislaine," Borgerson, who supposedly married Maxwell in 2016, wrote to US District Judge Alison Nathan. "Quite to the contrary, the Ghislaine I know is a wonderful and loving person."
Whether the plea works in time to release Maxwell for her 59th birthday on Christmas Day remains to be seen – not least given further documents released by the US government on Friday revealed that she was already in the process of divorcing him at the time she was arrested by the FBI.
Compared with almost everything else to do with Maxwell, Epstein and his murky web of high-profile connections that spans the past three decades, the story of how she met Borgerson at a conference seems almost refreshingly mundane.
In 2012, six years after the first investigations into Epstein and four years after his first prison sentence, Maxwell founded an oceanic conservation company called the TerraMar Project, appointing herself as CEO and appearing at conventions all over the world in an attempt to relaunch herself as a philanthropic environmentalist.
Nobody quite knew what Maxwell's project did – it had no offices, gave no grants, and was disbanded last year – but given that isn't all that unusual in the worlds of tech and conservation start-ups, she looked at home. Soon, she started to do what she'd always done best: charm powerful people and make connections.
The Boston-based Borgerson was a natural target. As the multi-millionaire founder of maritime analytics company CargoMetrics, as well as a former visiting fellow for ocean governance at the Council on Foreign Relations, a powerful New York-based think tank, he was just the kind of associate she could do with if she wanted to be taken seriously on the high seas.
They met, it has been reported, at the inaugural Arctic Circle assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 2013. Both spoke at the event, as well, evidently, as socialising. Last week the first photograph of the pair together emerged, enjoying drinks at a reception. Maxwell, all pearls and Liza Minnelli-esque haircut, beams as she poses with the 6ft 5in Borgerson. In his slightly ill-fitting navy business suit and wedding ring – at the time, he had been married to his first wife, Rebecca, for almost 12 years – he looks geekily pleased to have made a new friend.
Unlike Maxwell, the ninth and last child of a disgraced media tycoon, Borgerson appears to have had a steady, all-American childhood. Raised in Southeast Missouri, his father was a former Marine infantry officer and police official, his mother a high school teacher. Borgerson was a youth elder at the local Grace Presbyterian Church, an Eagle Scout and, by all accounts, brimming with potential.
After high school he elected to join the US Coast Guard Academy, then spent four years piloting a patrol boat in the Caribbean, after which he earned a master's of arts in law and diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts followed by a PhD in international relations.
His interest in all things maritime only deepened over time, and by 2010 he had a business idea, marrying the worlds of shipping and technology to found CargoMetrics which uses millions of data points around the world to map precisely where ships are, where they're going and what they're carrying. According to its website, its core values are humility, respect, authenticity, grit, integrity and teamwork.
The company took off. While about 90 per cent of global trade moves by sea, the industry was relatively opaque and poorly monitored, meaning any method of better-monitoring more than 120,000 ships across the world was welcomed. In 2016, the then Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, backed CargoMetrics, as did a clutch of other billionaires.
In interviews during those years, Borgerson comes across as a man entirely focused on his mission of building a multimillion-dollar company. He was fascinated by oceans but equally propelled by a desire to be more successful than those who'd taken a more conventional path.
"There's a lot that motivates me, including – if I'm honest – I have a big chip on my shoulder to beat the prep school, Ivy League, MBA crowd," he once said. "They're bred to make money, but they're not smarter than everyone else; they just have more patina and connections."
Evidently, he loosened his policy on privileged types with more patina and connections by 2013, when Maxwell clinked his glass. The following year, he filed for divorce from Rebecca, the mother of his two children, citing irreconcilable differences. In court papers, she claimed that he drank too much, hit her and threatened to beat her. He counter-claimed that she was "erratic" and used religion "in an extreme manner".
The split was finalised in 2015, after which Borgerson appears to have undergone an impressively clichéd post-divorce makeover: he grew a beard, shaved his head, lost weight and swapped his suits for a uniform more befitting a 21st-century tech bro worth $100m. The result is a look that's uncannily like Oscar Isaac's unsettling CEO character in the film Ex Machina.
According to a former TerraMar Project colleague who spoke to The New York Times, Maxwell would gush about how "hot" and "brilliant" Borgerson was, and that her new life included taking his children to school. It has been suggested that the couple married in 2016, though exactly where or when isn't clear – no marriage certificate has been seen, fuelling speculation they may have married abroad, but financial records show Maxwell transferred vast sums to Borgerson that year, which experts say could have been designed to protect her financially from any claims lodged by alleged victims of Epstein.
Did Borgerson know, or mind, that his new wife's former boyfriend was a convicted paedophile financier who allegedly entrusted Maxwell with procuring young women for him? It seems not. In July 2019, a month before Epstein died in jail, Maxwell had vanished, leading the world's media, authorities, amateur detectives and conspiracy theorists on a manhunt.
That August, Borgerson was identified in the press as a "boyfriend" who was sheltering her in his $3m oceanfront home in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, which was promptly staked out by reporters from around the globe, and where he was photographed walking a dog that friends reportedly recognised as Maxwell's champion-bred vizsla.
"Ghislaine Maxwell is not at my home and I don't know where she is," Borgerson told Business Insider. "I'm passionate about ocean policy and wish people were as interested in ... joining the law of the sea."
The law could wait. The scrutiny intensified, but Maxwell remained hidden, throwing the media a bizarre but successful red herring, by releasing an edited photograph showing her eating a burger on the opposite side of the country.
All the while, Borgerson kept his head down, running CargoMetrics and never allowing himself to be officially connected to Maxwell. That worked until July 2020, when she was arrested by the FBI while living on a 156-acre estate called Tuckedaway in Bradford, New Hampshire, and charged with trafficking minors for Epstein.
Prosecutors shocked many of those following the case by reporting Maxwell's claims she was married, though she declined to say to whom. Borgerson's name did pop up, mind. The estate agent who sold Tuckedaway said it had been bought by a British couple called "Scott and Jen Marshall" – she a journalist who wanted privacy; he, apparently a retired British serviceman. They were Maxwell and Borgerson.
Today, Maxwell is in a 9ft by 7ft cell, checked by guards every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. Her lawyers say she has lost 15lb in weight and her hair is falling out, though public sympathy is even thinner on the ground.
In October it was revealed that Borgerson, meanwhile, had stepped down from CargoMetrics after her arrest, to "ensure his presence would not become a distraction from the work he believes in so deeply".
Now he stands by, seemingly willing to do whatever it takes – and whatever it costs – to free the wife who may have already been divorcing him. He's #OpenToWork, though. And he may soon need the cash.