Report: Former N9NE Group executive's death was suicide

Former N9NE Group executive Scott DeGraff died from carbon monoxide poisoning and asphyxiation in the early morning hours Thanksgiving Day, according to Deputy Coroner Eric Hansen in Pitkin County, Colo.

"The manner of death was suicide," Hansen said in an email.

DeGraff's death occurred between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. and he died "within minutes," the deputy coroner said.

Aspen, Colo., police and firefighters found DeGraff's body at 8 a.m. Thursday inside a vehicle parked in a garage at a home on Aspen's east end.

About 2½ hours earlier, Aspen emergency personnel and police responded to a carbon monoxide alarm at the residence but left after they were unable to access the locked home and found nothing out of the ordinary, according to a police report.

They returned when the unidentified owner came home and called authorities regarding the alarm, Aspen police spokeswoman Blair Weyer said.

The relationship between DeGraff and the homeowner is unclear.

DeGraff, 47, and childhood friend Michael Morton formed the N9NE Group in 1999 and opened restaurants and nightclubs at The Palms in Las Vegas as well as in Chicago and Dallas. The Las Vegas venues are the Nove Italiano and N9NE restaurants, the nightclubs Rain, Moon, Playboy Club and Ghostbar, and the Palms pools.

Palms owner George Maloof took over management of the venues in a legal settlement with the N9NE Group in 2010.

Despite their legal issues, Maloof on Thursday lamented DeGraff's passing, saying he was a valued partner in the ventures.

Efforts to reach Morton since Thursday have been unsuccessful. The two men became friends when they were 9 years old while living in Chicago, which is how the N9NE Group got its name.

After more than a decade of success, DeGraff's life began to unravel as he lost a series of lawsuits, including a recent $3.9 million judgment ordered by a U.S. district judge in Colorado last month. He was buried in crushing debt at the time of his death.

He moved from Las Vegas to the affluent Colorado ski resort community in 2008 and opened a restaurant called Junk/Liquid Sky in Snowmass Base Village in December of that year. But that venture failed after he was evicted for nonpayment of rent, according to The Aspen Times.

He also suffered legal setbacks in Las Vegas and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, citing about $19 million in debts owed to a variety of creditors.

He is survived by his wife and two young children.

Memorial services for DeGraff will be held at 1 p.m. Monday at Am Shalom Synagogue at 1700 W. Rand Road, Arlington Heights, Ill. 60004, his family confirmed on Saturday.

A Shiva will be held following the service and into the night at the Steven and Jami DeGraff residence in Chicago and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Memorials can be made to the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression, P.O. Box 17598, Baltimore, MD, 21297-1598.

Contact Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@reviewjournal. com or 702-224-5512.