Scott DeGraff, who cofounded the N9NE Group which has restaurants in Chicago and Las Vegas, died Thursday in an apparent suicide in Aspen. DeGraff cofounded the company with childhood friend Michael Morton, son of Morton’s founder Arnie Morton, and the group had early success with the bar Drink and the glitzy N9NE steakhouse, among other ventures.
DeGraff moved to Aspen around 2008 to open concepts in Snowmass Base Village. But when that development ran into trouble, DeGraff did too and in recent years he had become embroiled in lawsuits involving his Aspen developments, Las Vegas partner George Maloof Jr., owner of The Palms where N9NE had a restaurant, and a N9NE art director with whom a sexual harassment lawsuit against both Morton and DeGraff was settled. DeGraff filed for personal bankruptcy in September, representing himself because he said he could not afford attorneys, and stating that he owed $19.2 million to creditors versus assets of $21,500 (other assets were apparently in his wife’s name). Jeff Ruby of Chicago magazine tweeted a poignant note to DeGraff’s sad end, which leaves behind two young children as well: “Sad to hear about Scott DeGraff of the N9NE group. Last time I talked to him was when the sky was the limit and he was on top of the world.”