Is Speed Kills a true story? The real-life speedboat racer and multimillionaire Don Aronow

John Travolta stars as Don Aronow (renamed 'Ben Aronoff' in 'Speed Kills'), the speedboat racer and multimillionaire murdered in 1987.

‘Speed Kills’ the film loosely based on the life of Don Aronow (‘Ben Aronoff’ in the movie) has been released on Netflix US.

American Don Aronow was a designer, builder and racer of speedboats. He launched Magnum Marine in Florida in 1966 and created the Cigarette, Donzi, Formula and Cary speedboats.

His boats went on to win a whopping 350 offshore races and Aronow himself was a two-time world champion and three-time US champion of offshore racing.

His boats, success and wealth also attracted trouble. Drug traffickers used his Cigarette speedboats to move cocaine.

Aronow was murdered in Miami in his car by hitman Robert ‘Bobby’ Young on 3 February 1987. He was 59.

Young was allegedly paid $60,000 to kill Aronow by Benjamin Barry Kramer, an offshore race boat builder and co-defendant who had a dispute with the multimillionaire and racer.

Speed Kills Ben Aronow film

The film, described as ‘Wolf of Wall Street on boats’ was released in 2018 but received a lukewarm reception with eminent film website Rotten Tomatoes giving it an average rating of only 2.6/10 and IMDB 4 out of 10.

Report by Stef Bottinelli

Hit man’s death closes notorious Aronow case

In 1987, hit man Robert ‘Bobby’ Young shot powerboat mogul Don Aronow in his Mercedes sports car. Young, paid $60,000 for the contract murder, achieved such notoriety for the gangland-style killing that he secured a place in the pantheon of South Florida assassins.

Young, 60, died on Tuesday 31 March 2009 at Jackson Memorial Hospital, apparently of natural causes, authorities said.

“He finally got what he deserved from a higher authority, the death sentence,” said retired Miami-Dade police Detective Greg Smith, lead investigator of the Aronow murder.

Miami-Dade police pursued the ambush slaying for six years, interviewing terrified witnesses and investigating a twisting path of coincidences, murders, mistresses, mobsters, dopers, spies, jealous boyfriends and snitches before finally stumbling upon Young.

“Robert was a cold-blooded killer. He was full of bravado, and very much into himself,” said Assistant State Attorney Gary Winston, who put Young away for Aronow’s slaying in 1995.

“He would love to talk and reveal in what he had done. He was cold and heartless.”

Young had been incarcerated at the Federal Detention Centre in downtown Miami before recently falling ill. He served his sentence for the Aronow murder in Oklahoma, at the same time he was incarcerated in federal prison for cocaine trafficking.

He returned to South Florida in 2001, having fled Oklahoma while on parole before being arrested in Broward County in October 2001 after his ex-brother-in-law gave federal agents his address.

Young was found to have a revolver and $75,000 on him.

After being sentenced to ten years for having the handgun, he was recorded on the Federal Detention Centre phone talking to an associate about planting an assault rifle on his former brother-in-law, according to court records.

“I was very upset I was betrayed by my own family,” Young told a federal agent in 2004.

“I was just broken-hearted and figured maybe justice could be done. I could set him up by putting the rifle into his vehicle and having him arrested. ‘Let him feel the same pain, suffering and fate that I was feeling,” he said.

In January, Young was sentenced to a 27-year prison term for owning the assault rifle. It was but the latest felony conviction in the life of a serial criminal, whose brazen violence was part of the so-called Cocaine Cowboy era in Miami. Young boasted of involvement with gun-running, prostitution rings and violence during the 1970s.

Later, he was thrown in a Cuban jail after island authorities found him on an offshore racing boat with 300 pounds of marijuana. In 1984, he was released along with 21 other Americans in a deal engineered by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.

Back in Miami, Young hooked up with a group of dope peddlers who considered themselves a new version of the 1960s Dixie Mafia crime group. He was convicted for the 1984 murder of Dixie Mafia member John ‘Big Red’ Panzavecchia, in a drug deal gone wrong.

After he shot Big Red dead, Young took the man’s solid gold Rolex, former Miami homicide Detective Nelson Andreu remembered on Tuesday.

“Bobby took it as a prize and was wearing it when we arrested him,” Andreu said. “Looking back, Young was lucky to escape the electric chair.”

In 1995, he pleaded no contest to the contract hit of Aronow, the powerboat king. He had cut a deal with state prosecutors that spared him the electric chair and ensured he would never testify against Benjamin Barry Kramer, offshore race boat builder and co-defendant who allegedly paid Young $60,000 to hit Aronow.

In 1996, Kramer, who once owned a casino and raced powerboats, pleaded no contest to ordering the killing of his rival, Aronow. Kramer, already serving a life sentence on federal drug-smuggling charges, received 19 years in prison – the same time amount of time as Young.

Aronow, 59, a rich and handsome millionaire among the powerboat set, was killed Feb. 3, 1987, outside his USA Racing office in 188th St, Miami – the road dubbed Thunderboat Alley Aronow made famous with his Formula, Donzi, Magnum and Cigarette power boats.

Aronow left his office in his white Mercedes, shortly after visiting a rival boat dealership owned by Kramer. He pulled alongside a Lincoln car with tinted windows. It was from here the hit man opened fire, three bullets striking the powerboat star.

On Tuesday, Smith, the retired detective, called Aronow’s widow, Lillian, to break the news.

“He certainly deserved more than what he got for the death of her husband,” he said.”She was relieved knowing he died in custody.”


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