Sven Anders Axel Ebbeson, husband of former Florida Secretary of State and U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, was found dead in what Sarasota police say was a suicide. He was 68.
Police were dispatched around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday to the couple’s home in the 1400 block of Bay Point Drive in Sarasota.
About 10 a.m., Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, alongside the Rev. William Hild, of First Baptist Church, addressed reporters.
Speaking for the family, Hild said that Ebbeson had “taken his own life” and asked for privacy and respect from the community. Hild said Ebbeson had suffered from medical conditions that may have contributed to his suicide.
“He’s no longer suffering,” DiPino said, quoting Harris.
Born March 16, 1945, in the coastal city of Halmstad, Sweden, he was the second of three sons. He graduated with a degree in business administration from Lund University, in Sweden, then worked in his family’s business, which was later sold to Electrolux, the Swedish appliance manufacturer.
In Sarasota, he went on to open his own company, Intercon Marketing, a distributor of appliances.
Court records show that he was married to his first wife, Margita, for 16 years before the couple divorced in 1990. They had one daughter, Louise, who was born in 1982.
He built his home in Bay Isles on Longboat Key in 1989, according to property records. He and Harris had lived in the Sarasota home they completed last year but still owned their Longboat Key home.
Ebbeson and Harris met on a blind date at the opera in the 1990s.
Graci McGillicuddy said she first met Ebbeson at Michael’s On East shortly after the couple’s first date so she could size him up and determine whether he was a good fit for Harris, her close friend.
“I just think they were very complementary,” McGillicuddy said. “They were both totally different people but together they really complemented one another.”
The couple married in 1996, first in a civil ceremony, and then in a religious ceremony a Swedish church in Paris on New Year’s Eve of that year.
Ebbeson remained close to many of his childhood friends in Sweden, according to his friend, former Longboat Key resident Bob Sewell.
“(They were) just warm, nice wonderful people who were a reflection of who Anders was,” Sewell said.
On more than one occasion, Ebbeson and Harris renewed their vows in the Paris church where they married with other couples both from Sweden and the Sarasota/Longboat Key area.
Harris’ political career brought her into the spotlight, particularly following her role as Florida secretary of state during the 2000 contested presidential election, and later when she became congresswoman, then launched an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2006.
Ebbeson was always by Harris’ side but generally avoided the limelight.
“Anders was one of the most reserved, quiet, charming gentlemen one could ever meet,” wrote longtime Colony Beach & Tennis Resort owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber and his wife, Sue, in an email to the Longboat Observer.
“He was a private man. He preferred to be in the background,” said Ebbeson’s close friend, Charles Jennings, who described his friend as easygoing, affable and “just a really nice gentleman.”
Jennings played golf every Saturday with Ebbeson, usually at the Resort at Longboat Key’s Islandside golf course.
“You learn a lot about a person while playing golf,” Jennings said. “He was an extremely honest man.”
In addition to golf, Ebbeson enjoyed traveling and cooking.
“Their Christmas meals were just unbelievable,” McGillicuddy said. “He would prepare all this Swedish food and all his Swedish relatives would be there.”
Friends expressed shock as news of Ebbeson’s death broke Tuesday.
Jennings said that he was aware that Ebbeson had been hospitalized earlier this year, although he was usually “pretty private with his health concerns.” Ebbeson didn’t seem depressed, according to Jennings.
“Anders was so incredibly special and none of us can understand,” McGillicuddy said.
Funeral arrangements were not available as of press time.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]
Digital Content Producer Alex Mahadevan contributed to this story.