Huntington Hartford, 97, the A&P supermarket-chain heir who spent his fortune on failed business deals, art and an extravagant lifestyle, has died.

Mr. Hartford died yesterday in the resort community of Lyford Cay in the Bahamas, according to his daughter Juliet.

Hartford, grandson of the founder of the Great American Tea Co. (now the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.), inherited an estimated $90 million from his wealthy ancestors, according to a 1985 profile in Forbes magazine. He lost at least $80 million of that through failed ventures in publishing, the arts and real estate.

His biggest bust was the Ocean Club, an elegant, super-exclusive resort hotel that he built on an island off Nassau in the Bahamas. He lost the property and most of his investment in complex negotiations with Resorts International. The island is now home to the mammoth Atlantis Paradise Island Resort & Casino.

An art collector and critic, Mr. Hartford denounced what he saw as the spread of "vulgarity" in abstract paintings of the 20th century. He built a modern-art gallery in Manhattan to showcase his own collection of what he called "realistic art." Like other initiatives of his, the gallery lost money and closed.

After spending most of his fortune, Mr. Hartford became dependent on drugs and then disappeared from the New York social scene, according to a 2004 Vanity Fair article.

He told the magazine that he didn't regret losing his many millions because he had always been trying "to create something beautiful." He was living out his years in comfort, in a $6 million seaside villa in Lyford Cay, thanks to one trust fund he had never exhausted, the magazine said. - Bloomberg News