Indicted financier Tim Durham continues to have ownership stakes in more than a half-dozen businesses, and he has friends and associates who owe him millions of dollars. The problem is few of his business holdings are worth much. And even if everyone who owed Durham money paid him—which seems unlikely—his assets still would be a fraction of his debts.
That’s the picture that emerges from the 20-page financial statement Durham’s attorney filed in federal court late Friday. The filing doesn’t attempt to place a value on his assets but estimates he owes creditors $77 million.
Durham owes the largest amount, $29 million, to Obsidian Enterprises Inc., his now-defunct Indianapolis-based leveraged buyout firm. The money reflects his personal guarantee on loans Obsidian took out from Akron, Ohio-based Fair Finance Co.—the business prosecutors allege he ran as a Ponzi scheme.
The filing lists his largest single asset as his 100-percent ownership interest in Custom Cryogenic Grinding, an Indianapolis-based recycler of rubber and plastic, whose fair market value is listed as $2.9 million.
Other assets used to be worth more but have plunged in value. For example, Durham owns 11.8 million shares of Los Angeles-based National Lampoon Inc., where he serves as CEO. However, as of April, those shares were worth just 2 cents apiece, or $236,000, according to the filing.
Attorneys overseeing Fair Finance Co.'s bankruptcy liquidation had believed for months that Durham lacked the personal wealth to put a dent in the money owed to 5,200 Ohio residents who purchased more than $200 million in unsecured notes from Fair. The notes slid into default after the company shut down in November 2009 following an FBI raid.
The filing, however, makes public for the first time the utterly bleak state of Durham’s finances. As recently as 2008, he boasted to the business news channel CNBC that he had a net worth of $75 million—a figure investigators say belied reality.
Durham already has turned over to Fair's bankruptcy trustee many of his easiest-to-liquidate assets, including his collection of artwork and exotic cars.
A 23-page grand jury indictment returned this spring alleges Durham and business partner James F. Cochran worked with former Fair Finance Chief Financial Officer Rick D. Snow to devise and execute a scheme to defraud Fair’s investors. Authorities say that after Durham bought Fair in 2002, he doled out related-party loans with abandon, stripping the company of its ability to repay investors. He made many of the loans to himself, to his businesses and to associates who later defaulted.
Durham, Cochran and Snow have denied wrongdoing.
More of IBJ's coverage of Durham and Fair Finance can be found here.