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Tim Durham closes New Castle restaurant

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Embattled Indianapolis businessman Tim Durham this week closed his downtown New Castle restaurant, Durhams Ristorante, after about two years of operation.

A sign on the restaurant door says “closed until further notice.” The restaurant’s kitchen manager told the New Castle Courier Times it shut down because of financial problems.

Durham teamed with local restaurateur Henri Najem to open the moderately priced Italian eatery. It originally operated as Bella Vita, but Durham changed the name after he and Najem, who operates Bella Vita restaurants in Geist and downtown Indianapolis, parted ways early last year.

Durham’s businesses have been in a tailspin since last fall, when FBI agents raided his Chase Tower offices and the offices of Fair Finance Co., an Akron, Ohio,  consumer-loan firm he co-owns.

The raids occurred one month after IBJ published an investigative story that raised questions about whether Fair had the financial wherewithal to repay Ohio investors who purchased more than $200 million in unsecured investment certificates.

The story reported that, since Durham bought Fair in 2002, he had used it almost like a personal bank to fund a range of business interests, many of them unsuccessful, and to support a lavish lifestyle. The story noted that he and related parties owe Fair more than $168 million. (For more Durham coverage, click here.)

Fair never reopened after the raids, and creditors forced it into bankruptcy early this year. Bankruptcy attorneys expect Fair investors who purchased certificates—a largely blue-collar, elderly lot—to recover only a small fraction of what they’re owed.

Durham, 48, has acknowledged he owes Fair a bundle but has denied doing anything wrong. In court papers, he said the offering circulars provided to prospective investors outlined the risks, including that they carried no government guarantee.

He’s turned over to the bankruptcy trustee more than two dozen cars, as well as expensive pieces of art. The assets will be auctioned, with proceeds going to certificate purchasers.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Indianapolis is overseeing an ongoing criminal investigation of Durham. Officials won't comment. But in court papers filed in November, they allege Fair operated as a Ponzi scheme, using money from new investors to pay off prior purchasers of investment certificates.

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  1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

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  4. Jim, your "misleading" numbers comment is spot on. This is the spin these posers are putting on it. News flash, fans: these guys lie. They are not publicly traded so no one holds them accountable for anything they say. The TV numbers are so miniscule to begin with any "increase" produces double digit "growth" numbers. It's ridiculous to think that anything these guys have done has awakened the marketplace. What have they done? Consolidate the season so they run more races on consecutive weekends? And this creates "momentum." Is that the same momentum you enjoy when you don't race between August and March? Keep in mind that you are running teams who barely make ends meet ragged over the summer to accomplish this brilliant strategy of avoiding the NFL while you run your season finale at midnight on the East Coast. But I should not obfuscate my own point: any "ratings increase" is exactly what Jim points to - the increased availability of NBC Sports in households. Look fans, I love the sport to but these posers are running it off a cliff. Miles wants to declare victory and then run for Mayor. I could go on and on but bottom line for God's sake don't believe a word they say. Note to Anthony - try doing just a little research instead of reporting what these pretenders say and then offering an "opinion" no more informed than the average fan.

  5. If he's finally planning to do the right thing and resign, why not do it before the election? Waiting until after means what - s special election at tax payer expense? Appointment (by whom?) thus robbing the voters of their chance to choose? Does he accrue some additional financial advantage to waiting, like extra pension payments? What's in it for him? That's the question that needs to be asked.

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