Thursday, January 8, 2009

McKenzie Building donor files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Cleveland businessman Steve "Toby" McKenzie has filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy listing over $151 million in liabilities. McKenzie's donation was central to the construction of the $1 million McKenzie Athletic Center built on Lee University's campus in 2003.

McKenzie's debt includes $200,000 to the Bank of Cleveland, but is mostly owed to banks across the nation. The largest debt, $15 million, is owed to Green Bank in Knoxville.

McKenzie's success in business was praised by Lee's president, Dr. Paul Conn, at the McKenzie Athletic Center's dedication ceremony in February 2003.

"His success as a businessperson is legendary in our community," Conn said. "He not only brings to the table a good business mind, but also a natural instinct. He works hard, applies a natural touch and treats people right. Toby was thinking outside the box, before most of us realized there was a box. We are proud to be a partner of his in this project."

At the ceremony McKenzie said that it was a pleasure to help young athletes at Lee, noting that a person's athleticism comes out in the world of business.

"This is a great thing for me," McKenzie said at the time. "I and my family appreciate being a part of it."

The bankruptcy was prompted in part by the shaky real estate market, Kyle R. Weems, Mckenzie's lawyer, said. "We fully expect to reorganize," he added.

The check cashing business helped McKenzie accumulate his initial fortune. Weems said that McKenzie now has ownership in 118 limited liability companies that deal in everything from construction to real estate.

McKenzie was a prominent donor to schools beyond Lee as well. The former UTC Roundhouse was named McKenzie Arena in his honor after a large gift to pay off the project's debt.

Photo captions: Above- Rebecca McKenzie, Toby McKenzie, Dr. Paul Conn and Darlia Conn (left to right) at the McKenzie Athletic Center ribbon cutting. Below- The McKenzie Athletic Center.

Note: This story was covered by the Chattanoogan, the Cleveland Daily Banner and MSNBC. Read the original story about the dedication here.

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