Thursday, June 14, 2001

Wilkinson investors from campus, political circles




The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — Since ecampus.com was launched in 1999, the company founded by former Gov. Wallace Wilkinson has gone through at least $118 million as it tried to sell books and other goods, mostly to college students, on the Internet.

        Ecampus, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week, is itself now for sale, with an offer of $2.55 million.

        Among the investors in ecampus were former University of Kentucky President Otis Singletary, UK Athletics Director Larry Ivy and broadcaster Ralph Hacker, the radio voice of UK men's basketball, according to a list of ecampus investors.

        Mr. Hacker declined to say how much he invested, but said it was a small amount. “If it had gone, we might have been able to buy a small car,” he said.

        The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Mr. Wilkinson's dealings, including ecampus stock sales.

        Mr. Wilkinson — who was forced into bankruptcy in February with debts of $418 million — and the textbook businesses that formed the basis of his financial empire are also in bankruptcy.

        Ecampus said it had 429 investors, who bought stock in the company through private offerings. It listed more than 1,000 creditors, many of which provided books or computer services.

        Other well-known investors included Phyllis George, actress and former first lady of Kentucky, and her son Lincoln Brown; and William Kirwan, president of Ohio State University, a board member when ecampus started.

        Several people who served in state government when Mr. Wilkinson was governor from 1987 to 1991 gave their old boss money, including Milo Bryant, transportation secretary, and L. Rogers Wells, finance secretary.

        Other investors are state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, D-Hazard; former state Sen. Benny Ray Bailey of Knott County; and Hindman physician Grady Stumbo, a former state health commissioner and candidate for governor.

        Mr. Wilkinson himself and both his sons, Wallace Glenn Jr. and Andrew, had stakes.

        Some ecampus investors also loaned Mr. Wilkinson millions for other ventures, such as Hazard banker and coal operator L.D. Gorman and Wendy's Restaurant founder R. Dave Thomas.

        The list did not show how much money each investor put in.

        Company attorneys said stockholders aren't likely to get anything.

        “The people who were involved with this, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Gorman, are savvy investors. We figured if they were invested in this, it had to be good,” said Marty Johnson of Hazard, who with his wife, Teresa, owns 34 Wendy's restaurants in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.

       



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- Wilkinson investors from campus, political circles
Tristate A.M. Report