Payday Loan Millionaire McKenzie Dies in Bankruptcy

An excerpt from the Chattanooga Times-Free Press story on the death of “Toby” McKenzie, who was once a multi-millionare thanks to the payday loan business — and while enjoying that status was often a generous donor to politicians and an employer of lobbyists at the Legislature:
A basketball arena at UTC was named for him. Millions of his dollars went to local schools, charities, ball fields and individuals.
Steve “Toby” McKenzie, a Cleveland, Tenn., native who grew up poor, built a fortune pioneering the national check cashing and pay-day loan industry in the early 1990s. He invested millions in more than a hundred businesses and real estate speculations and then lost almost everything during the economic recession.
More than a year before McKenzie died Thursday from unknown causes, he pleaded with his hometown to help him fight an involuntary bankruptcy that he said left him penniless, unable even to afford needed medications.
He was 59 years old when he died in a Chattanooga hospital. He is survived by his wife, Rebecca McKenzie, his three children and two stepdaughters.
“Toby left a legacy of generous support for the community he loved,” said D. Gary Davis, Bradley County mayor. “He was a big supporter of education. … My thoughts and prayers are with his family. Toby will be missed.”
McKenzie’s fall from grace became a public saga.
In 2008, when his bankruptcy began, he was ordered by the court to make $11.5 million in lease payments on defaulted properties.
The next year he was at risk of losing his two homes, each worth more than half a million dollars, and his personal possessions were liquidated. In total, he owed more than $200 million to 40 creditors nationwide, records showed.
The University of Tennessee removed his name from an athletics building because he didn’t follow through with a financial pledge. His ex-wife, Brenda Lawson, paid a portion and the building was named for her instead.

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