|Bob Yanagihara (right) with Mayor Greg Ballard and Gov. Mitch Daniels at Litebox announcement|
Bob Yanagihara, the entrepreneur whose promise to deliver 1,100 jobs to Indianapolis drew controversy in 2011, has died of cancer, according to Alexander Cappello, the chairman and CEO of a company that had invested in his Indiana venture.
Yanagihara was the founder of Litebox, a company he said would build mobile movie screens on big-rig trucks.
Two weeks before Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s re-election, Ballard and Gov. Mitch Daniels hailed him at a news conference announcing his proposal to manufacture the screens here.
The announcement quickly drew ire as details emerged that raised questions about Yanagihara’s business past in California, where he still had multiple angry creditors.
Later, Develop Indy revoked its offer of economic development incentives, and an Indiana contractor filed a lien to recover money owed by Yanagihara. But Yanagihara remained defiant.
“LiTEBOX is on the move to Indiana soon,” said a status update on the company’s Facebook page in October. “One year later I have forgiven the Politicians and the Indy Star. I do not give up on my hopes and dreams.”
But only three days earlier, Yanagihara had posted on his personal Facebook page that he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. In November, on that same Facebook page, he announced that he had “3-6 months to live.”I'm not trying to be conspiratorial, but I can't seem to find any obituary or news report of his death in his home area in California online. I checked the Ventura County Star's obituary records and got this response: "We're sorry, there are no obituary research results for Bob Yanagihara." The only news story on the newspaper's website about Yanagihara was an old AP story from October 25, 2011 about his Litebox announcement in Indianapolis. I similarly found nothing on the LA Times website about his death. Yanagihara's Twitter account first referenced him having esophageal cancer on September 7, 2012: "I have esophageal cancer." A few weeks later he posted, "Things are going to start moving and shaking." His last message was posted on November 10, 2012. It was a photo of a handwritten message on an envelope to Jennifer Lexon asking: "You love me? Yes or No. Circle One" The shape of a heart was drawn around the word "Yes." Yanagihara's death is almost as mysterious as the death of Manti Te'o's girlfriend. Recall that the media reported the death of his imaginary girlfriend as fact even though there was no obituary or evidence of funeral services being held for her. UPDATE: This memorable scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off comes to mind:
UPDATE: A month after the first reports of his death, an obituary appeared under his real name, Henry R. Yanagihira in the Ventura County Star, which you can view here.