Who can forget when former Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Mayor Greg Ballard got snookered by a California charlatan touting a new start-up business that promised a thousand new jobs building mobile, digital viewing screens built into semi-truck trailers back in 2011 right before the mayor's re-election. Daniels and Ballard appeared at a highly-publicized press event right before the municipal election with the founder of the company known as Litebox, Bob Yanagihira, who turned out to be a complete fraud. Ballard and Daniels soon turned red-faced after the checkered past business record of the businessman came to light, facts which were easily ascertained from simple Google searches.
This week, the Indianapolis International Airport Authority announced it had chosen a little-known company, The Athlete's Business Network, LLC, to redevelop the highly-sought land where the former airport terminal once sat for a half-billion dollar medical sports complex, which would feature a hotel and a 20,000-seat sports stadium. The key point that came from the announcement that should have caught airport authority officials' attention was the fact ABN lacked any source of funding for the project, the assumption being that the media attention garnered from the announcement this week would propel funding opportunities for the company's founder, who seemed to line up an impressive list of partners to work with ABN on the project.
It turns out that ABN has been around for awhile, at least on paper. A limited liability company creating the business was first registered with the Secretary of State on December 1, 2009. The company, which was formed by Ice Miller attorney Michael Millikan, who served as its registered agent, was administratively dissolved by the Secretary of State's office on April 16, 2015. Ice Miller is listed as one of ABN's partners on the project at its website. The company renewed its registration with the state in 2011 but failed to do so in 2013 or 2015, leading to it being administratively dissolved. That's the first red flag. It gets much better.
Name Searched On:
ATHLETE BUSINESS NETWORK (Legal)
THE ATHLETE'S BUSINESS NETWORK, LLC
General Entity Information:
Control Number: 2009120200555
Status: Admin Dissolved
Entity Type: Domestic Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Entity Creation Date: 12/1/2009
Entity Date to Expire:
Entity Inactive Date: 4/16/2015
Sanders acknowledged his past financial problems in an interview with the IBJ, but he assured them that's all in the past. He pointed them to his role with two successful IT companies that were later acquired by Motorola and Corning Fiber, but the IBJ says it could not confirm he played any significant role in either of those companies. Sanders told the IBJ he and his partners have already invested $3 million in ABN, but he did not identify the source of any investors or lenders for the proposed project. Sanders provided some references for his business acumen, some of whom spoke highly of him. One reference had no recollection of Sanders but said he remembered the business, Accelera Wireless, because "we lost all of our investment on that." "It was zero," said Chris Brown of Global Emerging Markets, a New York investment firm.
As the IBJ probed Sanders for more information, he grew increasingly "agitated." "The outpouring of support behind this project is just tremendous," Sanders said. "But if Craig Sanders is a polarizing figure of this enterprise, I will just simply tell you that this business is far bigger than me. … I will absolutely step aside and make sure this project advances without me." Okay, it sounds like we're off to a great start. Good job, Indianapolis Airport Authority.