Name off athletic center after donor fails to make $2M pledge

The name “McKenzie” was removed from this UT athletics department building on Monday.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

The name “McKenzie” was removed from this UT athletics department building on Monday.

The name of a former payday loan mogul has been scrubbed from an athletics building at the University of Tennessee after he failed to follow through on a $2 million pledge.

In 2000, Steve "Toby" McKenzie, and his then-wife, Brenda, pledged $4 million for an athletic center that adjoins the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex at the corner of Lake Loudoun Boulevard and Chamique Holdsclaw Drive. The center includes an expansion of the football practice facility and office space for athletic department administration.

According to Tiffany Carpenter, a spokeswoman for the UT men's athletics department, the couple later divorced and the pledge was split evenly between them. While Brenda Lawson paid her portion in full, Carpenter said, McKenzie did not complete his pledge and his name was removed from the building Monday.

"He is still a significant contributor, and we have now named the mezzanine level of the Lawson Center after Mr. McKenzie," Carpenter said.

The move is the latest bump in the road for the Cleveland, Tenn., businessman who - along with Brenda McKenzie - founded a payday loan company that was later sold, and more recently has worked in real estate development. Last month, McKenzie filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to allow for reorganization, and a court filing lists claims of more than $151 million. McKenzie's assets are estimated in a range between $100 million and $500 million.

A meeting of creditors is slated for Tuesday at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chattanooga, and those in attendance are likely to include bankers. A list of creditors holding unsecured claims is dominated by banks, including:

n GreenBank in Knoxville, with a $15 million claim.

n First Tennessee Bank in Memphis, with a $10 million claim.

n Sevier County Bank, with a $1.8 million claim.

An official with GreenBank did not return a call seeking comment. A spokesman for First Tennessee Bank said the bank's confidentiality policy prevents officials from commenting.

R.B. Summitt, president of Sevier County Bank, said his bank's claim is based on a loan for land in Gatlinburg but said his bank is well-collateralized.

McKenzie could not be reached for comment. Kyle Weems, an attorney who is representing McKenzie in the Chattanooga businessman's capacity as debtor in possession, said that "the freeze in liquidity of the credit market, combined with the collapse in real estate" was to blame for McKenzie's financial troubles.

Business writer Josh Flory may be reached at 865-342-6994.

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Comments » 48

bugman (Inactive) writes:

how about you name it after a great american rather then some rich nobody trying to show off their money. this just makes u.t. look bad.

stinky_pinky writes:

how about "anonymous"?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Wonder if Dupree could kick in the other half.

The Dupree Center - has a nice ring to it.

Maverick1921 writes:

It can't make UT look bad when that is common practice across the country, whether it be little league, pros, or anywhere in between. I kinda see your point, but if someone dishes out cash like that, you can bet your as* their name will be somewhere on the building.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to bugman:

how about you name it after a great american rather then some rich nobody trying to show off their money. this just makes u.t. look bad.

you name it after who pays for it, nothing at all wrong with that. This is a building built with private money, not the public dole.

as for people 'trying to show off their money', that is what makss an economy work, dude. One of the PRIMTE DRIVERS behand the current economic mess is that RICH PEOPLE ARE HOARDING THEIR MONEY AND NOT SPENDING/INVESTING.

Econ 101 for YOU.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

I had some dominos pizza tonight. My wife bought a big bottle of coke. Though that frustrated me, I ended up enjoying it as well.

suttree writes:

Pretty bad naming a school building after a 'payday loan mogul'. Why not a top drug dealer?

Maybe Charlie down at Charlie's Super Pawn will scratch a check to the university for the open balance.

Maverick1921 writes:

Or maybe some of you guys can pitch in a pack of cheese to go with your whine, and maybe they'll name some of the toilets after you.

dvols writes:

what a wicked web we do weave when at first we practice to ....concieve

eduardo writes:

Why do these people want their names on everything. On streets, buildings etc. What an out of control society of selfish prima donas we live in.

Maverick1921 writes:

in response to eduardo:

Why do these people want their names on everything. On streets, buildings etc. What an out of control society of selfish prima donas we live in.

See above reference to cheese...

volroadwarrior writes:

Do we want the facility? Yes or no. Do we want the tax payers and students to pay for it? Yes or no. Do we want to get it for free? Yes or no. If we want the latter, put their name on it and smile. SHEESH. What a bunch of holier than thou dufusses.

arkyvol writes:

payday lenders. good grief. i'd be more impressed had it been named for a drug pusher or the local chapter head of al quiada. it would have been a pleasure to put the crowbar to removing that kind of name.

arkyvol writes:

one of the earlier posters said he assumed that the big donors had once attended u.t. maybe, maybe not. as often as not, these guys are parvenus who never set foot on a college campus and don't give a tinker's damn about the real business of the university: education. however, they do crave respectability, the kind they can't acquire in shopping jaunts to nieman-marcus or saks, and there's always somebody like mike hamilton around to stroke their ego and work them for a few mil.

gohawks1 writes:

"SHOW ME THE MONEY! SHOW ME THE MONEY" - Jerry Maguire

newtonrail writes:

in response to arkyvol:

one of the earlier posters said he assumed that the big donors had once attended u.t. maybe, maybe not. as often as not, these guys are parvenus who never set foot on a college campus and don't give a tinker's damn about the real business of the university: education. however, they do crave respectability, the kind they can't acquire in shopping jaunts to nieman-marcus or saks, and there's always somebody like mike hamilton around to stroke their ego and work them for a few mil.

The former McKenzie's did not go to UT. They paid off UT C's Roundhouse at Chattanooga, and either before divorce or after have paid for many athletic facilities in Bradley County. Brenda Lawson is one of the chairpersons current UT fundraising campaigns. Neither of them has been involved in the
"Pay day Loan" business for 10 years or more. Mainly Toby can't handle cash, and his ex Brenda Lawson can. She's a very good business person, and a nice lady. Now if you feel the negativity I do toward Pay Day lenders, the biggest is right here in Cleveland, and in addition to many gifts to athletic endeavors in East Tenn., he gave $4 million to get his name on the Alan Jones Aquatic Center. And if you think he isn't Entitled to those court side or sky box seats, just ask him. He'll tell you. I didn't say anything about him being a nice guy.

smokyredbone writes:

in response to bugman:

how about you name it after a great american rather then some rich nobody trying to show off their money. this just makes u.t. look bad.

How Bout you give 4 mil and name it after a great american. Wakeup and look around! That is how a City or University is able to build these beautiful facilities without tax support or State funding . It would be nice if a major donor named a building after a great "Tennesean",but if not they deserve the naming rights. So! Put up or shut up BUGBOY!!!!!! GO VOLS!!

blitzshoot writes:

Ctown, where are you? With the new position on Kiffin's staff you could throw in a couple large??

volroadwarrior writes:

Payday lenders may be considered the scum of the earth, but the practice is not illegal. We have politicians who legally rob us of about half of our hard earned money and give it to other people who they believe to be more worthy. They get their names on roads, bridges, airports, commemorative coins and on and on. They throw us crumbs and make persuasive speeches so they can get elected, and yet not a peep from any of us.

Do we want the building? If not, tell the scoundrel to keep his money. If we do put his name on the building or get the money from someone else. We become very selective in our outrage where the sense of proportion is totally out of balance.

The only difference in the scoundrels is that we don't have to do business with the payday lender, but we have no choice with the politician unless we want to go to jail.

bugman (Inactive) writes:

in response to smokyredbone:

How Bout you give 4 mil and name it after a great american. Wakeup and look around! That is how a City or University is able to build these beautiful facilities without tax support or State funding . It would be nice if a major donor named a building after a great "Tennesean",but if not they deserve the naming rights. So! Put up or shut up BUGBOY!!!!!! GO VOLS!!

if you have that much money to throw around then you obviously aren't hurting for anymore stature in the world. if it's a contribution you shouldnt get anything in return. i wouldnt say "give me a building with MY name on it or i'm not giving you money". this is garbage like it or not.

VOLorado writes:

in response to VOLinCockCuntry:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

as long as everyone knows who "anonymous" is.

MattDillon writes:

in response to gohawks1:

"SHOW ME THE MONEY! SHOW ME THE MONEY" - Jerry Maguire

there's a new sheriff in town

tnbigg writes:

Larry Flint is reported to be the next to be named. It is said that he committed quite a bundle to have the honor of replacing the now shamed "pay day" scoundrel squad.

tnbigg writes:

I gotta' roll...but is quite funny what a bunch of morons lambasted myself anf few others who said this was a disgrace when it was happening. We were denounced as "narrow minded" and "short sighted". Well...put this humiliation in your pipe of ignorance and please...inhale...deeply...

TommyJack writes:

Don't much get what all the fuss is about.

rabidvol1998 writes:

I'll cash his post-dated check for a 20% fee.

volroadwarrior writes:

Take the scoundrel's money. Put his name on the building. Remove his name when he screws up. He will eventually screw up and we have a nice big free building. Free speech is fun isn't it? SMILE

johnlg00 writes:

in response to eduardo:

Why do these people want their names on everything. On streets, buildings etc. What an out of control society of selfish prima donas we live in.

Because we don't award titles of nobility in this country?

TotalPackage1 writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

you name it after who pays for it, nothing at all wrong with that. This is a building built with private money, not the public dole.

as for people 'trying to show off their money', that is what makss an economy work, dude. One of the PRIMTE DRIVERS behand the current economic mess is that RICH PEOPLE ARE HOARDING THEIR MONEY AND NOT SPENDING/INVESTING.

Econ 101 for YOU.

I understand you're opinion but disagree a little...How about this concept...make a donation and DON'T put your name on the building...don't you think he would now prefer it to never have been on the building...the Bible speaks of this type philosophy and why it results in pain...also, NOBODY is spending their money; not just the rich...are you spending your money? If you're not, then you must be rich. Also what are the rich supposed to do to re-start the economy? Give out their money? Uncle Sam gave us all $600 and how many people went and bought two PS3's versus paid down their debt? This period of time is going to force a redo/rethink of ECON 101.

rscook75 writes:

forty-first... :=)

MTN_MAN_VOL writes:

in response to VOLstuckINky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Great comment.. Now go back to the shop and finish tighting up your headbolts..

murrayvol writes:

in response to bugman:

how about you name it after a great american rather then some rich nobody trying to show off their money. this just makes u.t. look bad.

Unfortunately the world we live in demands that any american, however great, be willing and able to fork over a substantial wad of cash.

murrayvol writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Wonder if Dupree could kick in the other half.

The Dupree Center - has a nice ring to it.

Did Dupree hit the lottery and we didn't hear about it??

murrayvol writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

you name it after who pays for it, nothing at all wrong with that. This is a building built with private money, not the public dole.

as for people 'trying to show off their money', that is what makss an economy work, dude. One of the PRIMTE DRIVERS behand the current economic mess is that RICH PEOPLE ARE HOARDING THEIR MONEY AND NOT SPENDING/INVESTING.

Econ 101 for YOU.

And many of those "rich people" aren't quite so rich anymore.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to suttree:

Pretty bad naming a school building after a 'payday loan mogul'. Why not a top drug dealer?

Maybe Charlie down at Charlie's Super Pawn will scratch a check to the university for the open balance.

that's freaking hilarious :)

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

we are writing checks our bodes can't cash

murrayvol writes:

in response to arkyvol:

one of the earlier posters said he assumed that the big donors had once attended u.t. maybe, maybe not. as often as not, these guys are parvenus who never set foot on a college campus and don't give a tinker's damn about the real business of the university: education. however, they do crave respectability, the kind they can't acquire in shopping jaunts to nieman-marcus or saks, and there's always somebody like mike hamilton around to stroke their ego and work them for a few mil.

Thanks arky! Absent your post I might never have known the meaning of parvenu. Turns out I know a couple of those cats.

murrayvol writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bones may never lie but they are occasionally FOS. :)

murrayvol writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Don't much get what all the fuss is about.

Slow news day.

utvol17 writes:

Well he didn't give the money in the 1st person, but he did his work through these 2 money changers. Let's name the building after Satan and change the address to 666....

suttree writes:

in response to eduardo:

Why do these people want their names on everything. On streets, buildings etc. What an out of control society of selfish prima donas we live in.

I agree on the street namings. Manning's street used to be called Yale St (Cir, Ave, whatever) before getting re-named in honor of Peyton.

I went to UT when Peyton was there and am a huge fan but my understanding is that Yale had been the man who originally brought football to UT way back in the day. Kind of sad disrespecting the history so the athletic department can drum up some fresh publicity.

Side note . . check out the book "Carlisle vs Army" . . great history of Jim Thorpe, Pop Warner, and Dwight Eisenhower and how they all came to play on the same field one Saturday afternoon..

budd#207344 writes:

in response to Agent_Orange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

First of all he ran a legit business that obviously filled a need or he wouldn't have the money to donate.
Second wanna see the Kiffins paychecks bounce? Start complaining about putting donors names on buildings and such. They are the people who help fund the teams you root for every week.

BillVol writes:

Our new aquatic center is also named for a payday lender.

Hey, do Michigan and North Carolina do the same as we do???

I don't think so. We are Tennessee. And unfortunately we have to stoop to the lowest of levels.

volunteers4life writes:

Why do you folks think its called the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl, Fedex Orange Bowl, etc? It's all about the money. Most buildings, streets, etc. not named after donors weren't funded by donors or were funded by many different donors in smaller increments. If someone puts the money up to help us recruit better players from anywhere in the country, name the place whatever floats the donor's ego, I just appreciate the help.

Although I agree that payday loans are a form of usury, you don't have to look far to find the "respectable" lenders taking advantage themselves. Have any of you ever considered what the return is on those "overdraft protection" lines at the local bank? A $32 fee to pay a $5 draft is an unbelievable return on investment for the bank. When I worked @ a bank, we started one of these programs and made $250,000+ in profit in the first 3 months. This was a 9 branch bank, not Region's or 1st TN. Business is business I suppose but, the bible also specifically points to usury as wrong. This is why many Middle East countries won't allow loan rates to be higher than 3-4%. They also don't lend to Americans because they believe it is a sin to not repay money you borrow. We seem to think that it's okay to walk away from our resonsibilities when the going gets rough. If you want this guy's name off just because of the business he is in, you are just scratching the surface of the problems within our society and quite frankly you are cutting your nose off to spite your face. IMO...

hmhawk writes:

in response to volster:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And we can thank Slick Willie for his stupid Family Recovery Act(or whatever you call it) and his far left pals for not passing regulation on Fannie Mae in '03,'04 and '05. You can blame both parties for this mess but the liberals better be willing to share the blame.

hmhawk writes:

Heck fire ya'll,everything in West Virginia is named after Robert Byrd. Now there's a class act.

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

in response to BillVol:

Our new aquatic center is also named for a payday lender.

Hey, do Michigan and North Carolina do the same as we do???

I don't think so. We are Tennessee. And unfortunately we have to stoop to the lowest of levels.

Remember, Tennessee does not provide any funding for athletics, be it salaries, facilities or scholarships. All funds are contributed or generated from Ticket Sales, Marketing, TV Rights, etc. No Tax Dollars.

BigOrangeVol writes:

Did my $5,000,000 United American Bank check bounce again for the new Jacob Franklin Butcher Intercollegiate Golf Complex? Something has to be wrong with the STEP UP Campaign accounting records! I'd be happy to look into it for ya and fix the problem, honest.

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