On August 24, we were the first to publish on the internet the news that Mr. Ed Gregory personally filed for bankruptcy protection late Thursday, along with United Shows of America Inc. and Gregory Entertainment.
HERE ARE SOME UPDATES ON THE STORY:
On Tuesday, August 27th, the newspaper reported a
favourable report about Mr. Gregory, one which sofar is not carried by any other
Autry's widow backs Gregory on filing
By KEITH RUSSELL
Jackie Autry, widow of legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry, has
come out in support of Brentwood carnival operator Ed Gregory Jr.,
who's in the midst of an effort to reorganize his personal and
business finances in bankruptcy court.
Autry, a banking executive who became Gene Autry's second
wife in 1981, is among the case's largest unsecured creditors with a
$1.05 million loan to United Shows of America Inc., Gregory's
Autry said she loaned the money about a year ago when banks
demanded payment on loans paid out to Gregory.
''Mr. Gregory has my full support,'' she said yesterday in a telephone
interview. ''I encouraged him'' to file for bankruptcy protection.
Gregory, who received a controversial pardon from President Clinton in
2000, on Thursday personally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
in Nashville, along with two of his Smyrna-based businesses.
The businesses, United Shows and Gregory Entertainment, together
operate a series of carnivals and state fairs throughout the Southeast.
They also own the I-24 Expo Center, a meeting and convention facility in
Smyrna, as well as a sizable collection of country music memorabilia
and royalty rights to the songs of country legends such as Jim Reeves
and Faron Young.
Gregory has said the bankruptcy filings are intended to help the
businesses restructure to ensure that creditors can be paid back ''100
cents on the dollar.'' The filings list the operations' total liabilities at
about $47 million.
Yesterday, Autry said the bank loans were called in after controversy
erupted in spring 2001 over Clinton's March 2000 pardon of Ed Gregory
and his wife, Vonna Jo Gregory.
''Apparently, bankers back there in Tennessee don't have a brain,'' Autry
said. ''I would never have done this to a customer.''
The pardons exonerated the couple for a 1986 conviction related to the
misapplication of funds at a small Alabama bank they owned at the
The pardons were investigated after reports the Gregorys paid Clinton's
brother-in-law Tony Rodham to help lobby for their cause. A House
committee concluded Rodham was paid $240,000 by United Shows for
undocumented consulting services.
The Gregorys, major Democratic Party supporters, denied paying
Rodham for help with the pardons.
The comments reflect the close ties Autry has to the Gregorys. Autry
said she and her late husband, who died in 1998, met the couple about
a dozen years ago at a charity event in Los Angeles. Autry said Gregory
also is a trustee and ''major benefactor'' to the Autry Museum of
Western Heritage in Los Angeles, having donated more than $500,000.
Gregory yesterday confirmed that Autry's loan came at the time of the
pardon controversy but declined to discuss the reasons for it.
''She's a good friend,'' Gregory said of Jackie Autry. ''Gene Autry and I
were really good friends. She said, 'You guys ought to file.' ''
Autry was one of two large creditors who indicated their support for
Gregory when contacted yesterday. Bobby Freeman, a businessman
from Hopkinsville, Ky., who said he has known Gregory for 20 years, is
owed about $1.2 million by United Shows of America.
''Over the years I've done many transactions with Ed and made money,''
Freeman said yesterday. ''So this doesn't bother me one bit.''
Other creditors tied up in the case are not as trusting. Among them is
William Rubin, an investor owed $2.7 million as part of a lawsuit
Rubin, a well-known lobbyist in the state of Florida, has accused
Gregory of making false representations about business opportunities
in which Rubin invested $2.9 million.
Rubin's Nashville lawyer, Bill Ramsey, declined comment yesterday.
Other large unsecured creditors include the estate of Mary Reeves
Davis, widow of country singer Jim Reeves. The estate is owed $6.5
million by United Shows for purchases of several properties, including
the Jim Reeves Museum site on Gallatin Pike.
Large secured creditors include area banks First Tennessee Bank,
Franklin National Bank, Premier Bank of Brentwood and the Bank of
On Thursday August 29th, the newspaper reported:
Gregory's woes ripple into other cases
By KEITH RUSSELL
The bankruptcy filings last week by Ed Gregory Jr. and his two Smyrna-based businesses, United Shows of America Inc. and Gregory Entertainment, have added new twists to two legal disputes involving the carnival operator and high-profile associates.
Both cases are colorful in their own right and shed light on the business dealings of Gregory, who along with his wife, Vonna Jo Gregory, pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy and misapplication of funds at small Alabama banks the couple owned. The couple later received a pardon from President Clinton in March 2000.
One case involves an ongoing and well-publicized spat between family members and heirs of country music legend Jim Reeves and his wife, Mary Reeves Davis. The dispute centers on a $7.3 million purchase by Gregory's United Shows of various properties, memorabilia and other items of Reeves' owned at the time by his widow.
United Shows still owes $6.5 million on promissory notes to the estate of Mary Reeves Davis. It is listed as one of the largest unsecured creditors in the company's bankruptcy petition filed Aug. 22 in Nashville.
The other matter is a year-old fraud lawsuit between Gregory and his companies and William D. Rubin, one of the state of Florida's best-known lobbyists. In court papers, Rubin has accused Gregory of being a ''con man'' who made false representations about various deals with Gregory in which the lobbyist invested $2.9 million over a 10-month period beginning November 2000.
That lawsuit was settled in June with United Shows' agreeing to pay Rubin $2.7 million. Before paying the settlement, however, Gregory and his companies filed for bankruptcy protection, thus making Rubin another large unsecured creditor.
Subsequently, the status of the Reeves and Rubin cases is in limbo.
''I have no idea what the status is,'' said Lani Thomas Arnold, the niece of Jim Reeves. ''If it weren't so sad, I'd laugh about it.''
Dispute over rights
Arnold, who lives in Shreveport, La., has fought United Shows' purchase since August 1996. Reeves, a tuxedo-wearing singing star who attracted a worldwide fan base, died at age 39 in a 1964 plane crash near Brentwood.
The petition Arnold filed argued that Mary Reeves Davis, suffering from the early stages of ''senile dementia,'' was not competent when she signed a series of documents in mid-1996. The documents included a contract for the sale of her assets to United Shows and gave Mary Reeves Davis' second husband, Terry Davis, at least half of the proceeds through a trust agreement.
Arnold's attorney, Horton Frank III, said his client further claimed that Mary Reeves Davis signed the documents because of ''undue influence'' from husband Terry Davis, a former Baptist minister. Mary Reeves Davis died in 1999 at age 70, 30 years after her marriage to Davis in 1969.
Probate Judge Frank Clement Jr. eventually approved the sale to United Shows in November 1997. The sale gave the company rights to Jim Reeves' memorabilia, his name and record royalties, and several real estates holdings, including the Jim Reeves Museum property in Madison.
In a 1997 interview, Terry Davis said Arnold's allegations were ''not true.'' A trial date has been set for December to decide whether proceeds from the sale to United Shows should go to the estate of Mary Reeves Davis, as Arnold contends, or to a trust that would give Terry Davis some or all of the proceeds.
Whoever wins that case, however, will then find themselves waiting to get paid along with the other unsecured creditors tied up in United Shows' bankruptcy case.
''The bankruptcy can potentially have an effect on what is in dispute in that case,'' said Frank, Arnold's attorney.
Accusations of fraud
The story of how William Rubin came to be one of United Shows' largest unsecured creditors has its own twists and turns.
A resident of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Rubin is considered one of the Sunshine State's top lobbyists, with clients including Nashville-based hospital company HCA Inc., AT&T, the Florida Marlins baseball franchise and the University of Miami School of Medicine. He did not return phone calls placed to his office this week.
In court papers, Rubin indicates he first made a series of investments with Gregory after a conversation with Bob Crawford, a longtime influential politician in Florida and former state agriculture commissioner who counts both men as friends.
Crawford wrote letters to President Clinton on behalf of the Gregorys when the couple sought a pardon for their past banking convictions. Clinton granted the pardon in March 2000.
''I've got two good friends fighting like cats and dogs,'' Crawford, now executive director for the Florida Department of Citrus, said in a telephone interview yesterday. ''My main objective is to stay out of it.''
The string of investments by Rubin included stakes in the I-24 Expo Center in Smyrna and Jim Reeves Museum property on Gallatin Pike, ''working interests'' in eight amusement park rides, a 1956 tour bus and $112,500 for a 50% share of a guitar Rubin believes never existed.
Rubin, in court documents, alleges Gregory made a series of false representations that induced him to make the investments, including claims that the I-24 Expo Center would sell for $80 million by May 2001 and that Home Depot and Wal-Mart were about to buy the Jim Reeves museum property. The I-24 Expo and museum properties remain unsold.
''Mr. Rubin contends that Mr. Gregory is in essence a con man and that Mr. Gregory, Gregory Entertainment Corp. and United Shows of America defrauded Mr. Rubin out of millions of dollars,'' court documents filed by Rubin's attorneys in November said.
In interviews this week, Gregory declined to comment on Rubin's specific allegations. In court papers, however, Gregory denied making any false representations to Rubin.
Rubin's case was settled on June 19, and Gregory and United Shows faced a deadline last week to pay the lobbyist $2.7 million. The company instead filed for bankruptcy protection and named Rubin as an unsecured creditor.
''He was supposed to have paid us last Friday,'' Rubin's attorney Bill Ramsey said of Gregory, ''but he filed for bankruptcy instead.''