Poor National Lampoon Inc. Its former chief executive was arrested one year ago, pleaded guilty to charges of stock manipulation and is now awaiting sentencing. Now, Tim Durham, who was brought in to turn around the West Hollywood entertainment company, faces allegations that he misappropriated investor funds and ran a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme in Ohio.
FBI agents recently raided his offices in Indianapolis and Akron, Ohio, carting off computer hard drives and boxes stuffed with documents.
Durham has not been charged with a crime.
The multimillionaire financier denied wrongdoing in an interview with the Business Journal. He said he was in his shorts and T-shirt on Nov. 24, putting up Christmas decorations at his mansion near Beverly Hills, when two FBI agents showed up to ask him questions. The raids in Ohio and Indianapolis took place shortly after the agents left.
He said he and his partners in the Midwest were completely surprised by the raids.
“We had no idea anything was being investigated,” Durham said. “And we have continued to maintain that we don’t know of anything we’ve done wrong.”
Any implications for National Lampoon are unclear. The events could throw a wrench into negotiations it has started with potential partners in film production. The charges also could distract Durham at a time when he is trying to revive the moribund comedy franchise, perhaps best known for its now-defunct humor magazine and films such as “Animal House.”
Durham also has personally loaned National Lampoon more than $700,000. His ability to loan any more, if the company needed it, could be curtailed.
Durham acknowledged the investigation has taken away from the time he can dedicate to National Lampoon.
“Yes, it’s a distraction, but one I’m trying to balance,” Durham said. “I have talked to a few different people about coming in to help assist me with the duties at Lampoon.”
He added he may consider hiring someone to take over as chief executive of the company. But he also said his turnaround plan has been progressing since he took over in December 2008.
National Lampoon is wrapping up production of a comedy film, “The Legend of Awesomest Maximus,” and Durham said he’s in talks to produce large-budget theatrical releases that would restore some luster to a brand that, of late, has been associated more with direct-to-video fare.
At the center of the allegations against Durham is Akron-based Fair Finance Co., a business and consumer loan company that Durham and a fellow Indianapolis businessman, James Cochran, bought in 2002.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.