Country Hall Benefactor Sued

A Tennessee businessman who’s reportedly donated more than $1 million to the Country Music Hall of Fame and a local university is being sued by investors who claim he bilked them out of $10.5 million.

Robert McLean and his company face at least three lawsuits filed in Chancery Court and Circuit Court in Murfreesboro. Also named in one of the suits are Mark Riddle and Willard Holdings of Chicago.

At least seven groups of investors claim McLean used the millions of dollars given to him to execute a Ponzi-type scheme where he diverted funds to support an "opulent and bizarre" lifestyle, according to the Tennessean.

Lawyer Frank Fly, who represents one of the plaintiffs, said the amount the investors claim they’re owed is more than $15 million.

"The collapse of [McLean’s] business ruined a lot of lives and has a community-wide impact," Fly told the paper.

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved an emergency motion to appoint a trustee for McLean’s assets July 24th. Trustee Robert Waldschmidt will begin investigating those assets and distribute them to creditors, the paper said.

The philanthropist did not attend the hearing or have a lawyer there to represent him. He reportedly checked into a psychiatric hospital July 15th.

McLean has been credited with helping the Country Music Hall of Fame obtain "Mother" Maybelle Carter’s 1928 Gibson guitar and Bill Monroe’s 1923 Gibson mandolin.

Hall of Fame spokeswoman Liz Thiels would not say whether McLean gave the museum money to purchase the instruments but said museum officials were not worried about creditors trying to obtain them, the Tennessean said.

Museum director Kyle Young said McLean resigned from the board of the Country Music Foundation, which oversees the museum, in June and that no foundation funds had been invested with him.

The businessman also donated $1.5 million to Middle Tennessee State University’s School of Music in 2002 to be used for purchasing 54 Steinway pianos.

Neither the Hall of Fame nor the university had filed as creditors as of July 24th, according to the paper.