McDonnell’s relationship with Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the chief executive of Star Scientific, is now at the center of ongoing federal and state investigations.
The relationship has been the subject of intense public scrutiny for months, but this is the first indication that the governor’s family held a personal financial stake in the success of the struggling supplement company.
A person familiar with the stock purchase said government prosecutors have been investigating the McDonnell family’s ownership of Star Scientific stock to determine whether the governor took any official acts to help the company’s prestige.
Any evidence that the governor acted in an official capacity to indirectly help his own interest in a company could increase his legal jeopardy in a potential criminal case. Persons with knowledge of the case have said Williams is cooperating with investigators.
The person familiar with the stock purchase said the first lady e-mailed Williams from time to time to check how the stock price was doing.
Bill Burck, an attorney for the first lady, said she purchased 6,000 shares of Star stock on June 1, 2011. That was the same day she spoke at a gathering of doctors and investors in Florida and told them she supported the company and believed its new product could be used to lower health-care costs in Virginia.
At $5.18 a share, the purchase cost Maureen McDonnell more than $30,000 and came just a few days after Williams had written a $50,000 check to the first lady.
Burck said the first lady bought 522 more shares for nearly $2,000 on Aug. 2, 2011.
That was the day after she arranged for a meeting between Williams and a top state health official where Williams pitched his company’s new dietary supplement, and a few weeks before she hosted a luncheon at the governor’s mansion marking Star’s formal launch of the product. The governor also attended the event.
Burck said she sold the shares on Dec. 20, 2011, for $2.34 a share, a significant loss. But she used the proceeds, more than $15,000, to buy 6,672 shares on Jan. 20, 2012.
A person familiar with the probe said there is no evidence that Star officials provided the stock to Maureen McDonnell at a discount.
The purchase decisions were made by the first lady separately from her husband, Burck said.
“She bought it because she believed in Star, she believed in the product and she believed in the company,” he said.
Under Virginia law, if McDonnell (R) or his wife held more than $10,000 in Star stock at the end of either 2011 or 2012, he would have been required to disclose the holding on his annual statement of economic interest, filed each January.