Rep. Owen B. Pickett, seven state legislators and a Tidewater bank chairman are among 25 prominent Virginians who stand to lose up to $1.2 million in the bankruptcy of a group of long-distance telephone businesses, according to a Norfolk newspaper.
Citing papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star reported yesterday that the largest Virginia investors in a group of partnerships linked to Telecom Management Co. were Pickett, a 2nd District Democrat, Virginia Beach developer Thomas C. Kyrus, and former 2nd District Democratic chairman C. Roger Malbon.
Each invested $110,000. The paper said Pickett has already sold his interest at a loss.
The seven state lawmakers -- Sen. William T. Parker (D-Chesapeake), Sen. Johnny Joannou (D-Portsmouth), Sen. Richard J. Holland (D-Isle of Wight), Sen. Dudley J. Emick Jr. (D-Fincastle), Sen. Edward M. Holland (D-Arlington), Del. Frederick H. Creekmore (D-Chesapeake) and Del. V. Thomas Forehand Jr. (D-Chesapeake) -- put between $10,000 and $50,000 each into the businesses, the documents said. John L. Gibson II, chairman of of Dominion Bank of Greater Hampton Roads, invested $60,000.
Lawyers and others familiar with the case said that the amount recovered, if any, depends on the outcome of the bankruptcy proceedings under way in New York.
The six related companies that have filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in New York include TeleMarketing Communications of Tidewater and similar partnerships in Miami, New York, Jacksonville, Fla., and West Virginia. Telecom Management Co. is a general partner or affiliate of the other concerns.
According to a spokesman at Telecom Management Co. headquarters in Chesapeake, the companies are still operating.
The companies buy long-distance time on telephone lines at wholesale prices, then resell the time to customers at retail prices.
Top officials of Telecom Management Co. were either unavailable or declined to comment last week. The company's new president, Mohammad Koochekzadeh, was out of the country, an official said.
Pickett, a millionaire, called the investment "among the worst" of his career, and said he recouped less than 10 percent of his money in a sale last year.
"My impression is that it's the poorest investment I've ever made," Gibson said. The banker's $60,000 was matched by an identical amount from Everette Newman, a Yorktown developer who is Gibson's investment partner.
According to court records, Joannou invested $25,000; Holland put in $25,000, as did Emick's wife. Holland invested $50,000 through a family business interest. Creekmore and four law partners put in $10,000 each. Forehand invested $45,000.
Other prominent Virginia business people who bought into the venture, court papers indicated, include Warren and Helen Aleck, owners of Earle's supermarkets, $50,000; Curtis and Herman A. Hall III, who have large farming interests, $50,000 combined; Robert E. Old, an insurance agent in Chesapeake, $25,000; Charles W. Cashman of Virginia Beach, $60,000; R. Curtis Saunders Jr. of Suffolk, $15,000; F. H. Cohen II of Virginia Beach, $50,000; Wayne Smith and the Princess Anne Investment Group, $50,000; and Alice and Ruth Womack, whose families are in the building construction business in Virginia Beach, $60,000 combined.