Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shirley Cunningham's chair: the cost of distinction

Few people get to enjoy the distinction of an endowed chair.

Fewer still get to stand in the winner's circle following their thoroughbred's amazing victory in a world-class race.

Shirley Cumnmingham Jr has done both.

He apparently had the cash on hand, so he bought the chair.

He apparently had the cash on hand, so he bought the colt.

But after watching Curlin win a Gulfstream Park race by 12 3/4 lengths, he sold an 80 percent interest in the colt for a reported $3.5 million, retaining a 20 percent interest. Not exactly the deal of the century; Curlin has gone on to win 6 of 9 starts since February.

Cunningham got to be there for the Preakness, but he had to miss Curlin's winner's circle celebration in the $5 million Breeder's Cup Classic. Since August he has been incarcerated in Boone County Jail, awaiting the Jan. 7 start of a criminal trial.

So much for the horse.

But now, federal prosecutors say they will prove that Cunningham funded a $1 million scholarship at Florida A & M University with some of the $46 million he and two other lawyers allegedly obtained fraudulently from his clients in Kentucky's fen-phen case.

The Courier-Journal reported in February that the Florida Department of Financial Services concluded Cunningham did no work to justify a $100,000-a-year "distinguished chair of law" that he demanded in exchange for the scholarship gift, but charges were never filed. The university paid him $193,243 in salary and benefits from 2003 to 2005.

Cunningham's lawyers are worried that evidence of the distinguished chair might "inflame the jury" and want it suppressed.

I guess we're all about to learn just how distinguished a lawyer Cunningham is.

No comments: