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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Vern Buchanan's trail of economic ruin



BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — It's an inspiring story. One of six kids in a blue-collar family, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan put himself through college and grad school. While still in his 20s, he founded American Speedy Printing, a Michigan-based chain of franchised print shops. The company boasted 720 stores and $150-million in sales by the time Buchanan sold it in 1989, took an early retirement and moved to Florida.

At least that's how Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican, has often told it.

In reality, voluminous court records show, Buchanan left Michigan just as American Speedy verged on a spectacular collapse. Angry franchise owners accused him of mismanagement, deceit and outright fraud. Michigan's attorney general was threatening to shut down the company. In 1992, American Speedy landed in bankruptcy court, followed by dozens of store owners, some of whom lost their life savings.

Buchanan, meanwhile, was building a spacious lakefront home in Tampa as questions arose over what had become of a $15.4-million loan from Merrill Lynch intended to help prop up the company. STORY HERE

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:49am]


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