William Franke, the man who once owned the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and who in 2004 helped found Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to attack the war record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, is today getting some bad press of his own.
Franke, who made millions in real-estate investments and other ventures through his St. Louis-based holding company Gannon International, is the subject of dozens of lawsuits filed this year that suggest he and his various business entities are in a financial tailspin.
Franke's former chief operating officer at Gannon International, Robert Greene, filed more than a dozen lawsuits against his former boss in St. Louis County Circuit Court. Greene, who worked for Franke for 26 years before resigning in March 2010 over disagreements with Franke, contends in court filings that he still has an equity stake in 19 different Gannon subsidiaries and alleges that Franke is improperly siphoning money from those companies for his "own personal use" and to pay the expenses of other businesses under his control.
Franke founded Gannon in 1983 after years of practicing law with a focus on real estate and finance. With Gannon, Franke parlayed those skills to amass a sizeable real-estate portfolio. Profits fron Gannon allowed Franke to dabble for a short-time in publishing, when he purchased the foundering St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1986. The conservative daily folded several months later, costing Franke and other investors a reported $7 million to $8 million.
In 2002, Franke moved from St. Louis to the Washington D.C. area. A few years later -- in 2005 -- he purchased a $6.3 million mansion in the tony D.C-suburb of McLean, Virginia. Franke called the manse home until March of 2011 when he sold it for $6.5 million to a limited-liability company called JUYAJ. JUYAJ is a trust owned by Washington Nationals' star Jayson Werth, and that the baseball player currently lives in the home. Watkins says Franke now resides in an apartment in the D.C. area.
Like other members of SBVT, Franke was outraged that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry -- a man who'd also served on a Swift Boat patrol during Vietnam and then had the audacity to testify before a Senate committee in 1971 about atrocities by U.S. troops during the war -- was now running to become the nation's commander-in-chief. Running the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth out of Gannon's offices, Franke helped raise a reported $27 million for anti-Kerry attack ads that questioned the candidate's war record.more » « less