Advanced Equities

Did arena football team owner really run a private equity fund?

May 31, 2013: 12:05 PM ET

chicago-rushMore questions than answers about "private equity fund manager" who owned Chicago's arena football team.

FORTUNE -- Back in February, a man named David Staral purchased the Chicago Rush arena football team. Three months later, vendors began complaining that bills weren't being paid. Then the Chicago Sun-Times then reported that Staral is on probation after being convicted of embezzling money and actually had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection back in January (i.e., one month before he bought the team). Not surprisingly, the league soon took over team operations.

What does all of this have to do with Term Sheet? Well, David Staral is a private equity investor who had deep ties to Advanced Equities – the broker-dealer that was busted by the SEC for fraud and eventually shut down last year (past coverage here).

It's not exactly clear if Staral personally invested in AEI deals or steered other people into them (or both), but he has said his "clients" included fuel-cell maker Bloom Energy and flailing electric carmaker Fisker Automotive.

Moreover, Staral launched a private equity firm with Lisa Julin, who had been a managing director of AEI's private client group. Staral said in interviews that the firm – called Star Julin Equity Partners – managed a $40 million private equity fund. It still has a website, but I couldn't find any SEC registration for the firm or its fund, and Staral didn't return my calls.

So I reached out to Lisa Julin, to see if she could explain exactly what Star Julin Equity Partners is (and who, if anyone, it raised money from). She forwarded my inquiry to her attorney, who only provided a brief statement about how Julin is "a highly-respected member of the financial services industry… and that she "has no intention of conducting business dealings of any kind with Mr. Staral."

The attorney wouldn't really explain why he, rather than Julin, was calling me back. Or the status of the private equity fund. Or if there even was a private equity fund in the first place. Or why a "highly-respected member of the financial services industry" got into business with someone who has twice pleaded guilty to embezzlement.

Like when it comes to most things associated with AEI, there are more questions than answers. And even the answers don't seem to make a lot of sense.

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