With more than $30 million in debt and only owning a house, two old cars and a stray cat, former Olathe homebuilder and banker Donald H. Bell Sr. has declared bankruptcy.
Bell and his wife, Faith, had made Don Bell Homes in Olathe one of Johnson County’s most prolific builders in the 1990s and 2000s. From this base and guided by God’s instructions, Bell purchased the Security Savings Bank. He also expanded into various real estate ventures, including building a series of Value Place extended-stay hotels.
In early 2007, the Olathe Chamber of Commerce declared Bell its Citizen of the Year 2006. Among his accomplishments listed were the work of Don Bell Homes and Security Savings and the many philanthropic contributions of Don and Faith Bell, including to MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Heart to Heart International, and the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop Farm in Olathe.
According to a 2004 brochure from Security Savings, the couple had planned to retire in 1988. He was 56 and had established themselves as successful home builders.
Instead, according to the brochure, a “revelation from God commanded him to forgo retirement plans and take a leap of faith by buying a bank.”
Federal regulators approved Bell’s purchase of a Savings and Loan in Garden City, Kansas, which later opened a branch in Olathe, grew through a merger, and made Olathe its headquarters social.
Financial problems began to occur within Security Savings as early as 2006, and they surfaced in 2008.
An investor in the parent company of Security Savings has charged Don Bell with fraud in federal court. Bell, according to the lawsuit, had induced the investment in parent company Brittany Savings Corp. by misrepresenting the financial situation of Security Savings.
At the time of the trial, Brittany Savings Corp. was seeking $15 million in capital support through the US Treasury’s TARP program to support banks and FDIC-insured savings amid the 2008 financial crisis.
In early 2009, difficulties at many of the Value Place extended-stay hotels that Bell had developed led a Chicago lender to sell 15 of the properties that provided security for Bell-related company debts.
And in October 2010, the Security Savings Bank went bankrupt. Depositors were protected, but the FDIC said it expected to lose $82.2 million.
A lawyer representing the couple in the bankruptcy case could not be reached on Wednesday.
Bankruptcy records filed at the end of August show Donald Howard Bell Sr. and Faith Naomi Bell, his wife, owned a home in Olathe, two cars each over ten years old, their social security, about 83,000 $ in retirement accounts and a “wandering”. cat” that the couple said with clothes, jewelry and Seraph Angels.
On the other side of the ledger are debts exceeding $30 million. Among them are a $15 million obligation to Private Bank & Trust Co. in Kansas City and an $11.86 million obligation to GEM VP Lending in Chicago. The two large debts are each labeled a “Value Place lawsuit” in the bankruptcy filing.
Other creditors include a variety of banks and contractors. Many debts are listed with an “unknown” amount due.
The Bells also indicated ownership of Bell Development Inc., a construction company that the couple say owes them $1 million.
This story was originally published September 6, 2018 5:30 a.m.