Toby McKenzie

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Tobe McKenzie
Steve Allen McKenzie

(1953-06-11)June 11, 1953
Cleveland, Tennessee, United States
DiedMay 2, 2013(2013-05-02) (aged 59)
Cleveland, Tennessee
Known forRent to own, National Cash Advance, real estate developments.

Steve Allen "Tobe" McKenzie (June 11, 1953 – May 2, 2013) was an American businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist from Cleveland, Tennessee. He began his career by founding two rent-to-own businesses and later made his fortune after founding National Cash Advance. He later began investing in businesses and real estate speculations, and lost all of his assets as a result of the Great Recession.


Early life and education

McKenzie was born to Bob and Gail Bettis McKenzie in 1953 in Bradley County, Tennessee. He had one brother, Mark Patrick McKenzie. He attended Bradley Central High School, where he played football and baseball. He graduated in 1971. After high school, he took a job as a paperboy for the Chattanooga Times Free Press and the Cleveland Daily Banner . [1]

Business career

In the 1980s, McKenzie founded two rent-to-own businesses in Cleveland. In 1994 he founded the National Cash Advance, a payday loan company. [2] He sold the company in 1999. At the time of its selling, the National Cash Advance included 550 stores nationwide. [1]

In the early 2000s McKenzie began investing in real estate developments that he believed would increase in value by borrowing money from multiple banks. [3] These included hundreds of acres of land in East Tennessee and over 100 businesses including a golf course in Ooltewah, bowling alley, a hotel in Sweetwater, a used car dealership and a shopping center on Paul Huff Parkway in Cleveland that was never built. [4] These reckless investments would eventually lead to his bankruptcy.

In 2004 he founded McKenzie Trucking & Leasing, a trucking company. [5]


In December 2008, during the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the beginning of the Great Recession, McKenzie filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the United States District Court in Chattanooga, Tennessee disclosing $151 million in debts and assets of over $100 million. [6] He was then ordered to make $11.5 million in lease payments on defaulted properties. [5] The following year he lost millions of his assets including an unfinished home.


McKenzie made numerous donations to local schools and causes, including the United Way, Lee University, and Habitat for Humanity. [1] In the late 1990s, McKenzie and his wife gave a donation of $2 million to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to help pay off the debt on the school's basketball arena, The Roundhouse. In 2000, the arena was renamed the McKenzie Arena. [7] In 2000 McKenzie and his wife pledged $4 million to an athletic center that adjoins the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex at The University of Tennessee in Knoxville. [8] As a result of his bankruptcy McKenzie was unable to complete his pledge, and in 2009, his name was removed from the building. [8]

Personal life

McKenzie was of the Pentecostal faith and was a member of Mount Olive Church of God. [1]

In 1979 McKenzie married businesswoman Brenda Lawson. They had two children, Ashley and Steve, Jr. [1] They divorced in 2000. In 2006 he married Rebecca Harris.

McKenzie died on May 2, 2013 from heart failure.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Toby McKenzie". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Chattanooga, Tennessee. May 4, 2013. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  2. "National Cash Advance". Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  3. South, Todd (May 12, 2013). "Toby McKenzie is gone, but bankruptcy suits continue". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  4. "Toby McKenzie Says He Is Ready To Again Manage His Businesses". The Chattanoogan. August 11, 2009. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  5. 1 2 "McKenzie Faces $11.5 Million Judgment on Trucking Firm; Gives Up Sweetwater Hotel". The Trucker's Report. October 26, 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  6. Kleinheider (January 7, 2009). "Bradley County millionaire's bankruptcy leaves Regions holding the bag". The Nashville Post. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  7. "The McKenzie Arena". The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. April 22, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  8. 1 2 Flory, Josh (January 24, 2009). "Name off UT building as donor misses pledge, says he owes $151M to creditors". Knoxville News Sentinel. Knoxville, Tennessee. Retrieved August 12, 2017.