The self-styled supercomputer visionary who withdrew an anonymous pledge of $100 million to Portland State University has been spinning tales of success to public officials, industry insiders, and prospective investors for two decades, the Oregonian reports.
There is no evidence, however, that John Michael Fitzpatrick has the means to make such a gift; indeed, he filed for bankruptcy a few years ago. Fitzpatrick insists he's sitting on an enormous fortune and could make good on his pledge if Portland State would take his calls, but nondisclosure agreements, he says, prevent him from providing a single business reference or document that would support his claims.
According to the Oregonian, Fitzpatrick has over the years proposed to locate a $50 billion supercomputer with the processing power of the human brain at an industrial park outside Boardman, Oregon, and has filed notices with regulators which purport to demonstrate that his company was planning to sell $50 billion in short-term bonds to build the machine in Oklahoma and acquire a controlling stake in Intel. His other ventures include a failed Republican bid for the U.S. Senate in 1998; a free-speech campaign in which he ran pornographic videos on Portland's public access channel; and a hedge fund, a consulting firm, a check-cashing business, and an insurance agency. In 2011, Fitzgerald tried to use Chapter 11 to reorganize his business and personal debts, and he told the Oregonian he had hoped to use a little-known provision in the bankruptcy code to fast-track the initial public offering of a software company he planned to buy, only to have the deal fall through because the court did not understand his proposal.
For its part, PSU missed a number of red flags, scheduling an announcement of the gift and inviting the governor to attend a media event before it pulled the plug on its plans after university president Wim Wiewel and PSU Foundation chair Mark Rosenbaum became suspicious during a conference call with Fitzpatrick.