BizWorthy: Heafner Responds To Allegations; Ballantyne Landmark's Future In Question

Sep 5, 2019

There’s a trend around Charlotte of finding new uses for old buildings. Think textile mills converted to loft apartments. It appears some of that is now moving to Ballantyne.

We’ll have more on that in this BizWorthy segment, but first an update on a story we brought you last week on Charlotte financial adviser Jim Heafner.

He was well-known for his appearances on Charlotte TV stations and was a WFAE underwriter. The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter's Tony Mecia reported that Heafner closed his firm earlier this year amid allegations he gave bad investment advice and invested clients’ money with a Florida company under scrutiny from regulators. That came out in a couple of lawsuits.

Mecia joins WFAE's "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf with more on that and other business news.

Lisa Worf: You ended up speaking with Heafner this past week. What was his response to these allegations?

Tony Mecia: Well, it was really interesting. After that first story appeared in the Charlotte Ledger and after it was on WFAE, he called me up and said he wanted to talk and wanted to set the record straight and get the facts out. He said as far as steering his clients to First Global, which is a Florida company that had promised some pretty big returns in a short amount of time, he said he sort of felt badly about that. He said he had a lot of his own money in First Global and that he lost a lot of money on it, but he sort of said 'Well, that's sort of the way investments play out sometimes, you know markets go up, markets go down.'

As far as some of the other allegations that have surfaced recently about inappropriate investments for retirees, he defended some of those. He is a big believer in putting retirement money into annuities, which are financial products that promise upside and promise growth if the market does well while safeguarding your money if the market drops. The problem that some financial advisers see with that, though, Lisa, is that these are products that tend to have high fees and they also tend to pay high commissions to people who sell them — people like Heafner. But he said they're entirely appropriate for some people. You know, on the one hand he sort of said he feels bad about some of the way things turned out, but overall he says, you know, this is just one black mark on his otherwise terrific career.

Worf: One of the advices that you highlighted last week was an 85-year-old woman who had her assets locked up into a 10-year annuity. How did he justify that?

Mecia: Well, he did point out that people are allowed to withdraw some of their money from annuities so that while some of the money was locked up that she still had some access to some of the money. Now, a lot of financial advisers will tell you that those might not be appropriate investments for elderly people because they do lock up that money because there are big withdrawal penalties if you take out more than the minimum and that they also come with high fees and high commissions.

Worf: On to Ballantyne. It appears that Ballantyne Village Theatre's life as a cinema may be limited but that the space may be pretty recognizable in its next life. What's going on with the theater?

Mecia: It's really interesting because nobody involved that I tried to speak with would really talk about it. But if you look online there's a big real estate company in town, a big national company called JLL, which has a lot of different real estate moves in Charlotte and elsewhere, and it lists as office space something that looks very much like the Ballantyne Theatre. It has that distinctive spaceship crown sort of design on the top of it. So there are all these renderings online on JLL's site that seem to show the Ballantyne Theatre as office space, set up with rows of desks, with computers, rooftop lounge for employees potentially. So it looks as though that's being envisioned to be office space. But nobody has announced anything. They're still showing movies at the Ballantyne Village Theatre, at least for this week.

Worf: Now, if you want to study the ski industry business you can now stay in North Carolina and the Southeast to do that. What's going on there?

Mecia: It's sort of funny because you don't really think of North Carolina as a big ski destination, but obviously we have some ski resorts up in the mountains. Lees-McRae College, which is a small college in Banner Elk, this fall for the first time has started offering a minor in ski industry management. So, they're offering classes in partnership with Beech Mountain Resort where their students can study ski instruction, ski management — all things related to the ski industry. They say it's the first of its kind in the Southeast.