American Greed

Robert McLean's Lavish Spending, In Photos

Robert McLean was a trusted financial advisor and a celebrated philanthropist, running a successful investment firm and donating millions to his favorite causes. But McLean had a dark, devastating secret.

In 1985, he set up shop in Murfreesboro, Tenn., a small town 30 miles from Nashville. The first clients of his one-man investment firm included family members, old friends and college fraternity brothers.

By 2003, McLean was clearly making money hand over fist. He had moved into a new home in a gated community filled with lavish décor, including a high-end Steinway piano. He bought a $1.4 million dollar condo on Florida’s Gulf Coast, and a $1.5 million dollar lake house in Tennessee. He even rode around town in his custom-built limousine, complete with its own chauffeur.


Records show that from 2002 through 2007 McLean spent $49 million — essentially everything investors had given him. Part of that money was spent on musical instruments, including two Johnny Cash guitars valued at more than $200,000 that McLean gave to the Country Music Hall of Fame. When the debts were finally called in, most of McLean's purchases went to auction, including numerous expensive, specialty and antique musical instruments like a Steinway piano that was sold for $50,000.

Also put on the auction block was McLean's Epiphone DR200/VS Vintage Sunburst guitar (pictured below) autographed by several songwriters, including Craig Wiseman, whose songs have been recorded by artists Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney and LeAnn Rimes. It sold for $120 at auction.


Also auctioned from McLean's collection were a Gibson Earl Scruggs Mastertone banjo that sold for $2,500, and the antique Gibson banjo pictured below that dates from the 1930s or early '40s. It sold for $400.


McLean also purchased a great deal of art, like the personalized beachfront scene shown below that was painted by artist Shelly Snow.

"On the face of each of the buildings [is] the name of someone close to McLean, i.e. Ronnie's pub, etc.," a representative at the auction house that sold McLean's belongings said. "This was in the Florida room of his Charleston Court home. It brought very little at auction due to its size and personalization."


Also auctioned were roughly $25,000 worth of electronics that sold for $10,000, including a large, flat-screen Fujitsu television that went for $750.