In the seven years since now 96-year-old Kean Stimm started to develop what he calls the Newtonian Wind Turbine, he said he’s only heard from a disgruntled investor once.
In that span, he recruited 435 shareholders for the Williamsville-based company of which he is chairman and CEO, Kean Wind Turbines.
Stimm said the company has a waiting list for investors. He offered the person a chance to sell their shares, but they declined.
“If any of them want to get out, we’ve found a buyer for them,” he said. “I don’t feel like we have any that are at the point where they want to sell out. They still believe in it. It’s taken us a lot longer to get this done than we thought, but it’s a very important world product, it takes plenty of time (to develop), and it’s very complex.”
The office of state Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Monday in state Supreme Court in Erie County. It seeks relief for investors she said have been duped by Stimm.
The turbine, according to Stimm, is about six months away from hitting the market and, once widely adopted, will reduce the cost of electricity nationwide.
He said the company and development have been hampered the last 14 months since an investigation by the AG’s office started which disallowed him to continue recruitment of shareholders.
“Our funding has been stopped dead for over a year,” he said. “We’ve lost a whole year.”
The lawsuit was filed this week by assistant attorneys general Christopher Boyd and Tanya Trakt and Peter Pope, chief of the AG’s investor protection bureau. The suit has a complimentary restraining order that formally prohibits him from seeking more investors.
James, in a release Monday, said Stimm has collected $3.5 million already and that he continued to recruit investors after her office asked him to stop. She said he has used investors’ money to pay for an apartment, personal aide, a cruise and a piano.
Stimm said he doesn’t take a salary from the company but that he is permitted to use approximately $45,000 for personal expenses.
“I have a contract with the corporation that provides a work office for me where I can also live, and a personal assistant because I’m unable to operate by myself. Without that, I cannot serve the corporation,” he said. “They’re trying to mislead the public as to what my status is.”
The Newtonian Wind Turbine, Stimm said, is different than three-blade turbines traditionally used to convert wind to energy. At about a tenth of the size, he said it can convert more wind to energy than its counterparts for approximately 5% of the cost and with less maintenance.
Stimm said his career has been devoted to development of new products and that he owned six manufacturing companies. Before he recruited investors, he said the company checked that it followed proper protocol in the process.
“We borrow no money, we have no debt, and I’m proud of that fact,” he said. “We believe we’re an honorable corporation and we employ honorable people. As far as we can tell, there’s nothing substantial in anything that (the AG’s office) came up with. We believe we’ve conducted our corporation entirely properly and certainly legally in every way.”
Once ready to mass produce, he plans for Western New York to be the manufacturing center for the turbine and that the company would hire millions of workers across the country.
He said people in the three-blade windmill industry don’t want the idea to come to fruition and want to see development shutdown.
Nonetheless, it remains his passion.
“I tried to retire and I found it so boring. I found this (project) and it’s very exciting. I see a way to solve the inefficiency of the three-blade windmill,” he said.
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