Jonnie Williams, the Virginia businessman and political donor at the center of the federal investigation of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R ), plans to resign as CEO of the dietary supplements company he founded, the company announced on Thursday.
Federal prosecutors for months have been investigating McDonnell and his family’s relationship with Williams. Williams gave McDonnell and his family more than $150,000 in gifts and payments in recent years, during the same time that McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, took steps to support Williams’ company, Star Scientific.
In a press release on Thursday, Star Scientific announced that it had filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission proposing a shareholder vote for a leadership transition. The company has lost money for the past 10 years, including more than $8 million in the first quarter of 2013 alone.
If all goes as planned, Williams and Paul Perito, the company’s president and chief operating officer, will resign the current executive positions and board memberships, according to Star Scientific’s statement.
“Mr. Williams, the Company’s founder and current Chief Executive Officer, who has been instrumental in the development of the Company’s anatabine patent portfolio and products, would serve for one year as a non-executive employee while working with current patent applications, new supplement product development, and advising on business development issues,” the statement said.
Star Scientific announced in August that it did not expect to be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the office that has reportedly been investigating McDonnell. That announcement prompted McDonnell’s private spokesperson to lash out at Williams, who McDonnell used to refer to as a personal friend.
“Apparently, the U.S. government has given Star Scientific a free pass for unspecified misdeeds in return for the testimony of Jonnie Williams,” the spokesperson, Rich Galen, said in a statement at the time.