La-Van Hawkins has been to the mountaintop.
The restaurateur built a multi-million dollar empire that began with cleaning toilets at McDonald's when he was 15. Hawkins bought and sold countless restaurants, including more than 100 Pizza Huts he owned in Michigan, Burger Kings, Checkers and the upscale Sweet Georgia Brown in Detroit's Greektown district.
By any measure, he was living the sweet life, simultaneously owning several homes, including a lavish mansion outside Atlanta, touring around town in a convertible Bentley, flying from city-to-city in a private jet and hobnobbing with friends in high places. His rags-to-riches story was featured in national magazines. And just like he took care of himself, he employed thousands of people, paid them well and advanced them into management quickly.