Local businessman and philanthropist Richard C. Liebich died Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 68.
The Stillwater man left behind a wife, son, siblings, extended family and a legacy as a big-hearted philanthropist whose foundations have furthered science and education throughout the Capital Region.
But it was these foundations, and several of Liebich’s businesses as well that would later be overcome by financial and legal troubles that persisted until his death.
Liebich was born in Albany to a family that eventually made a fortune through Sysco Corp., a multibillion-dollar food distribution company. He attended Averill Park High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and a master’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University.
His first foray into running a company was after several years of military service, first in the Navy Seabees during the Vietnam War and then in the reserves.
Liebich founded North American Carbide, a cutting tool manufacturing company he would operate for 30 years. He also founded and led ceramics company Cerbide, Inc.
He was the CEO of Care Support of America, an Albany-based company that provided health and educational counseling to the chronically ill over the phone. A dozen nurses filed suit in state Supreme Court earlier this month, alleging Liebich never paid them all their wages, expenses or vacation time before the company folded in February.
He was director of the Ordway Research Institute in Albany, which researched cancer treatments and other diseases until it went into bankruptcy in 2011.
In 1998, Liebich established a program that would help bright high school students excel in high-tech fields. Project Lead the Way began locally in Shenendehowa High School and Hudson Valley Community College, eventually expanding to involve 200,000 students in 1,700 middle and high schools across the nation.
In 2006, he won several awards, including the University at Albany Foundation Citizen Laureate Award and the Richard Cornuelle Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
A few years later the recession hit and Liebich’s businesses, foundations and charities suffered.
Just recently, three of his organizations received subpoenas from the state Attorney General’s Office and apparently have not complied with them, according to papers filed in court.
The filing doesn’t say what the subpoenas are about, but his organizations — Charitable Leadership Foundation, Charitable Venture Foundation and Care Support of America — have all been in financial trouble, defaulted on loans and have been the subject of legal action.
An action was filed in Albany County Court on Aug. 6 by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office asking the court for an order “compelling compliance with certain subpoenas dated June 13, 2012, served by the Attorney General.”
Jennifer Givner, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, declined to comment on the filing.
An attorney on record for other legal actions filed against Liebich’s organizations did not return calls for comment on Wednesday.
Several lenders and other organizations have filed legal actions against Charitable Leadership Foundation and Charitable Venture Foundation, both based on Pierce Road in Clifton Park in rented quarters; the landlord has alleged the organizations are overdue on rent.
Both organizations gave grants to education and medical research, including supplying grants to Empire State College and Union College and the now-defunct Ordway Research Institute in Albany.
Since a $4 million judgment was filed in Albany County Court in December, the funds for both organizations have been frozen. Liebich said previously that some of the subsequent loan defaults happened because of the court order freezing his assets; he maintained his organizations had enough money to pay their bills.