This is an investigation of San Francisco's for-profit Academy of Art University, the country's largest private art school. I examine the questionable business model that produced a nearly billion-dollar fortune for its owners, the Stephens family. Meanwhile, the university produced abysmal graduation rates, high levels of student debt and poor job placement. Former employees alleged illegal compensation for high-pressure recruiting tactics. And the university had serious land-use violations on most of its 40-some prime properties, benefiting, critics say, from close ties to leading San Francisco politicians.