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Records reveal Senate candidate Jeff Greene's investments are global and gargantuan

WASHINGTON — Florida Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Greene is fabulously wealthy, that we know.

But the depth and scope of the billionaire's fortune was revealed Friday when he filed his financial disclosure form, only a short while before the deadline. The 56-page document shows a dizzying and diverse array of investments, from real estate to stock and government bonds.

For starters, Greene has more than $50 million in U.S. Treasury bonds, which generated between $1 million and $5 million in interest last year.

Federal financial disclosure forms deal in ranges, not specific amounts. But Greene's investments sprawl across the globe, and make it clear this political newcomer from Palm Beach has virtually limitless resources to wage a campaign, something he's already made clear with millions already spent on TV ads that have made him a contender in the Democratic primary against rival Kendrick Meek.

Greene has sunk money in everything from foreign oil fields to local schools, with millions of dollars in Miami-Dade and Broward county school bonds kicking out interest for him.

His investment in Miami-Dade is between $1 million and $5 million. In Broward, it is listed as between $5 million and $25 million. He also holds bonds in Ohio, New York and California.

Broward's bonds pay him between $100,000 and $1 million annually, the report says.

He also has bond investments in Mexico, South Africa and Brazil.

Greene's stock holdings include millions invested in firms as prosaic as Continental Airlines, Eastman Kodak and Exxon Mobile. His holdings with the highest values include Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, indicating he is betting on banks, which not long ago teetered on collapse.

But the forms also reveal riskier bets, including investments in Venezuelan government bonds and in the state-owned oil company, Petroleos De Venezuela.

So-called emerging market investments "aren't for the faint of heart," but are popular among big investors because of their high yields, said Jason Kaplan, managing director at hedge fund group NWI Management in New York.

Still, the investment could be problematic in a political context, particularly in Florida, with strong ties to Latin America.

Greene said the Venezuelan bonds were part of a Latin America portfolio put together for him by a broker. When he found out, he sold the bonds — "because I hate that Hugo Chavez."

Still, the sale made him millions, the records shows.

Because the federal form requires only ranges, not specific amounts of assets, it is hard to accurately calculate Greene's net worth. It has been valued at more than $1 billion and could top $2 billion. Forbes magazine has put it at $1.4 billion.

Greene said the document is a picture of "35 years of hard work and dedication" and a "testament that the American Dream is alive and well in our great nation."

He said he started with nothing and wants to have the same opportunities he has enjoyed.

Greene lists himself as a partner in about 70 companies, mostly real estate businesses that generate up to $1 million a year in income and in some cases up to $5 million per year. He also owns several jet rental businesses.

His biggest liabilities are mortgages on rental properties in various states including Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania. In 2009, he took out a loan for as much as $25 million from Bank of America for property in Los Angeles.

Greene built his wealth in real estate and by 2005 was estimated to be worth nearly $800 million. But he worried that a looming housing collapse could wipe him out just as it nearly did in the 1990s.

To protect himself, he said, he wound up persuading investment houses to let him invest in complicated products called credit default swaps — essentially insurance against a subprime mortgage implosion.

For an investment of about $24 million, Greene made at least $500 million, according to the book The Greatest Trade Ever by Gregory Zuckerman.

Meek's campaign questioned the timing and contents of Greene's disclosure.

"Jeff Greene entered this race at the last minute and disclosed his personal finances just hours before they were due," said campaign spokesman Adam Sharon. "These forms only raise more questions about Greene's business interests. Jeff Greene is trying to buy a U.S. Senate seat with the ill-gotten gains made betting against middle class Florida homeowners."

Times political editor Adam C. Smith contributed this report.

Records reveal Senate candidate Jeff Greene's investments are global and gargantuan 07/23/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 23, 2010 10:43pm]
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