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Philip Levine says he’ll put assets in a blind trust if elected Florida governor

Levine declared his net worth at $133 million — or about five times the $25 million he said he might be willing to invest in his own campaign when he announced he was running for governor.
[Philip Levine in his gubernatorial campaign headquarters in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood on Thursday. [Jose A. Iglesias] jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com]
[Philip Levine in his gubernatorial campaign headquarters in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood on Thursday. [Jose A. Iglesias] jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com]
Published Jun. 18, 2018
Updated Jun. 18, 2018

Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine says he'll place his assets in a blind trust if he's elected governor of Florida, a decision intended to enable the $133 million man to govern without conflicts under state law by handing control of his investments to a third party.

"I think when you're the CEO of an $89 billion organization, I'm not so sure you have time to run anything else," Levine said Monday in Tallahassee after explicitly disclosing his net worth and assets for the first time in his political career. "When you become governor, your No. 1 priority is to be governor 24/7. I only wish that the same law in Florida would apply to the presidency — full disclosure and everything else."

Levine made the commitment while opening a Tallahassee regional office for his campaign, and shortly after filing a detailed financial disclosure with the Florida Division of Elections in order to make the August Democratic primary ballot. Levine declared his net worth at $133 million — or about five times the $25 million he said he might be willing to invest in his own campaign when he announced he was running for governor.

Though Levine filed five years' worth of financial disclosures with the city of Miami Beach during his 2013 run for public office and his four ensuing years as mayor, those disclosures were limited in scope and did not require him to explicitly explain the value of his investments or his annual income.

On Monday, he laid out an array of stocks, securities and funds that altogether were worth $140 million — minus an $8.3 million liability with City National Bank — and brought him more than $5 million in revenue last year.

His real estate, which he holds through 20 different companies, is spread throughout Miami, Miami Beach, Okeechobee and New York and is worth $109 million. He listed some $9.5 million in cash and securities, most of it held in a Goldman Sachs & Co. bank account.

Among his investments, Levine disclosed that he holds $113,000 in the U.S. Oil Index Fund, $454,000 in Hess Corp., $149,000 in Teva Pharmaceuticals, and nearly $1 million in Royal Caribbean Cruises, among various funds. And he listed his businesses, including Baron Air, Baron Tech and Baron Maritime Investments, at a combined $17 million.

He owns four cars, including a 1968 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL, and a Vespa.
Among the most valuable assets for Levine is his Royal Media Partners, a cruise line marketing and retail company that has a direct business relationship with Royal Caribbean Cruises. Levine valued the company just shy of $13 million, and said he earned more than $3.6 million last year in salary and investment income.

Levine, though, told reporters that he would take a hands-off approach with the cruise line industry if elected.

"It is one of Florida's home-grown, Fortune 500 industries, we should grow more of them. But, for me, I won't be involved in the cruise industry at all, whatsoever, as governor," Levine said. "But I would love to be able to promote all our industries as much as possible and the cruise industry is one of those industries that could grow considerably."

Levine also said he's in no rush to unload real estate that he and real estate business partner Scott Robins have been trying to sell in Sunset Harbour, a bayside neighborhood on Miami Beach. In an interview with the Real Deal, Robins said they wanted to sell so that Levine could focus on his run for governor. But Levine said Monday that there's no hurry.

"We're trying to sell certain stuff — we don't really need to. We're in a holding pattern," Levine said.

Levine, who reportedly made the bulk of his fortune when he sold his first cruise line marketing and retail company to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE for a nine-figure sum nearly 20 years ago, would follow in Gov. Rick Scott's footsteps in opening a blind trust, which is supposed to put a firewall between an elected official and his or her assets in order to ensure that decisions are made without conflict.

State law allows public officials to create a blind trust in lieu of revealing their assets on a financial disclosure form. Scott, a millionaire former hospital executive and candidate for U.S. Senate, is being sued for failing to disclose all his assets in a lawsuit that contends he retains control of the assets by holding undisclosed millions in a trust held by his wife.

Unlike federal law, Florida law does not require spouses of elected officials to reveal their financial holdings.

Court fight over governor's assets continues. Tallahassee lawyer argues for disclosure.

Levine is hardly the only wealthy Democrat running for governor. A spokesman for Chris King, a Winter Park affordable housing investor who is also self-financing his campaign, said King intends to create a blind trust. A spokeswoman for Jeff Greene, who has an estimated net worth in the area of $4 billion, said he will do "whatever he needs to do to ensure no conflict of interest," but didn't elaborate.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has proudly declared that he's the only non-millionaire in the race. Gwen Graham, on the other hand, disclosed more than $14 million in assets when she filed to qualify Friday, including $13.7 million in stock in the Graham Companies. She disclosed about $870,000 in income last year, mostly from Graham Companies.

Matt Harringer, a spokesman for Graham, said she's placed her Graham Companies holdings in a trust in order to distance herself from the management of her investment. But he said she has no intention to create a blind trust "because we've seen the problems caused by Scott hiding his assets from the public."

On Monday, Levine said it won't be his money that wins him the race.
"Anybody can buy TV time. Anyone can be on social media. Anyone can do direct mail," Levine told reporters. "I think really where the rubber hits the road is boots on the ground — is talking to the people."

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