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  1. Florida Politics

Jeb Bush, nearing presidential run, severs ties with equity firm

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sold his consulting firm, Jeb Bush & Associates, to his son, Jeb Bush Jr.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sold his consulting firm, Jeb Bush & Associates, to his son, Jeb Bush Jr.
Published Mar. 12, 2015

WASHINGTON — In a final and unmistakable move to clear the way for a 2016 presidential campaign, Jeb Bush has sold his stake in a private equity firm and transferred ownership in a consulting business to one of his sons.

"Just as he said he would, Gov. Bush has been reviewing his private-sector commitments as he contemplates a potential run," spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said Wednesday.

"Gov. Bush finalized that process this month, selling his ownership stakes in Jeb Bush & Associates and in the Britton Hill entities. This was a natural step as Gov. Bush transitioned his time and focus from running his business to increasing his political efforts on behalf of conservative candidates and causes."

The development came as Bush continues to fill out his political team — including the addition of two operatives in New Hampshire, where he will make his first visit this weekend — and to scoop up tens of millions in donations for his Right to Rise political committee.

A fundraiser Monday in Miami reportedly raised $5 million. Bush is trying to collect a vast sum by the end of the first quarter to demonstrate his prowess as a candidate in what is becoming a large and diverse field of probable Republican contenders.

Late last year, Bush stepped down from numerous corporate and nonprofit boards he joined after ending his second term as governor. Until now he had maintained his two direct businesses.

He sold his interest in the investment firm Britton Hill to George Huber, founder of Equity Investment Group in Fort Wayne, Texas. Huber is an associate of Amar Bajpai, a former Lehman banker who formed the private equity group with Bush in May 2013.

Named after the highest point in Florida, Britton Hill will remain in Miami.

Bush also severed ties with his consulting firm, Jeb Bush & Associates. He sold it to his son, Jeb Bush Jr. The elder Bush had not been involved with clients this year.

Britton Hill had begun to attract scrutiny and headlines comparing Bush with 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Bush's dabbling in the equity business was on a relatively small scale but still could have posed the headaches Romney faced in the 2012 campaign.

One fund launched by Britton Hill, BH Global Aviation, was raising tens of millions of dollars from foreign investors in September as Bush was gearing up for the presidential race. Another fund was raising money from a Chinese conglomerate.

Britton Hill also raised $40 million to back a Denver-based company acquiring hydraulic fracking wells in hopes New York would lift its ban. The Tampa Bay Times reported last month how Bush's investment dovetailed with his public advocacy of fracking in a number of speeches in recent months.

Democrats effectively used Romney's wealth and business history against him, casting him as out of touch with everyday people. Bush and other Republican presidential hopefuls, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, are trying to appeal to the poor and middle class.

Contact Alex Leary at aleary@tampabay.com. Follow @learyreports.