Last week California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s PlumpJack Winery received some bad publicity when we reported that PlumpJack’s Napa County wineries were scheduled to be open over the Independence Day holiday weekend because that county was still open while 19 counties (representing 70 percent of the state) were closed. On Friday it was learned that PlumpJack was going to be closed through Monday due to “logistical issues,” but the other three wineries were to stay open.
Many Californians were understandably incensed over the episode, because throughout the coronavirus pandemic Newsom’s executive orders have been wildly inconsistent, seemingly politically motivated, and not based on transparent criteria.
Now we learn that while thousands of Main Street businesses have been unable to receive financial assistance through the federal Paycheck Protection Plan, PlumpJack Management Group, LLC, received funding in an amount between $150,001 and $300,000 – despite the fact that its majority owner is billionaire Gordon Getty.
The Newsom and Getty families have been close for decades; Newsom’s father, Bill, and Gordon Getty were high school classmates and Bill managed the Getty family trust. According to a May 2019 Forbes story Gordon Getty is the world’s 212th richest man, worth $2.1 billion. The same story describes PlumpJack’s founding:
An initial investment by Getty in Mt. Eden Winery, located on 53 acres of vineyard land in Oakville, soured quickly, so he bought out the other investors and brought in his lifelong friend, entrepreneur Gavin Newsom (later mayor of San Francisco, two-term Lieutenant Governor of California and now Governor). Together they founded The PlumpJack Group in 1992 and opened the PlumpJack wine store, then expanding to include a boutique hotel, three restaurants and, in 1997, PlumpJack Winery (replacing Mt. Eden).
This year has been terribly difficult for the hospitality industry, and many businesses absolutely need the benefit offered by the PPP. It’s not illegal or against the rules for PlumpJack to have applied and received funding. However, when a noted philanthropist like Gordon Getty is the co-founder of the company and still a majority owner, the right thing to do is ask Getty to loan the business the funding it needs to sustain itself through this downturn and save the PPP funding for mom-and-pop businesses that don’t have other options.
As we reported last week, upon Newsom’s election as Governor of California in 2018 he placed his assets into a blind trust, managed by a family friend. According to the terms of the trust he is not allowed to discuss company business with the trustee. However, Newsom’s sister, Hilary, is the President of PlumpJack Group, and a cousin, Jeremy Scherer, is Co-President, so deduce from that information what you will.
Newsom was asked about the PPP loan during Monday’s press conference. Judging by his answer, he wasn’t too happy that it was brought up.
Sounds like the question about COVID relief loans to at least one of Newsom’s businesses struck a nerve. pic.twitter.com/ueE0Yc9CTR
— Anya (@Anjaconda) July 6, 2020