When Jeb Bush releases more than three decades of his tax returns Tuesday, they’re expected to show a man whose wealth has ballooned since leaving public office in 2007.
Bush, the former Florida governor, is poised to release 33 years of tax returns on his campaign Web site — the most of any presidential candidate of either party in history. The returns are expected to emphasize Bush’s recent substantial success as a businessman, something not quite so evident previously.
So far, Bush stands alone in his decision to release so much information about his tax history. No other rival campaign in either party has signaled that they plan to release as much.
Despite the unprecedented release, Bush’s tax returns may not provide a full accounting of his finances. In the past, he has declined to release tax forms from his various businesses under pressure from political opponents. He has also reportedly been involved in several limited liability companies of unknown purpose. Failure to release information on those entities might prohibit a fuller understanding of his finances.
A handful of tax returns and documents previously released, mostly from his time as governor, show how Bush’s wealth has grown from $34,895 in adjusted gross income in 1986 — when he was working on commercial real estate deals in Miami — to a net worth of $2 million as he was entering office in 1998. In the final year of his term, his net worth had declined to nearly $1.3 million.
But when Bush leapt back into the private sector in 2007, he displayed the same energy he had during his earlier days — but enjoyed more lucrative returns. His work once again focused on real estate investments, but grew to include hefty consulting contracts, speaking fees, service on several company boards and work with investment firms.
For a time, Bush also sat simultaneously on the boards of six corporations, including health industry giant Tenet Healthcare, making as much as $3 million in fees and grants of stock. He also made dozens of speeches at $50,000 or more per appearance.
In June 2007, Bush signed on as an adviser to Lehman Brothers, the financial services giant. When the London-based Barclays bank bought Lehman’s North American operations, Bush moved to that firm as a senior financial consultant. He reportedly made $1 million a year.
Since leaving office, Bush has done much of his business activity with his son, Jeb Bush Jr., 31, his youngest child. Father and son shared an office suite at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, working side-by-side for roughly six years.
In a recent interview, the younger Bush said that his father’s business focused primarily on management consulting and growth capital. “We would go to various industries and help companies grow. So the focus was mostly health care, a couple of technology companies, real estate, oil and gas and then other kinds of niche-y start-ups.
“He works 24-7. I try to keep up,” he added.
After the former governor divested himself of his business interests late last year, Jeb Bush Jr. said he remained involved in several ventures, mostly focused on “disruptive” technologies. He remains invested in 3B Partners, which is trying to break into the “driverless cars” business.
“That’s a new business, new technology,” he said. “We met with Google and rode in their car. It’s an unbelievable business. It’s going to be a total disrupter in our economy. It was something totally cool and nerdy that we came into by accident and tried to start a business around it with partners.”
On Monday in South Carolina, during a tour of a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, the elder Bush mentioned that he was familiar with “driverless cars.”
“They really work,” he told his hosts.
Jeb Bush Jr. said he has also worked with a company called CorMatrix that was using technology licensed from Purdue University to find a way to adapt the small intestines of pigs for cardiovascular use. The company, based in Roswell, Ga., is working on using pig parts, instead of sutures, to patch up organs during operations. The company manufactures heart devices, some of which have been tested in Europe. It is unclear how much either Bush has made from their partnership with the company.
After his governorship, Bush launched Jeb Bush & Associates. In 2008, the firm received fees from a variety of sources, including Innovida, a promising prefabricated housing firm that Bush had joined as a board member and consultant. Bush remained on the board, eligible for sales commissions and other fees, until September 2010, when another board member revealed unsettling evidence of wrongdoing.
Bush resigned from the board and returned his most recent $15,000 monthly fee. In 2011, after the company declared bankruptcy, Bush returned $270,000 of the $469,000 he had received in fees. The CEO and CFO were eventually sentenced to federal prison terms after being convicted of defrauding investors.
The same year he joined Innovida, Bush and three others started a firm called Britton Hill Partners named for the highest point of land in Florida. Initially, the firm initially sought consulting deals and opportunities to participate in public-private partnership projects throughout the country.
Five years after Britton Hill formed, Bush and a couple of other original BH partners formed a new related entity, Britton Hill Holdings, an international investment entity that includes three fast-growing private funds buying a stake in companies in the fields of energy, shipping and aviation.
A form filed with the SEC shows that in 2013, the three held assets valued at more than $100 million, with much of the money coming from a Chinese holding company. That company, HNA Corp., owns Hainan Airlines — one of China’s largest private carriers. In March, Britton Hill announced that Bush was stepping away from Britton Hill and other company businesses as he considered a run at the White House.
In addition to the $1 million annual fee from Barclay’s, which was first reported by the New York Times, Bush was paid in stock and cash in recent years by Academic Partnerships, a for-profit education company that markets and offers online classes for state universities, including three in Florida. Bush and the CEO of that company have declined to disclose the full amount of compensation Bush received beyond confirming that it was in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year plus stock.
Bush’s Florida business experience began in the 1980s with the mentorship and generosity of a family friend, Armando Codina, a leading Miami real estate developer and financial supporter of Jeb’s father.
In 1981, George H.W. Bush was sworn in as vice president and his son, Jeb, who got to know Codina during his father’s recent campaign, was looking to develop his own career.
Although the younger Bush had no prior real estate experience, Codina offered to hire him at his burgeoning firm, IntrAmerica Investments. He quickly offered Bush a 40 percent equity share of a new real estate brokerage dubbed the Codina-Bush Group.
On the stump this year in New Hampshire, Bush made clear that he still considers his work with Codina to be the defining experience of his business career.
From there, Bush continued building a modest business career before becoming Florida commerce secretary, and later running unsuccessfully for governor in 1994. He won his first of two terms as governor in 1998.
Matea Gold, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.