May 27, 2023

Jeb Inc.

Since leaving office, he has remade himself into a capitalist-entrepreneur extraordinaire but can’t escape a nagging question.

When Jeb Bush visited Kingston, Jamaica, last July, his hosts pulled out all the stops. They brought in a military band, threw a lavish reception at the home of the island's governor general and paid $60,000 for him to give a speech. The theme of the speech? Entrepreneurial capitalism. Bush is becoming quite an expert on that. In the 18 months since leaving the Florida Governor's Mansion, he has quietly remade himself into a capitalist-entrepreneur extraordinaire. Capitalizing on his eight years as governor and a network of Bush family supporters, he leads a busy, and lucrative, life: global speaking engagements, a new consulting firm and affiliations with three big businesses. He earns hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and stock and has joined the ranks of private equity executives on Wall Street. And he keeps his hand in politics through five nonprofit organizations that help maintain his profile, champion his favorite causes and keep people wondering: Will Jeb Bush seek public office again?

Bush, 55, is determined to keep his gubernatorial afterlife low key, closely guarding the identities of business partners and clients and refusing to discuss his speaking fees or sponsors.

He declined interview requests, saying in an e-mail that he is "trying hard to stay out of the public eye to let my successor do his thing.''

Through a spokeswoman, he dismissed any suggestion that any of his post-office business activities might create an appearance of a conflict. He issued a brief statement that highlighted his legacy as governor, not his recent entrepreneurial ventures.

"Being governor of my beloved state of Florida was my dream job,'' Bush said. His tenure was marked by "a great many new initiatives'' that improved Florida's economy, education system and quality of life, he said. "Ultimately, my record speaks for itself."

Losing the perks

When Bush came to the governor's office in January 1999, he reported that he had a net worth of about $2-million, much of it earned in partnership with a friend of his father, Miami real estate developer Armando Codina.

While in office, Bush noted that his family finances suffered because of his public service. He left Tallahassee in January 2007 reporting a net worth of $1.3-million.

Despite the dropoff, Bush declined a state pension — the only living governor to do so. His spokeswoman, Kristy Campbell, says he opted out because he believed that he should serve the state for eight years and "not make a career out of the office.'' It is "voyeuristic" of the Times to publicize that, she said.

Like other former governors, Bush had to adjust to life without the perks of power — the mansion, the security detail, the state plane.

He got a Chrysler 300C, rented a $5,500-a-month condo in Coral Gables, worked out and lost weight and played golf with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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