As feud with Graham escalates, Greene says he's sold off oil and energy investments

Billionaire real estate developer Jeff Greene says he’s sold off oil and energy investments that have become a flashpoint in his campaign to become Florida’s next governor.

Greene, who listed $3.3 billion in assets this summer, said he sold off all his stake in Exxon Mobil Corp., Hess Corp., Kinder Morgan and Apache — all companies involved in oil and gas exploration or transportation. Altogether, his campaign said he sold a combined 245,000 shares in the companies for about $16.5 million.

Most of the investments were the source of criticism Wednesday by Democratic frontrunner Gwen Graham, with whom he’s engaged in an increasingly contentious feud over the past week. Greene’s announcement that he’d sold the stock came immediately after Graham’s campaign blasted the oil and energy investments listed on his financial disclosure.

Graham’s campaign said Greene was “profiting off Gulf oil drilling” and accused Greene of hiding the extent of his investment in oil and energy by declining to disclose the value of some of the investments he listed as secondary sources of income.

Greene countered Wednesday by saying he’d sold off those investments. He cast the decision as making good on a previous pledge to unload any investments that could pose “real or potential conflicts” should he become Florida’s next governor.

“Greene has never declined to disclose his holdings, as falsely alleged by Graham,” the Palm Beach developer’s campaign said Wednesday. “He strongly opposes offshore drilling, fracking, and any such practice that threatens Florida’s world-class environment.”

The move was the latest in a political spat that started last week, sparked by controversy over the American Dream Miami mega-mall, in which Graham’s family company is involved.

Greene started airing ads over the weekend attacking Graham’s refusal to take a stance on the project, which environmental groups vehemently oppose. Graham shot back this week with an ad claiming that Greene was attacking her father — a claim that was a bit of a stretch, considering that Greene’s ad does not mention her father, former Florida Sen. Bob Graham.

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Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham.

But then Greene came out with a second ad claiming that Gwen Graham is “threatening the Everglades by building a huge mega-mall there,” which is not accurate.

Graham’s family company, the Graham Companies, owns part of the land where the 175-acre mall will be built, and the company is building a mixed-used space just south of the mall, which is near the Everglades.

But Graham has never had a significant role within the company, according to her campaign. She quit the company’s board in 2015, when she joined Congress, and was never in a position to direct the company’s business, according to her campaign.

While she does stand to profit from the American Dream Miami project, she holds less than 5 percent of the company’s stock, and less than 1 percent of its voting stock. Her campaign says she has placed her stock in the company in a transparent trust in order to distance herself from its decisions, and she has promised to recuse herself from any state oversight in the project should she become governor.

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Greene’s latest ad prompted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman to come to Graham’s defense.

“Seeing Jeff Greene’s ridiculous attack ad against @GwenGraham and I’m reminded that we don’t need another inexperienced, unprepared Mar-a-Lago member being elected to an important position,” Kriseman wrote. “Serious, policy-focused Dems are running for Gov. We can’t afford any more wild cards.”

Greene’s campaign did not provide documentation to back up the sale of his stock. But his campaign said he sold 75,000 shares of Exxon Mobil at $80 a share, 150,000 shares of Hess Corp. at $65 a share, 10,000 shares of Kinder Morgan at $33 a share, and 9,800 shares of Apache at $46 a share.

Graham’s campaign also criticized references on Greene’s financial disclosure to California Resources Corp., Ness Energy, Occidental Petroleum, Blackburn Partners and Quantum Energy as secondary sources of income. But Greene said he either held no stock in those companies and they were listed out of an abundance of caution, or derives no income from his shares.

In the case of Quantum Energy Partners V, Greene’s campaign said the asset is a hedge fund that will “self liquidate” by September 2019.

Greene said the investments he’d sold constituted “six tenths of one percent” of his assets. It’s unclear when he sold the stock.

In the meantime, Greene continued to fire away at Graham on Wednesday, furthering a fight that doesn’t appear likely to end any time soon.

“I sold my stock — now you stop the MegaMall development,” Greene said in a statement. “I promised voters I would resolve any real or potential conflicts of interests, and I’m keeping my word today. Will you?”

Lawrence Mower reported from the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau.

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