Last week we told you a bit about Brian Watson, the Republican candidate for State Treasurer who has a very checkered history with unpaid taxes and angry business partners. Watson is the owner and operator of Northstar Commercial Partners, and he has said publicly that he will continue that job even if elected Treasurer in November. Watson also says he won’t accept a salary from the State if he is elected, which would be a more noble gesture if not for the fact that maintaining his current job is a MASSIVE conflict of interest for someone in charge of Colorado’s finances.
But as Ben Botkin and Christopher Osher report in an absolute MUST READ story for the Denver Post today, Watson’s business background is shakier than a caffeine addict in an earthquake. Let’s explore this sordid tale:
The Republican candidate for Colorado treasurer has come under fire for past business deals that critics contend make him unfit to take charge of the state’s investments. But he says that experience is precisely why he is needed.
“I know what it’s like dealing with an economic meltdown,” Brian Watson said. “I know what’s it’s like to have fiduciary responsibility to protect investor capital, and because of that my returns overall have been extremely high, but we have had our hits, and those happened during the down economy.”
In short, Watson thinks he would be a great State Treasurer because of his vast experience with terrible business deals. This would be bad enough on its own without the details…but oh, the details are a doozy. Consider:
“If I had cash, I’d bury it in my mattress and run the risk of my mattress catching on fire before I’d give him a dime. He’s a snake-oil salesman. He belongs in a carny show.”
— Susan Barnes-Gelt, as told to the Denver Post (10/26/18)
♦ Watson made a $650,000 down payment on a Cessna 560XL jet in 2016, just a few months before the IRS demanded payment for $2 million in overdue taxes and threatened to seize his property as payment;
♦ A former Denver councilwoman says she lost more than $100,000 after following Watson’s advice on investments;
♦ A former business partner named Adam Wimmer claims that Watson and his company owe him $415,000 for his role in financing a development project in Denver. Wimmer filed a lawsuit to recoup that money in August;
♦ Grant Cohen sold his company, Aspen Moving and Storage, to Watson in 2008. Within 17 months the business he built over 25 years had collapsed. “He ran it into the ground,” said Cohen to the Denver Post;
♦ In 2010, Watson took a company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy after he collected investors for a business park in Boulder. Those involved said they lost as much as half of their investment on the park, which was poorly managed and allowed an unlicensed marijuana grow operation that caused water damage to the property. Watson blamed the project on a “predatory lender”;
♦ Bernard Wildes, a former neighbor of Watson’s in Greenwood Village, said he invested more than $150,000 with Watson and saw limited returns. “You hear a lot of delays and postponements and excuses, basically,” he told the Denver Post.
These are just the people who were willing to go on the record for one story. You could argue that Colorado would be better off with a State Treasurer who doesn’t even show up to work.