Kudos to Scott Milne, who voluntarily released two years’ worth of tax returns and other personal financial information. That’s more than Governor Shumlin released, and it’s the level of disclosure required of members of Congress.
His financials did raise a niggling question in my mind, though.
Milne lists several assets, the largest of which are the $2,000,000 value of Milne Travel and $1,699,750 representing a 50% share in B&M Realty, the firm he co-owns with David Boies III.
Then there are the liabilities: $1.642 million. The largest is a $950,000 “promissory note,” otherwise not described. Who holds the note? What’s it for? What are the terms of repayment?
There are also three mortgages totaling $1.38 million; Milne is responsible for half of those, or $680,000. Since he “owns” 50% of those mortgages, and he owns 50% of B&M Realty, I’m going out on a limb and guessing that the mortgages arise from B&M investments.
It boils down to a healthy net worth of $2.641 million, but still. We’re talking about a guy whose primary income is his $118,000 salary from Milne Travel. Now, I don’t play in these financial leagues, but it seems to me that Milne is carrying a lot of debt.
And his positive net worth depends almost entirely on the valuation of his two corporate interests — Milne Travel and B&M Realty. Is the family business really worth $2,000,000? Is B&M really worth $3.4 million? I don’t know, but I’d have to guess that corporate valuations are somewhat fluid.
Which brings me to my underlying question. How much of Milne’s finances — the black ink and the red — are tied up in the proposed Quechee Highlands mixed-use development planned for a 168-acre parcel just off I-89 at Exit 1 in Hartford?
I assume that Milne’s 50% mortgage obligations, totaling $680,000, are for Highlands-related land purchases. This is currently undeveloped land; if the B&M project is built, it could lead to a West Lebanon, New Hampshire style building boom in that area — making Milne’s stake a whole lot more valuable.
On the other hand, if it doesn’t get built, Boies and Milne will be stuck with the debt load on those 168 acres.
And the project is in serious trouble, having been denied an Act 250 permit by the regional environmental commission, and being noncompliant with the town of Hartford’s current development plan for the area. B&M has appealed the environmental commission’s ruling, and Milne has spoken loudly about what he sees as the anti-business bias and excessive regulatory power of the regional commissions.
Which makes me wonder how he’d handle Act 250 if elected Governor, but that’s another issue. The question raised by Milne’s financials is, how much risk has he taken on here?
In the past, he has semi-jokingly said that B&M is basically Boies’ money and Milne’s shoe leather. Well, to judge by his personal assets and liabilities, Scott Milne has a lot more riding on Quechee Highlands than his footwear. If he takes office and B&M’s appeal is still in process — which it almost certainly will be — then how would he separate policy from personal interest? Especially with the level of financial exposure he seems to have?
In releasing his financials, Milne criticized Governor Shumlin for offering too little information. And clearly, we have more numbers from Milne. But do we know what those numbers mean?
It may be perfectly obvious to someone who operates on that level, and it may be completely innocuous. But to a humble blogger, this looks like high stakes. And it’s all riding on a regulatory decision from the state of Vermont.