Based on financial disclosure forms filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics, the net worth of Nikki Fried -Florida’s recently elected Agriculture Commissioner – increased by $1,129,950 in one year.
Fried’s net worth increased from $271,613, reported on June 18, 2018, to $1,401,563, reported on June 24, 2019. This is a 416% increase.
Fried officially announced her candidacy for Agriculture Commissioner in June 2018, she was elected to her current position on November 6, 2018 and was sworn into office on January 8, 2019.
The increase in personal net worth has occurred despite less than a $45,000 increase in her reported annual salary. In 2018, Fried reported a salary of $84,000 for her work as a lobbyist for the marijuana industry. As Agriculture Commissioner, her salary is now listed as $128,972.
The obvious question, given the jump in her net worth, is where did the “new money” originate.
The Communications Department within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services referred questions about Fried’s personal financial disclosure to her political consultant Ben Pollara.
Mr. Pollara emailed TR the following statement:
“Since she last publicly disclosed her assets to the state, Nikki jointly purchased a home in Tallahassee with her significant other, Jake Bergmann, as well as placed all outstanding receivables from her private consulting firm into a blind trust that she has no direct or indirect control over. Nikki’s cash assets and liabilities – including nearly $80,000 in student loan debt – have remained virtually unchanged.”
Sources of Net Worth Increase
The majority of the Fried’s net worth increase is tied to a $701,000 home that was purchased in Tallahassee, Fl. TR recovered a deed for the property, dated February 2, 2019, that shows the grantors as “Jake Bergmann and Nicole Fried as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.”
Fried show no debt associated with the property on her financial disclosure form.
Mr. Bergmann resigned as the CEO of Surterra when Fried won the general election due to their personal relationship which reportedly began around January, 2018.
Surterra is one of the largest cannabis companies in Florida. In August 2018, Surterra raised $65 million including an investment from William Wrigley Jr, who is now Chairman of the Board.
Based on media reports, Bergmann still has an interest in Surterra.
When asked in February, 2019 about the potential conflict, Fried told a Florida Trend reporter that she has “no allegiances to any company. My allegiances are to the state of Florida and to the patients.”
Fried, in her position as Agriculture Commissioner, has taken several actions related to the cannabis industry.
In February 2019, Fried announced the appointment of Holly Bell as the Director of Cannabis. It was reported Bell’s role as Director of Cannabis will be to oversee the development of rules, work directly with scientific experts, and ensure Fried’s vision for cannabis in Florida continues moving forward.
In June 2019, Fried released the names she chose to serve on the newly created Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, which she said will “help improve the state’s medical marijuana policies.”
Fried created a blind trust in January 2019. The 2019 financial disclosure lists the value of the blind trust as $360,588.
Based on Pollara’s comments, the bulk of this trust includes “all outstanding receivables from her private consulting firm.” These receivables do not appear to be listed on any of Fried’s financial disclosure forms.
The Tampa Bay Times reported in March 2019 that Fried refused to discuss what assets were in the blind trust.
Fried’s reporting of cash on hand increased by 209% from the $79,637 reported in 2018 to $246,154 reported in 2019.
Pollara stated that the increase in cash was from Fried’s closing of the Igniting Florida, LLC.
Tallahassee Reports will continue to seek more details on the sources of income driving Fried’s 416% increase in net worth.