Robert De Niro-backed Nobu restaurants took more than a dozen PPP loans worth as much as $28 million
The Nobu group of luxury sushi restaurants and hotels that is co-owned by Robert De Niro took multiple loans from the U.S. small business relief program totaling tens of millions of dollars, according to newly-released government filings. De Niro has been one of Donald Trump's most vocal critics and has repeatedly taken to social media to attack the president over his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The actor has called Trump "dangerous" and a "low-life" who is "going to ruin this country," and said he would be looking forward to the day he would end up in jail because he had the "sociopathic quality of zero empathy." However, De Niro, who is worth an estimated $500 million, took full advantage of the administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that was introduced in the wake of the economic devastation caused by the pandemic to help keep small businesses afloat.
Data released by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and viewed by CNBC showed that the Nobu group, founded by De Niro, celebrity chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and film producer Meir Teper, took 14 loans for as much as $28 million from the PPP. This funding was then used for the group's sushi restaurants across the country, from California to Texas to New York.
The Nobu group is reportedly one of the biggest benefactors of the program, getting at least $11 million and as much as $28 million. A precise figure could not be calculated because the disclosures were filed with a range of loan sizes. The news comes after other well-funded groups such as Shake Shack and Ruth's Hospitality Group were heavily criticized for taking advantage of the loan program, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said was not for companies that could call upon other forms of capital.
But the Nobu group is not the only one that is guilty to have received a bailout from the PPP, which has promised $660 billion in a bid to help an economy at its worst since the Great Depression of the early 20th century.
P.F. Chang's, the Asian-themed casual dining restaurant chain, Five Guys hamburgers, and Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits have also received multimillion-dollar loans, while Australian-inspired cafe business Bluestone Lane was similarly awarded a loan between $5 million and $10 million.
Franchises of McDonald's and Wendy's across the country have also secured loans worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the Southern California Pizza Company, which operates 224 Pizza Hut locations on the West Coast but is owned by private equity, walked away with at least $5 million. The figures were released after the administration was criticized for letting big companies benefit from these loans, with the names of those who received at least $150,000 being made public. And even though these bigger loans accounted for a majority of the money that has been given out as a part of the program, it was shown that more than 85 percent of participants requested less than the $150,000 cut-off.