Who owns Don Gaetz's company now? Matt Gaetz's father sold Vitas for $406M before sex trafficking investigation
At a time when the Gaetz family is facing problems over the allegations against Matt, the focus has also come over his father, a former Florida Senate member who once owned a big hospice firm
Don Gaetz, father of embattled Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, made millions by selling his hospice firm way back in 2004 and used the money he got to launch his own political career, adding more to the controversy that has grown around the duo after they the younger Gaetz has been accused of sleeping with an underage girl.
The senior Gaetz, who served as a member of the Florida Senate for a decade ending in 2016, has backed his son’s stance that the Gaetz family is the victim of an extortion plot by a former justice department official. Don, 73, told the Politico in an interview that he had been working with the FBI and worn a wire on many occasions as part of a probe.
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The Gaetz family has come under the scanner after The New York Times published a report earlier this week claiming that the younger Gaetz was under investigation for allegedly sleeping with a minor girl two years ago and trafficking her across state lines. It also said that the inquiry into the Florida lawmaker was launched in the final months of the Donald Trump administration. Matt is known to be a staunch Trump supporter.
Matt has hit back at the accusations and on Wednesday, March 31, the Washington Examiner reported that the 38-year-old Congressman has text message screenshots, an email and a typed document that support his claims that the investigation against him is linked to an extortion scheme. While Matt said the extortionists told his family that they needed $25 million to free American hostage in Iran Robert Levinson and in exchange, the team that rescued Levinson would seek a presidential pardon for Gaetz from the sex-trafficking charges.
Don Gaetz launched his own political career after selling Vitas
Daily Mail has reported that “the amount the extortionists apparently asked for is the same amount that Don Gaetz’s net worth was reported as when he launched his first Senatorial campaign in 2006”. Don and his partners had sold Vitas two years before the campaign for $406 million. Though it is not clear how many partners were there but at the time of Don’s campaigning, his net worth was revealed.
Don, whose father Jerry was a mayor in North Dakota, founded Vitas in the late 1970s after lobbying for hospice care programs and made it the largest hospice company in the US. In 2004, Vitas was acquired by Roto Rooter's parent company Chemed for $406 million. Chemed is a publicly-traded company. Its two primary divisions are Roto Rooter and VITAS Healthcare. Almost a decade after the company was sold, the justice department had sued the company accusing it of engaging in Medicare fraud, including when Gaetz was the vice chairman. Don though was not named in the case and denied any wrongdoing. Don said he remained active in the management of Vitas only until 2000. He stepped aside after he was elected superintendent of the Okaloosa County School District in 2000.
But Don's contribution in the rise of Matt as a popular politician can not be denied. Mother Jones said in a report in October 2019: "But if anyone is responsible for Gaetz’s rise to political fame, it’s his dad, whose deep pockets and even deeper connections in Florida politics are one reason Matt is known in his district as Baby Gaetz." Both Don, who was liked in the Florida Senate for being an “old-fashion” Republican and “decent”, and his son have accused former federal prosecutor David McGee of being involved in the alleged plot. McGee, currently a lawyer at Florida-based Beggs & Lane, told the Daily Beast in an interview on Tuesday, March 30, that the claims against Matt were “completely, totally false”.
“The FBI asked me to try and get that information for Matt and an indication we would transfer money to Mr. David McGee,” Don told Politico. He though didn't say what information he was intended to get for his son.