Skip to comments.Reclusive millionaire quietly tops Schwarzenegger donors (DHL founder)
Posted on 11/28/2004 2:00:27 PM PST by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO - He's used his millions to benefit exotic show horses, a home for retired chimpanzees - and California's actor-governor.
William Armsted Robinson has quietly become one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's top donors, periodically trading off the pinnacle with San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos and Spanish language television entrepreneur Jerry Perenchio.
Stockton real estate developer Spanos and Univision owner Perenchio are high-profile businessmen with long-term interests in California. But Robinson is an elusive, reclusive man whose first major foray into influencing politics is the $650,000 he has given Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger fund-raiser Marty Wilson describes Robinson as a "very private, very quiet" man who attended a Schwarzenegger event during last year's recall campaign and has been giving regularly ever since - most recently at a Los Angeles event last month.
"To my knowledge he's never asked for anything," Wilson said.
After a decade mostly sequestered in a remote region of Idaho, Robinson has recently been spending his time in California, where he is building an arena near Temecula to exhibit exotic show horses, said attorney and spokesman Roy Moulton. Robinson has homes in Rancho Mirage, Bel Air and La Jolla, along with two in Idaho and one in San Miguel, Mexico.
"He's not trying to influence tax policy that would affect his businesses. There's no agenda other than his core beliefs," Moulton said. Robinson's Schwarzenegger donations eclipsed his previous combined political contributions since 1990 of $45,600 to two Idaho congressmen and several Republican national committees.
Robinson, 65, was prompted to support Schwarzenegger by "his disgust with Gray Davis," the Democratic former governor whose recall put the action star in the governor's office, Moulton said. Like Schwarzenegger, Robinson "thinks it's important to attract business back, to make California more attractive to business."
And like Schwarzenegger, Robinson breaks the mold.
While the governor is the consummate showman and backslapper, Robinson "is a bit of a recluse," Moulton said. "He doesn't get much pleasure out of hanging around the high rollers and movers and shakers." While Robinson occasionally attends fund-raisers and other events, "he's usually the first one gone. He buys the food, but he rarely hangs around to eat it."
The lifelong childless bachelor gave $1 million last year to Chimp Haven, a 200-acre home for primates who have survived laboratory experiments. He showed up in May 2003 for the groundbreaking in his hometown of Shreveport, La., long enough to accept a picture painted by a chimp from the Tulsa Zoo. And he attended a celebratory luncheon there earlier this month - but then skipped the dedication of the facility he helped build.
He's contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to found and finance the animal shelter in Teton County, Idaho.
But he's dedicated most of his attention since 1998 to becoming one of the nation's largest breeders of Lusitanos, horses that evolved from Portuguese horseback bullfighting.
When Robinson Lusitanos Inc. went looking for a photograph of Robinson for its Web site, the best it could find was a distant shot of him in sunglasses and ball cap, sitting in the VIP tent at the U.S. Dressage Olympic selection trials.
Inquiries about Robinson to Republican Party leaders, horse breeders and charity beneficiaries brought a response only from Moulton, who said Robinson was tipped to The Associated Press' calls by a friend at Chimp Haven. Robinson declined an interview, Moulton said: "That's the recluse side of him coming out. He prefers not to talk to the outside world."
Robinson spends most of his time reading voraciously, mostly about history and politics, when he's not busy with his horses, Moulton said.
He made his millions as a founder of Document Handling Limited, one of the nation's first courier services in 1970, and spent years chasing around the globe to help expand what became DHL Airways and DHL International.
United Parcel Service and Federal Express had trouble finding Robinson a year ago when they wanted him to testify in a U.S. Department of Transportation proceeding as they unsuccessfully tried to block Robinson's sale of the company to Astar Air Cargo Inc., whose investors include Richard Blum, husband of Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
"He's been somewhat mysterious," said UPS spokesman David Bolger. "He's really a colorful character."
Robinson finally showed up for his sworn testimony in Los Angeles on Aug. 25, 2003, dressed in blue jeans and a denim shirt, sporting a beard and felt hat - and accompanied by three attorneys.
Those in attendance were required to sign confidentiality statements, "So if any of it winds up in the paper," Robinson said at the outset, "Somebody around this table is in trouble," finished Phillip Douglas, one of Robinson's attorneys. A transcript of his deposition was obtained by The Associated Press.
In it, Robinson professes a near total ignorance of his own financial dealings, saying he delegated everything to brothers Roy and Todd Moulton, whom he met through the contractor who built his house when he moved to Felt, Idaho, in 1991.
Roy Moulton was not only Robinson's attorney, but he became chairman of DHL Airways Inc., while Todd served as Robinson's financial adviser and the second of three members Robinson appointed to the four-member DHL board.
The casual approach is typical of Robinson, who delegates duties and then moves on, said Roy Moulton. He said Robinson once was riding in a Mexico City taxicab while setting up the DHL office there. He hired the cabbie on the spot as a DHL courier, then a few days later handed the young man $10,000 in cash and left the country.
"That guy ended up running South America" for DHL, Moulton said.
Robinson has fought a long-running series of tax battles with the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS sought $18 million in back taxes and penalties in 1992, while Robinson said he was due a nearly $6 million refund in part because he deducted $165,000 for his horse show, tennis and farming activities.
A 2001 book by Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity entitled "The Cheating of America" alleged DHL was among companies that sheltered its income in international tax havens. A judge ordered DHL to pay $550 million in back taxes and penalties in 1998, but the company appealed and won a partial victory over the value and transfer of the courier company's DHL trademark.
ON THE NET
Review campaign contributions at http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov
Great article, Norm.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.