Bringing Up Baby Gavin

How William Newsom's pipeline into the Getty fortune has put money -- lots of it -- in his politically ambitious son's pocket

The land value rose "a lot more" when Oprah Winfrey later purchased a piece of the ranch, Judge Newsom says. Winfrey read about the conservation easement and called the judge on his cell phone. Last April, she and her personal trainer, Bob Greene, bought several hundred acres of the beautiful spread.

The Newsoms also each have owned stock in Getty Images, a $1.6 billion conglomerate that owns an archive of 70 million photographs and illustrations. The Seattle-based firm rents these images to advertising agencies and media of all sorts. William and Gavin have served on the board of Getty Investments LLC, which sank $32 million into Getty Images in 1999. The supervisor was later allowed to buy $10,000 worth of Getty Images stock when the company was restructured. A few months after that, his stake was worth more than $60,000, according to the Chronicle.

(In a small but wonderful irony, an information-industry trade magazine called CIO recently ran a glowing article on Supervisor Newsom's "Care Not Cash" initiative to kill cash benefits for the homeless in San Francisco. The mag ran a picture of a shivering homeless man that it bought from ... Getty Images.)

Judge William Newsom (above) has played a key role 
in advancing the political and financial careers of his 
son Gavin (inset).
Anthony Pidgeon
Judge William Newsom (above) has played a key role in advancing the political and financial careers of his son Gavin (inset).
Miserly J. Paul Getty was sued by his son Gordon for 
more access to the family billions.
AP Wideworld Photos
Miserly J. Paul Getty was sued by his son Gordon for more access to the family billions.

Gavin Newsom also has a partnership stake in his father's firm, Newsom Associates, located in an office across the street from the upscale Marina Safeway store in the supervisor's district. On his financial disclosure statement, the younger Newsom valued his share in Newsom Associates at "over $1 million." Judge Newsom says that reflects his son's interest in the Hana Ranch property.

"I fronted Gavin the money and he paid me back," the judge says. "I have the canceled checks to prove it."


Judge Newsom says that one of his favorite books is Imperial San Francisco, Gray Brechin's historical account of the predatory political and financial practices of the city's monied families.

"The Gettys are not absolutely evil like some of the old families," Brechin said in an interview. "Ann and Gordon have minds. He is serious about music, she had a book-publishing business. But Gordon has the gravitational field of Jupiter. We are dust particles to him.

"Democracy requires the presence of level playing fields in order to work. In the end, the size of the Getty fortune is not compatible with democracy."

From the PlumpJack businesses -- which grossed $25 million last year -- to the Maui beach deal, the Gettys have embraced and rewarded Gavin Newsom as they embraced and rewarded his father. The only question that remains to be answered is whether Gavin, as mayor, would reward his patrons in return -- and how that might affect us dust motes and our local democracy.

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