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Total Wine founder one of the richest men in Congress

David Trone, founder of US retail chain Total Wine, which has recently been slapped with a federal court order, is allegedly using money acquired through the business to fund his latest election campaign.

As America’s largest independent alcohol retailer with 259 stores nationwide, to say that Total Wine has considerable clout would be a contender for understatement of the year.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, which is valuing Total Wine for the first time this year, the retail business is worth an estimated US$2.4 billion.

Having stepped down as CEO of Total Wine in 2015, co-founder and owner David Trone has largely focused on politics. And in May, the Maryland Democrat announced that he will run for a seat in the Senate (the upper chamber of the US Congress).

According to a Bloomberg report, Trone was the biggest self-funder of any candidate in three of the years in which he has ran for Congress (in 2016, 2018, and 2022), and has spent more than US$50 million on his election campaigns. He has been the Congressman for Maryland’s 6th district since 2018.

Since deciding to run for the elevated position of Congressman this year, Trone is said to have loaned US$10 million of his own cash towards the campaign, the majority of which will likely be spent on advertising, to help secure his seat.

Trone reported a personal income of at least US$20 million last year, according to public disclosure filings.

As db reported, Total Wine, which Trone still part-owns, is currently under the microscope of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has filed for a court order to force the wine business to stop stalling on supplying requested documentation in an ongoing investigation against distributor Southern Glazer’s.

The investigation centres around whether or not Southern Glazer’s is giving preferential prices to favoured, large retail chains such as Total Wine that it does not offer to smaller alcohol beverage retailers.

According to the FTC, Total Wine has repeatedly been asked to supply documents and other information during the last four months but has “categorically refused to do so”.

The wine company will now be instructed to supply the documents within 20 days of the order or provide evidence to prove why it should be exempt from doing so.

Trone has previously been arrested for negotiating volume discounts on behalf of multiple stores, illegally advertising beer prices, and circumventing state transportation regulations, though these instances were all before he founded Total Wine, and each of the charges was dismissed.

In 2016, the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission served Total Wine with a license suspension for selling liquor below its costs, but the wine business succeeded in having this overturned by appeal.

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