As intrigue grows at San Diego city hall regarding backdoor wheeling and dealing of Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer and members of the San Diego city council over the timing of the so-called SoccerCity ballot measure to privatize Qualcomm Stadium and its 166 acres of public land, well-heeled advocates on each side of the issue have continued to bolster their respective seven-figure political war chests with rarely seen amounts of personal and corporate cash.
With total special interest money in the fight over the public property rapidly nearing $4 million, city hall insiders predict the ultimate cost to both sides may ultimately exceed $20 million, setting a new record for the cost of ballot-box decision-making in the county, not including campaign contributions now being solicited by 2018 council reelection committees set up in recent months by Republicans Lorie Zapf, Chris Cate, and Democrat Myrtle Cole.
Disclosure filings from the city clerk's office show that SoccerCity proponents, led by La Jolla hedge fund maven Michael Stone and his associates, have come up with a total of $2,891,599 through June 5. The political committee opposed to the plan, funded by Mission Valley landowners and developers Sudberry Properties and H.G. Fenton Inc., has gathered a total of $1,092,427 from March 15 through May 30, documents show.
Stone has personally contributed a hefty $1,036,279 to the SoccerCity drive, with his ally Tom Seidler, who owns part of the Padres, coming up with the next largest contribution, $688,602.
Bridgewest Communities, owned by super-rich La Jolla brothers Masood and Massih Tayebi, has kicked in $685,560, with lesser five-figure donations being made by ex-Qualcomm executive Steve Altman; Miami media honcho Juan Carlos Rodriguez; and Nick Stone and Jon Dunbar, who are listed as partners in Mike Stone’s FS Investors group.
Personal contributions of the size made by Michael Stone and Seidler are virtually unprecedented in local politics, and in Stone's case have inspired questions regarding his net worth and other business operations in light of the dramatic plunge in value of AusTex Oil Limited, an Australian-listed public company, whose stock as of Friday, June 10 had cratered to less than two cents a share in Australian dollars, according to an online quote by Bloomberg Businessweek.
“The stock has underperformed 98% of the Australian market over the past 6 months,” per a May 30 report by Australian financial site NewsBites. “In the last one month, the stock has hit a new 52-week low thirteen times and in the last three months twenty-four times, pointing to a significant downtrend.”
Both Michael and Nick Stone have had key roles in the oil venture, in which Michael Stone's Ptolemy Capital was reportedly heavily invested. This April, Michael Stone, then chairman of the board, resigned as a company director for personal reasons, according to a quarterly activities report posted on the company's website.
Then, on May 31, AusTex said that "Mr. Nick Stone is stepping back from his responsibilities as Co-Managing Director effective immediately."
The announcement added, "Mr. Stone will be taking up the position of CEO at SoccerCity SD in San Diego, California,” and “has agreed to waive all non-executive director compensation for 2017. Mr. Stone has not received any compensation from the Company since 2016.”
Much of the Stone group's SoccerCity political cash went to get a spot on the ballot for the controversial proposal by raising sufficient valid voter signatures to force the city council to put the measure before voters in either a $5 million special election this fall or at next November's general election, an option favored by project opponents and those advocating that such major issues be decided only at regular election time.