Vincent Viola, Nominee for Army Secretary, Drops Out

by admin February 5, 2017 at 12:09 am
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Vincent Viola, a billionaire Wall Street trader who was President Trump’s nominee for Army secretary, at Trump Tower in December.

Credit
Kevin Hagen for The New York Times

Vincent Viola, a billionaire Wall Street trader and President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army, abruptly withdrew his name for the post on Friday night after concluding it would be too difficult to untangle himself from his business ties, two government officials said.

Mr. Viola is an owner of the Florida Panthers hockey club and a majority shareholder in Virtu Financial and Eastern Air Lines, among a number of other business interests. This week The New York Times reported that Mr. Viola had been negotiating to swap his stake in Eastern Air Lines for a stake in Swift Air, an airline with government subcontracts.

If his nomination had continued, he would have faced certain scrutiny for potentially becoming a government official who benefits from federal contracts.

The Trump administration did not announce his withdrawal, which was reported earlier on Friday by Bloomberg News, but a senior administration official and a Pentagon official separately confirmed his decision, which the White House accepted Friday. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Viola is a 1977 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and he last served in the Army Reserves at the rank of major. He remained connected to the military through donations to West Point, including to the academy’s Combating Terrorism Center.

A former Pentagon official and close friend said Mr. Viola was devastated over having to withdraw from what he described as a lifelong dream job. But the former official said Mr. Viola felt he was unable to sell his interest in some of his holdings because doing so could have destroyed those companies. His decision followed weeks of negotiations between his lawyers and the government as they sought to find a solution.

Ultimately, they could not.

Mr. Viola has a net worth of almost $1.8 billion and is a co-founder of Virtu. Virtu had planned to go public in 2014, but pulled the plug on the move because of choppy markets and lingering questions around how high-frequency trading firms like Virtu make money. In a regulatory filing at the time, Virtu said regulators were looking into its trading practices. It is not known if this issue played a role in Mr. Viola’s decision to withdraw his name for the Army secretary job, which is a post that requires Senate confirmation.

His decision to withdraw comes the same week another of Mr. Trump’s appointees, Anthony Scaramucci, was told he would not get a top job at the White House amid concerns about the recent sale of his company to a large Chinese conglomerate.

In an episode unrelated to the finances of Mr. Viola, it was recently revealed that he was involved in an altercation in August: He was accused of punching a concessions worker at a racehorse auction in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. No charges were brought against him.

Mr. Viola was one of the first nominations Mr. Trump issued the day he was inaugurated. “Vincent Viola, everybody likes Vincent,” Mr. Trump said just hours after his swearing-in, as he signed orders nominating his cabinet.

Correction: February 4, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the timing of a news report by The Military Times. Bloomberg News reported Vincent Viola’s withdrawal from consideration for an administration post before The Military Times did.

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