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Ty Warner leaves the federal courthouse during his trial for tax evasion./AP photo 3

A turnaround year for Ty Warner

January 3rd, 2017

Three years after pleading guilty and paying a hefty fine for tax evasion, Beanie Baby founder Ty Warner is gushing about a new project. He’s just wrapped up a $120 million hotel renovation that’s allowed him to travel the world.

Warner also has moved up a bit on Forbes’ billionaire list. He saw his net worth rise in $2.6 billion last year, up from $2.3 billion in 2015.

The founder of Ty Inc. in Oak Brook didn’t return a request for comment about his transformative year. But he was chatty with New York Real Estate Journal about the multi-million dollar renovation of the Four Seasons Hotel in New York.

“No attention to detail and no cost were spared in order to provide a rarefied experience unmatched in Manhattan,” Warner said. Wash rooms are built with Italian Breccia Oniciata marble, suites are enveloped in English Sycamore wood paneling and Lizard Gold and Chabata wall-coverings and furnishings include 65-inch HD televisions.

Warner says he curated “every design element” in an effort to preserve the modern-deco style building designed by I.M. Pei.

“I traveled around the world to select the finest fabrics, exotic stone surfaces and furnishings in order to create the Ty Warner Penthouse, the most expensive and extraordinary residence unrivaled in luxury hotels,” he tells the journal.

Talk about a turnaround.

In 2013, Warner faced possible jail time for hiding millions in a Swiss bank account.

He agreed to pay a $53.5 million penalty, $16 million in back taxes and interest and 500 hours of community service. Federal prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to appeal.

Warner also developed a relationship with Leo Catholic High School, the all-male school in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on the South Side.

“We felt he more than upheld his end of the arrangement,” school President Dan McGrath says of the entrepreneur program Warner helped start. “Mr. Warner was always nice to the kids, very patient answering their questions, and they enjoyed being around him.”

Beanie Babies are also on Warner’s radar, though not as much these days as hotels. Along with the New York four Seasons, which he bought in 1999 for $275 million, Warner owns the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara and a resort in Mexico that features a villa that Forbes says rents for $35,000 a night.

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3 Responses to A turnaround year for Ty Warner

  1. Mark Zivin says:

    I object to your use of the adjective “hefty” in referring to Mr. Warner’s fine for his tax evasion. I would use the word “paltry”.
    While $69MM sounds like a lot to you and me, let’s put things in perspective. Forbes reports his net worth last year at $2.3BB. That is 3% of his net worth. And, the fine & interest portion of $16MM is only 0.7% of his net worth. This year his net worth is $2.6MM – an increase of $300MM. So, the interest, and penalties is less than 5.3% of his annual income. Kind of like someone earning $50,000 having to pay $2,700 I certainly would not characterize that as hefty.

    I do appreciate that you noted that the Feds sought jail time. Shame on the judge for not incarcerating him. And not in a minimum security, country-club, prison. The only thing that will deter super wealthy individuals from flaunting our laws is making the punishment fit the crime.

    Personally I believe the headline should have read: “Tax Cheat Warner Shows His Penalties Didn’t Phase Him”

  2. Shia Kapos says:

    I like that headline, Mark. Thank you for reading!

  3. Pingback: Ex-CBOT chief remains in custody, refusing to pay judgement in divorce case

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