Is Nick Checota’s Family History A Cautionary Tale For Missoula?

by William Skink

UPDATE: Lord Nick Checota left a comment contesting receiving any financial support from daddy Joe. I responded to my Lord and added this update to ensure Lord Checota’s voice is heard.

Joseph Checota is a Milwaukee businessman who, in 1992, tried to become a US Senator. Joseph Checota is also Nick Checota’s dad. Here is how the AP described his Senate bid back then: 

Wisconsin, already represented by one of the wealthiest men in the U.S. Senate, now has another multimillionaire businessman who wants to pay his own way to Washington.

Joseph Checota is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat held by Republican Sen. Bob Kasten. He says he has spent $2 million of his own money on his campaign thus far, and expects to spend three times that by the fall elections.

″People don’t care that I’m a millionaire. I think people recognize that I can relate to them,″ said Checota, chairman of Universal Medical Buildings, which designs, builds, finances and leases medical buildings.

″And I think the voters of Wisconsin would rather have me finance my campaign with money I spent a lifetime earning than with contributions I received from special interests.″

Before getting to the results of that race, let’s take a look at some interesting scrutiny Joe Checota received over his business dealings:

U.S. Senate candidate Joe Checota’s companies have been scrutinized in at least four federal probes of alleged securities-law violations, including stock manipulation and insider trading, public records show, a copyright story in today’s Wisconsin State Journal said.

One of those Securities and Exchange Commission investigations remains open, and one directly targeted a Checota company, the agency confirmed.

Further in to the article we get this:

The State Journal June 4 reported on allegations that Checota misused company money while heading his first firm, American Medical Buildings, a medical office building developer. A secret investigation, conducted after Checota was ousted in 1983 as head of the firm, alleged the company improperly paid for expensive artwork and remodeling jobs at Checota’s lakeside home.

The findings were not made public as company officials negotiated an out-of-court settlement with Checota, who dropped a lawsuit seeking reinstatement to his job.

For more on the SEC investigations (plural) read the whole article. 

Joseph Checota and one of his two political opponents ran such a nasty campaigns in the Democratic primary that a guy by the name of Russ Feingold ended up shocking the political establishment with his win. From the link:

Feingold ran an offbeat campaign with funky ads and promises posted on his garage door. But weeks out, he was a distant third behind two far better funded Democrats, businessman Joe Checota and U.S. Rep. Jim Moody. Then Checota and Moody astonished the good voters of Wisconsin with a violent volley of attack ads. People were appalled. (Such things were less common then).

Things got truly weird when Checota told supporters that if they didn’t vote for him, they should vote for Feingold (nothing like being endorsed by your opponent BEFORE the election).

Vastly outspent in a three-way primary, the dark horse won – with 70% of the vote.

“It completely blew their mind,” says Feingold, referring to pretty much the entire political world. “It blew my mind.”

In 2004 the Milwaukee Business Journal described how Joe Checota’s company, Landmark Healthcare Facilities LLC, shifted from building buildings to owning them:

Executives with Milwaukee-based developer Landmark Healthcare Facilities L.L.C. think a move toward increased property ownership will significantly grow their business.

Landmark Healthcare, led by former politician Joe Checota, has designed and built physician office buildings, ambulatory surgery centers and other non-hospital health care buildings since it was founded in 1995 as a successor to Checota’s Integrated Medical Buildings development company. The firm will now seek to own many of those structures in a shift from traditional real estate developer to developer and landlord.

The efforts are expected to boost Landmark’s revenue from its 2004 estimate of about $45 million, company officials said. Checota declined to give a specific revenue goal, but said the improved bottom line also will help the firm almost double its work force in the next 18 months, from 26 employees currently to near 50 by the summer of 2006.

“It’s a shift, but it’s a welcome shift,” said Nicholas Checota, Joe Checota’s son and Landmark’s chief operating officer.

If you want a peek into Checota’s operational mindset, this episode of Can Do (a MTPR podcast) is illuminating. Branding is a big thing for Checota’s venue empire, and his claim to local roots is his wife, a “4th generation Montanan”. Checota makes a point to describe their business partnership as 50/50. Smart branding.

While Missoula will be ground zero for Checota’s Logjam empire, don’t think this town is big enough for his aspirations. The Missoula Current last April reported on other projects in places like Bozeman in the works:

“We’re under design for a Bozeman venue the same size as The Wilma – a 1,500 capacity indoor venue,” Checota said Thursday. “My goal is to get (musical acts) from Denver to Seattle, or Salt Lake to Seattle, by giving them a Bozeman stop and a Missoula stop, and the other potential market I’m analyzing is Spokane.”

Why stop at spreading regionally? With Daddy’s billion dollar backing, the sky’s the limit for Lord Checota.

Growth in Missoula is going to happen, I get that. The two main problems I have with this particular project is how it’s being done, and who ultimately benefits.

Why does the Mayor feel the need to act all shady with moving up the City Council vote? And why does Lord Checota need to gobble up 16 million in public tax dollars? The citizens who will be impacted by this project deserve answers to these questions.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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19 Responses to Is Nick Checota’s Family History A Cautionary Tale For Missoula?

  1. Peter Talbot says:

    Like father, like son, right? Bullshit. This is a cheap shot. It’s even beneath you, Skink.

    • Pete Talbot, coming to the defense of a multi-millionaire carpetbagger who feels entitled to 16.5 million in public TIF money. I wouldn’t be inclined to examine where Lord Checota came from if it wasn’t for his use of public money to expand his empire and the anti-democratic actions of our duplicitous mayor.

      I do appreciate your comment, though. it’s good to know where you stand on this. have a nice weekend Pete 🙂

  2. Nick F Checota says:

    William, this continues to show what a dishonest and misinformed person you are. You know nothing of what you are talking about.

    I had nothing to do with the prior companies, and I was the main engine behind building Landmark. When I started, it had a negative net worth. I built that company. I took the risk. I borrowed the money.

    Personally, my wife put me through grad school through hard work. We started with no money (again received no money from my family). We both work our ass off. I work more hours in a week than you probably do in a month.

    With respect to Joe, I have never received a dime from him, or inheritance. I have no trust fund. All the money to build my company came from my work, not from a family. Where is your proof in what you are writing? What evidence do you have to your fiction?

    Your article is totally inaccurate and shows you have zero journalistic integrity. You did not even attempt to reach me for comment. You are fundamentally misguided person and are totally dishonest in what you present. You continue to use untrue facts to create a false narrative to meet you uniformed understand of growth, development and urban planning.

    When facts are not on your side, make stuff up. Frankly, journalism is not a word that can even be used in the same sentance as your name.

    • My Lord, I am humbled by your choice to lower your noble status in order to communicate with me, a lowly blogger, but I am troubled and confused by some of your assertions. I would expect a man of your high status to have better reading comprehension skills.

      I know not of your claims regarding your prime role in Landmark. I suggest if you have problems with how the Milwaukee Business Journal depicted your daddy as leading the company, you should take it up with them. I am but a lowly blogger who finds sources of journalistic information and quotes from those sources. I also provide links, which you can use, like the one that indicated you were the CFO of Landmark. I assume being CFO comes with a paycheck, right? So are you saying you received “not a dime” from a company that a news outlet indicated was led by your father?

      I will add an update to this post indicating that my speculation that you have “Daddy’s billion dollar backing” is being contested by you as inaccurate.

      • olbossy says:

        FYI…. as an east coast transplant now a resident of Missoula, I can tell you you suck as a journalist. I don’t give a shit about Wisconsin politics!
        This is an obvious hit piece. Your use of name-calling puts you in Trumps category. Sorry about that.
        Your a cheap shot arrest with obviously no integrity and intelligence,
        You spent weeks crafting this piece of crap article and all to satisfy your own insecurities against Nick.
        I suggest you get a life.

        • I don’t bill myself as a journalist, olbossy. I suggest you read things a little bit more carefully before popping off. I am curious why you are commenting here, what is Nick Checota to you? do you have business with him? because if you notice another one of his business buddies did a little drive-by as well.

        • olbossy says:

          Wandered upon your blog and was confused after following this post.

          No, not a acquaintance of Nick, but do have in-depth background working with developers on large projects in large cities.

          I felt your over-reaction to the question of public financing a major community project was very personal and researching family history and Wisconsin politics was total conjecture and bias.
          I don’t give a shit and don’t think anyone else does…but you.

          Obviously, name calling (Lord) was what caught my attention and indicates an personal issue with Nick. Sad but predictable.

          That’s it mate. Nothing more.

        • I am far from being the only one questioning the use of Tax Increment Financing, and I guarantee you after the public finds out they are once again bailing out big banks and corporations, there will be even more interest in shutting down this bullshit tax scheme starving the general fund for the benefit of private developers.

    • Antman Lamp says:

      Nick – you are an honorable person and a great human. I have witnessed you and your teams build mission and values based companies that provide meaningful careers/jobs for hundreds, if not thousands of people. I’ve witnessed you do all of these things with you taking 100% of the risk and with no financial backing of any kind from your family. I was present for 20+ years and witnessed your commitment and work ethic. I also was there and know all of the facts – and knowing these facts means that I know for certain that not every source of journalistic information states the facts or the complete story. There is zero reason for anyone to take cheap shots at you or diminish your accomplishments. Please keep doing what you are doing and continue to build, create and give-back. Your proven track record speaks for itself.

      • quite the tribute to our Lord, though I can think of 16.5 million reasons to diminish the “accomplishment” of his Big D(rift).

        • Antman Lamp says:

          Not sure I follow your comment. If I was your friend and you were a good person – I would support you. Nick has earned the support he has done countless great things that have helped and served many of folks. Rather than mock him (continuing to call him names) and take cheap shots at him, why don’t you hug him up? What do you have to lose? You started this thread by stating by asking if his family history is a cautionary tale. It’s a valid question. Nick’s track record so far should significantly diminish the concern. Why hate things are great? Why not salute the efforts, the risk-taking and the personal and financial investment? Have you ever spent a day with Nick? Why don’t you approach him and ask to see what a day-in-the-life is like for him. You would be surprised by what you learn. Dude lives in a modest house, drives older cars, etc. He avoids most material excess and certainly he could afford it. These are honorable qualities – why the vitriol?

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