While Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried took steps to influence Florida cannabis policy and implement rules for growing hemp, her fiancé Jake Bergmann created a network of businesses with people and organizations who have a professional interest in the cannabis and hemp industry.
Some of the people involved in the companies have ties to Nikki Fried, including Fried’s father, Ronald Fried. In addition, one of the companies is registered in Fried’s personal residence.
Another company is registered at the Rubin Group address. The Rubin Group donated $ 5,000 to Frieds PAC in 2018 and is the registered lobbyist for the medical marijuana company originally founded by Bergmann.
Publicly available records show that Jake Bergmann has partnered with Ronald Fried and Hali Utstein, the wife of David Silvers – a Florida State representative – to create a cannabis company.
Bergmann is also registered as an executive officer of a company alongside Zachary Kobrin, a cannabis attorney with the Akerman LLP law firm.
The companies were founded after Fried was elected to national office in 2018 and after Bergmann stepped down as CEO of Suterra, the medical marijuana company he founded and is now called Parallel.
After her election victory, Fried began to share a house with Bergmann in northeast Tallahassee. Bergmann is still legally married, but divorce proceedings began in April 2019 and court proceedings are scheduled for June 2021.
A Fried spokesman recently commented on their relationship as follows: “Commissioner Fried and her fiancé are family members and are in a committed relationship as they are getting married …”.
In her chosen position, Fried has publicly advocated the legalization of marijuana. Additionally, Fried has taken steps to influence public policy regarding the cannabis and hemp industries.
In February 2019, Fried announced her appointment of Holly Bell as director of cannabis. A press release said Bell was tasked with “overseeing the development of rules, working directly with scientific experts, and ensuring that Commissioner Fried’s vision for cannabis in Florida continues.”
The statement also noted that Bell “would work closely with the Department of Plant Industries at the Department to develop the Florida hemp industry, including the manufacture, processing, inspection and manufacture of industrial hemp, and in the implementation of the new Farm Bill industrial hemp will be of assistance in relation to this law. “
In June 2019, Fried announced a newly created medical marijuana advisory committee. The press release stated that the committee’s purpose was “to work with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to help improve the state’s medical marijuana policies.”
“I am proud to establish the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board to expand patient access and advance and modernize policies to lead Florida into the future of medical marijuana,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried.
Tallahassee Reports reached out to Fried’s office to comment on Bergmann’s business relationships and potential conflicts of interest. We haven’t received an answer yet.
The Iconoclast company
According to state records, Bergmann is affiliated with three Florida-registered companies that use a variation of the name Iconoclast. Before the Iconoclast corporate cluster was registered, Bergmann registered a company in Nevada.
On January 24, 2019, two months after Nikki Fried was elected, Bergmann registered a company called Tatooine, LTD in Nevada. Bergmann is listed as President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Director.
Why Nevada? Perhaps one reason is the well-known benefits of forming an LLC in Nevada. These benefits include ease of registration, relatively low corporate taxes, and the absence of government taxes. Nevada also offers business owners strong privacy and a business-friendly environment.
Two months after founding Tatooine LTD in Nevada on March 8, 2019, Iconoclast Ventures was registered in Florida. The company’s “MGR” was listed as Tatooine, LTD at 450 E Las Olas Blvd, No. 1250, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301.
The address is the same address used by The Rubin Group.
Founding partners Bergmann, Ronald Fried and Hali Utstein are listed on the Iconoclast Ventures website. Bergmann is listed as CEO, Ron Fried as Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Utstein as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
The website states that Mr. Fried is licensed to sell real estate in Florida, has provided broker price opinions (BPOs), and has listed and sold Florida real estate on behalf of Freddie Mac and numerous National Private Real Estate Agents (REO) and real estate Companies. Fried most recently served as an operations and compliance advisor for a Florida licensed mortgage lender.
According to the website, Utstein is responsible for managing the company’s brand, facilitating investor relations, and working with partners to drive sales.
Utstein is also considered a key investor in various industries, including CB Collective and One Hemp Brands, and is a member of the One Hemp Board of Directors.
Iconoclast Ventures’ registration occurred during the 2019 meeting when Florida law was considering a related hemp bill.
When Florida law passed the bill in May 2019, Fried said, “Today’s historic vote is eighty years old. Florida is on the verge of establishing a state hemp program and creating a billion dollar industry.”
Ultimately, Governor DeSantis signed the Hemp Act into law.
Shortly after the registration of Iconoclast Ventures in May 2019, Bergmann apparently met with his then business partner Utstein and her then fiancé, the representative of the state of Florida, David Silvers, in Israel. It did so at the same time that the Florida Cabinet – including Nikki Fried – was holding a meeting in Israel.
It was reported that Utstein, Silvers and Bergmann had meetings with Dr. Igal Louria-Hayon, Director of the Medical Cannabis Research and Innovation Center on the Rambam Health Care Campus.
From LR: Hali Utstein, David Silvers, Dr. Esty Golan, Jake Bergmann
Iconoclast Inc. was registered as a not-for-profit company in Florida on January 9, 2020. The listed directors were Robert J. Bergmann, Elizabeth A. Bergmann, and Zachary Kobrin.
The company is listed as a not for profit with a primary address at 5307 Pimlico Drive Tallahassee, FL 32309. The main address is the home that Bergmann shares with Fried.
Six months earlier, on June 10, 2019, it was announced that Kobrin was one of Fried’s appointments to the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board that Fried founded to “work with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to improve medical Contribute to the state’s marijuana policy. ”
According to the Akerman website, Kobrin served as General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer for a multinational cannabis company and currently advises clients in the cannabis and hemp industries on legal, regulatory and business development issues.
He is also listed as a team member of the Akerman Cannabis Practice, which boasts that Chambers USA ranks the practice as one of the top law firms in cannabis law nationwide.
According to their website, Akerman’s cannabis-related customers include cannabis mutual funds, breeders, processors, donors and distributors, and ancillary product and service providers.
When contacted by TR, Kobrin said he was Mr. Bergmann’s attorney and declined to discuss their business relationship. This revelation means that Fried appointed her fiancé’s attorney to the medical marijuana advisory board she created.
Less than three months after Iconoclast Inc. was registered, Iconclast One was registered in Florida on March 27, 2020 with R. Jacob Bergmann and Hali Utstein listed as managers.
Repeated attempts to contact Utstein failed.
TR will continue to contact persons who are connected to the companies associated with Mr. Bergmann.