Ganim is no stranger to money
BRIDGEPORT — Three years ago, Joe Ganim asked a court to reduce his alimony and child support payments to his ex-wife.
“I understand he is not making much money, so whatever the guidelines are is fine,” Ganim’s former spouse, Ellen Jennifer White, told a judge at that time.
What a difference getting re-elected mayor — and having wealthy parents — makes on one’s personal finances.
Today Ganim earns six figures as Bridgeport’s chief executive, owns two condominiums — one purchased with his dad’s help. He bought a three-family home last November and recently lent his gubernatorial campaign $60,000.
“I’m far from a millionaire or ‘trust (fund) baby,’ ” said Ganim, who ran the city in the 1990s and returned to office in 2015.
It is true that Ganim’s personal bank account might not rival that of opponent Ned Lamont, the Greenwich millionaire, cable entrepreneur and the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate for governor. Ganim hopes to beat Lamont in an August primary.
Ganim has criticized Lamont as out-of-touch. He has mocked the eight bathrooms in Lamont’s home, his prior membership in an exclusive Greenwich country club and, most recently, called for Lamont to make public his personal financial records.
But for Bridgeport’s mayor to show disdain for big money and the related trappings is a little ... well ... rich, given Ganim’s personal history and his Easton-based family’s wealth, which has supported his dreams and cushioned his failures.
George Ganim Sr. is a successful attorney who, with his wife or other family, and under the Ganim name or limited liability corporations, owns multiple commercial and residential properties in Monroe, Easton, Bridgeport, Fairfield and Milford appraised at nearly $10.9 million, according to public real estate documents.
“The Ganim family started with my grandfather coming to this country with no money (who became) a fruit peddler,” Joe Ganim said. “It’s a matter, certainly, of living the American Dream to a certain extent.”
First elected mayor in 1991, Ganim ran the city until 2003, when he was convicted of 16 counts of racketeering, extortion and bribery — crimes that allowed him a taste of a millionaire’s lifestyle: fancy meals, custom-made shirts, cases of fine wine, improvements to Ganim’s house and other luxuries.
As reported in 2001, Ganim received a $250,000 loan from his father to pay for his legal defense. Then, following the mayor’s conviction, the elder Ganim bought his son’s Bridgeport home for $302,500 and quickly sold it for $605,000.
When Ganim was released from prison in 2010 after seven years, his parents provided lodging at the family’s Easton property and work at the law office as a legal assistant. Ganim, himself a lawyer, lost his license because of his criminal conviction.
“I do think he did a lot of good for Bridgeport and his reward was an indictment and conviction, which I still believe was a terrible miscarriage of justice,” George Ganim, who did not return a request for comment for this story, said in 2010.
Jump ahead five years. In 2015, Ganim won an astonishing comeback after finally publicly admitting wrongdoing and apologizing.
According to real estate records, in June 2016 the returned mayor borrowed $67,500 from his father for a $75,000 condominium at 65 Ellsworth St.
Recently George and Josephine Ganim contributed the maximum $3,500 a piece to their son’s gubernatorial bid, while a Political Action Committee run by the father pitched in $5,000.
Asked if the $60,000 Ganim has loaned himself during his quest for governor — $35,000 on March 30 and $25,000 on June 30 — actually came from his parents, family or friends, the mayor said “no.”
Ganim said he was never “blessed with millions” like Lamont, who was born into wealth, but then earned even more after founding Lamont Digital Systems in 1984. The company provided satellite-delivered cable TV and video services on college campuses.
From Zero to 30
Lamont is sinking some of his fortune into his run for governor.
That Ganim can afford to spend $60,000 on his campaign is impressive, given where his finances stood when he reduced his alimony and child support payments to his ex-wife in February 2015.
Their uncontested divorce was finalized the prior September. Ganim was to pay $4,000 a month in alimony and $2,230 a month in child support, based on state guidelines for a husband earning $200,000 annually and a wife making $49,400.
But by November 2014, Ganim, who had been working as a consultant, had wanted those amounts reduced. He told Hearst in 2015 that “one of the companies that I did a substantial amount of work for was recently sold.”
Now, however, happy days are here again. In 2017, Ganim was the 30th highest paid Bridgeport employee, earning $152,876 and recently benefiting from a raise that political hires received along with the supervisors’ union.
And after his re-election, Ganim was allowed to “bridge” his years of service. So, benefits-wise, he has worked for the city for a consecutive 14 and a half years, receives an annual longevity bonus and has more vacation days to cash in if they are left unused.
The mayor was recently paid $5,595 for about a week and a half of unused time off left over from last year.
Ganim also brought in an extra $1,500 co-teaching a part-time government course at the University of Bridgeport — a job he landed after pledging during 2015’s mayoral race to develop a closer relationship between City Hall and the college.
Besides the Ellsworth Street condominium, Ganim since 2016 has also owned a $50,000 condominium at 80 Cartright Street and, last November, bought a $275,000 three-family home on Monroe Street. Records show he borrowed $40,000 for the Cartright property from the Bank of Greenwich and $297,020 for the Monroe Street house from Prime Lending Inc.
“I’m not ashamed. I’m not proud. ... I’ve certainly had some success, but it’s a whole different world (from Lamont),” Ganim said.
Has that recent success been shared with his ex-wife? Nothing is reflected in their divorce records, and she could not be reached for comment.
“Yes,” Ganim said.