Washington • Former Olympic speed skater Allison Baver launched an entertainment company in October and by April had received between $5 million and $10 million from a federal program aimed at keeping businesses, churches and nonprofits afloat during the pandemic.
Baver’s company, Allison Baver Entertainment, claimed to have retained 430 employees by receiving the funds, far more than most Utah individual recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program, according to records by the Treasury Department.
Nearly 51,000 Utah businesses and nonprofits got loans through PPP, totaling more than $5 billion overall. But Baver’s company was only one of just 41 among the 6,737 loans that was $5 million or more.
Other recipients offered loans of that amount are well-known entities like Westminster College, supplement producer Nature’s Sunshine and the law firm of Parsons Behle & Latimer.
Baver previously said via email that her company had “several projects in development” with each requiring a “substantial number of employees,” though she didn’t say what those projects were.
Her company didn't respond to a list of questions sent Monday.
It's possible the database released by the Treasury Department contains errors as other businesses noted that their loan amounts and number of employees retained was way off.
Baver didn't dispute the amount of the loan when initially contacted.
Her company was registered with the state on Oct. 9, and her website lists herself and two others as “the team,” which is described as “the engine behind stories that move the needle. We are purpose-driven across film, television, and lifestyle endeavors.” Baver is listed as chief executive officer.
The address of the company listed in the Treasury Department database appears to be in a residential area of Taylorsville. It’s the same address listed for Baver, who was ordered by a Utah judge in February to pay $1,534 to settle an overdue credit card debt.
A company with 430 employees in Utah would rank as one of the bigger employers in the state, but this one doesn’t appear on the radar of those who track such ventures.
The Utah Office of Economic Development — which just touted 120 new jobs for an online accounting firm it granted tax breaks — had not heard of Allison Baver Entertainment.
The company is not a member of the Salt Lake Chamber, a spokesman said.
The Utah Film Commission, which helps foster film and TV productions in the state, was not aware of the company either.
IMDb, an online database of movies and TV shows, lists two projects in pre-production connected to Allison Baver Entertainment: a reality show called “America’s Angels,” and another called “Monsters.”
Baver, in her initial response to The Salt Lake Tribune, said the coronavirus outbreak has stifled projects in development.
“Due to the need for large crews in close proximity, these types of productions have been particularly disrupted by the pandemic, and we recognize our responsibility to put these professionals back to work as soon and as safely as possible,” she said. “If you are interested, we would be happy to follow up with you as our projects and procedures are announced. We hope to set a good example as the entertainment industry gets back on its feet.”
The Treasury Department, under pressure from Congress, released a large database of companies that received PPP loans over $150,000. The spreadsheet included the company name, a range of the funds — which can be forgiven if recipients follow set rules — as well as how many employees were retained as part of the loan. It also lists the bank that processed the loan.
Most of the loans processed for Utah companies came through banks located in the state. Zions Bank was by far the largest lender in the $150,000-plus program, listing 1,690 loans in the state.
Baver’s PPP loan, listed as between $5 million and $10 million, was the only one of the Utah accounts processed through Meridian Bank, which is based in Pennsylvania.
Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat who represents the 4th Congressional District where Baver’s company is located, had pushed for the Trump administration to release a detailed list of companies that received loans to ensure there was transparency in the billions of dollars that quickly flowed during the pandemic’s onset.
“My concerns have always been that those who need and deserve these loans receive them and that taxpayers are able to see where their tax dollars are being spent for COVID-19 economic relief,” McAdams said.
“Now that we have partial data, it’s important for taxpayers and for the administration to ask whether some of these companies followed the rules,” he added. “I can’t speak to the specifics of any particular company, but loans over $2 million will be audited so that those who weren’t eligible or gamed the system can be held accountable.”
Editor’s note: The nonprofit Salt Lake Tribune received $854,800 as part of the Payment Protection Program.