The White House’s chosen ambassador to first lady Melania Trump’s home country of Slovenia has pulled her name out of contention.
Politico reported Tuesday that Kelly Roberts, a southern California hotelier and philanthropist, was chosen by Mrs. Trump specifically because of her business experience.
New York magazine wrote last month that Melania took ‘a strong interest’ in picking the principal U.S. envoy to the nation where she was born and raised, and endorsed Roberts after reviewing dossiers on several candidates.
A spokeswoman for the first lady told DailyMail.com, however, that ‘she’s not really involved in the process.’
Mrs. Roberts and her husband Duane – who made millions by inventing the frozen burrito at age 19 and later selling his family business to a food conglomerate – own and operate the Mission Inn in Riverside, California.
Kelly J. Roberts was set to become the U.S. ambassador to Slovenia, first lady Melania Trump’s homeland, but she has withdrawn from consideration over financial questions about how she would divest herself from her significant assets
Roberts is Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, the historic landmark hotel in downtown Riverside, California, which she owns with her husband Duane Roberts
Politico and New York magazine both report that the first lady had a direct hand in choosing who would represent the U.S. in her native Slovenia
She also operates the hotel’s spa and sells a line of botanical anti-aging products and hotel amenities. And the couple own a winery that produces pinot noirs and chardonnays.
And she runs a cupcake business along with daughter Casey Reinhardt, a child from a previous marriage.
Casey and her brother Doug Reinhardt had their own star turns on the MTV reality shows ‘Laguna Beach’ and ‘The Hills.’
According to Politico, Roberts withdrew from consideration over questions about whether and how she would divest herself of her non-cash assets.
Federal government ethics rules require high-level officials to sell off real estate, stakes in private equity firms, major fund investments and other assets that could raise conflict of interest questions.
Typically the Office of Government Ethics strikes agreement with appointees that they will clear their decks within a set period after their swearing-in, usually 90 or 120 days.
Roberts’ husband Duane made his fortune by inventing the frozen burrito when he was 19, and then selling his booming family business to a food conglomerate later
The Mission Inn is a sumptuous property that the Robertses bought and renovated in order to save it from the wrecking ball
Among the properties Roberts would have to sell in order to become an ambassador is her stake in the winery she owns with her husband
The process makes it unlikely that they will have to recuse themselves later from decisions that could affect the value of their holdings.
They also get an unusual perk – a deferral of capital gains tax – on assets they sell for a profit as a result of the process.
Sales of private equity assets can take at least three to four months, and sometimes far longer, on what’s known as secondary markets.
The nature of the investments can tie up cash for as long as 10 years while the funds use the money to buy and operate entire companies.
And while stocks are easily offloaded, real estate prices can vary widely with market fluctuations, resulting in potentially huge losses if a potential administration official sells at an inopportune time.
Roberts’ line of toiletries and skin products is sold at the Mission Inn
Roberts also is president and part owner of Casey’s Cupcakes, a company she founded with her daughter, a former reality TV starlet
President Donald Trump’s cabinet choices created countless divestiture headaches, especially among those who are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
His cabinet members pledged to sell more than $1.1 billion in assets overall.
Roberts had not been formally nominated, but had begun the ambassador training process.
She and her husband have contributed more than $1.2 million to Republican candidates and committees in the past year.
Mrs. Roberts donated $50,000 to the pro-Trump Great America PAC in the month before the 2016 election.