WASHINGTON — Retired Gen. Colin L. Powell has amassed a fortune of at least $27.3 million since he left military service seven years ago, due largely to speaking fees that last year alone brought in $6.7 million from a variety of corporations, trade associations and universities, according to his financial disclosure forms.
Capitalizing on his charisma and the reputation he built as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Persian Gulf War, Powell has been delivering an average of eight to 10 speeches a month, usually receiving $59,500 each.
The biggest fees last year were paid by financial services firms Credit Suisse Group, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., American Express Co., Investcorp, and Fidelity Institutional Retirement Services as well as others like Auto Zone Inc.--an automobile parts chain--and Coca Cola Co. Each of those firms paid him more than $100,000, Powell disclosed.
A number of educational institutions also paid substantial fees to hear Powell. They included Seton Hall University, Middlesex Community College, Rochester College, College of the Ozarks, Rollins College, the University of Oklahoma, City University of New York (Powell's alma mater), Principia College, Miami University and the University of Texas at Austin.
Powell's chief of staff, Bill Smullen, said the retired general "has made a personal decision to step down from his business, which was speaking. He's chosen to put that aside to reenter public service. He's looking forward to public service."
Among his holdings, Powell has fully vested options to buy 240,000 shares of America Online at $14.37 a share. AOL is now known as AOL Time Warner. At Tuesday's closing price of $46.70 a share, those options are worth about $7.76 million. Powell was a director of the company from September 1998 until Thursday, when he resigned in conjunction with his nomination to be secretary of State in the new Bush administration.
In a letter sent Friday to the State Department's acting legal advisor, James Thessin, Powell said he was "committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct" and would divest himself of holdings in 31 companies and one limited partnership and reinvest the money in assets that do not pose any potential conflicts of interest. In addition, he said in the letter, if confirmed as secretary of State, he would resign from his positions on 37 boards of directors, nearly all nonprofit organizations.
Like all Cabinet nominees, Powell was required to submit the financial disclosure form to the Office of Government Ethics.