Luxury restaurant chain backed by Robert De Niro received over a dozen PPP loans

Nobu Group received as much as $27.7M in taxpayer-funded loans

A chain of luxury restaurants and boutique hotels co-owned by actor Robert De Niro received at least 14 loans through the taxpayer-funded Paycheck Protection Program, according to government filings released Monday.

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The aid, part of the federal government's $670 billion efforts to staunch the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic and help small businesses avert mass layoffs, was worth at least $11.4 million and as much as $27.7 million, the data shows. The chain received relief for properties across the country, from Malibu, California to New York City.

De Niro, who's worth an estimated $500 million, co-founded the swanky Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant in 1994. Along with his co-founders — celebrity chef Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa and film producer and entrepreneur Meir Teper — the actor owns 46 restaurants and 13 luxury hotels across the world. Nobu Hospitality, the name of their lifestyle brand, was founded in 2009.

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The disclosure was part of a broader release by the Small Business Administration, which made public for the first time the names of businesses and nonprofits that received forgivable loans worth more than $150,000 under the $670 billion program. The agency did not disclose precise dollar amounts of the loans and instead provided a range for each loan, making it impossible to know the exact sum that Nobu received.

Nobu Founders Robert De Niro and Chef Nobu Matsuhisa at the Nobu Houston Sake Ceremony on October 18, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Nobu)

The loans were processed by the New York Business Development Corporation.

The group appears to be one of the bigger beneficiaries of the coronavirus relief. Nobu did not immediately respond to a FOX Business request for comment.

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At the onset, the program was heavily criticized for granting aid to publicly traded companies that had other avenues for relief -- even as small businesses languished. But the SBA and Treasury Department, which jointly administer the program, scrambled to close the loopholes that allowed multimillion-dollar companies to tap the fund, including pledging to audit any loan worth more than $2 million.

In updated guidance at the end of April, the agencies said that it's "unlikely that a public company with substantial market value and access to capital markets will be able to make the required certification in good faith, and such a company should be prepared to demonstrate to SBA, upon request, the basis for its certification."

Companies returned $30 billion in relief to the government after growing scrutiny about who was worthy of tapping the rescue fund. Borrowers who returned the aid included high-profile chains like Shake Shack, Potbelly's and Ruth's Hospitality Group, the owner of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

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Still, the data revealed that other large companies applied for, received and kept multimillion-dollar loans, including restaurant groups Five Guys, P.F. Chang's and TGI Friday's, which all received aid worth somewhere between $5 million and $10 million.

As of June 30, the program had granted almost 4.9 million loans worth some $521.4 billion, leaving more than $131.9 billion unspent, according to the SBA. The program reopened on Monday at 9 a.m. ET and will accept applications until Aug. 8.

The federal government will forgive the loans if businesses agree to maintain their payrolls. Monday's release showed the program supported 51 million jobs.

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