Tareq Salahi

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Tareq Salahi
Born Tareq Dirgham Salahi
(1969-05-26) May 26, 1969 (age 46)
Washington, D.C., United States
Alma mater University of California, Davis
Occupation Professional party crasher; former vintner; former public official; former television personality
Spouse(s) Michaele Salahi (divorced)
Website http://www.tareqsalahi.org

Tareq Dirgham Salahi (born May 26, 1969) is an American former vintner, public official, and television personality. He and ex-wife, Michaele, gained national notoriety in November 2009 by crashing a White House state dinner in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.[1][2] In 2010, the couple were featured in the Bravo reality television show The Real Housewives of D.C.[3]

Family and education[edit]

Salahi's father, Dirgham Salahi, immigrated to the United States from Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine in the 1940s. His mother, Corinne, is from Belgium. Dirgham was educated as a petroleum geologist and worked in the Middle East and U.S. He retired and settled in Virginia, where he became manager of an estate farm, which he subsequently bought. Corinne Salahi is the founder and director of the Montessori School of Alexandria, Virginia.[4][5]

Tareq attended primary school at Ascension Academy in Alexandria and high school at the Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal, Virginia where he graduated in 1987. He graduated from the University of California, Davis in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in oenology and business management.[6]

Tareq met Michaele Holt at a 2000 baby shower thrown in McLean, Virginia by real estate developer N. Casey Margenau and his wife Molly.[5][7][8][9] They married in 2003 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. The reception was held at the Salahi family winery and was prepared by 46 chefs, hosted in a 36,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) tent, and culminated with a thirty-minute fireworks display and an eight-foot wedding cake. The guest list included 1,836 guests, including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Margaret Heckler. The wedding, originally scheduled for October 2002, had been postponed numerous times, prompting Kennedy to quip that he needed to issue "subpoenas" to the bride and groom.[2][5][7][10]

On September 13, 2011, Tareq reported Michaele missing and perhaps kidnapped after Michaele had phoned him to say that she was on her way to her mother's house, but, according to her mother, had not arrived.[11] She was located soon afterwards when law enforcement authorities discovered that she had run off with Neal Schon, guitarist for the rock band Journey and had not wanted Tareq to know where she was.[11] Michaele had met Schon earlier and had remained in a very close friendship with him.[11]

On September 16, 2011, Tareq filed for divorce from Michaele on the grounds of adultery and abandonment or separation.[12] Tareq dropped the case shortly thereafter, but Michaele filed for divorce on December 15, 2011, citing the grounds of cruelty and constructive desertion.[13] On December 22, 2011, Tareq responded to Michaele's divorce suit with a new filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery, desertion and constructive desertion.[13]

On August 20, 2012, Judge Dennis L. Hupp granted a final divorce decree to the Salahis following a contentious settlement proceeding.[14] Hupp also entered a dismissal order for a $50 million personal injury lawsuit that Tareq Salahi had filed against the entertainment company, Journey, Schon and Sonata.[14] Hupp placed the settlement, including the divorce decree, under seal, thus preventing anyone except the attorneys, their clients and Hupp from seeing the details.[14] An anonymous source close to the situation subsequently stated that Schon had agreed to pay Tareq $12,000 plus Tareq's mortgage payments over the next year to settle the case.[15]

Oasis Winery[edit]

In 1977, the Salahi family founded the Oasis Winery[16] on their estate farm in Hume, Virginia. They planted some of the first Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines in Virginia, establishing the fifth winery in Virginia. The Salahis developed the business into a 15,000-case-a-year operation, and, according to court papers, grossed as much as $1 million in annual revenue in some years. The vineyard's Meritage line won Gold Medals at the 1994 and 1996 world wine championships. In 1998, Oasis launched a Cuvee "Celebration" sparkling wine which also garnered top awards.[5][7][16][17]

In 1994, they formed Oasis Vineyard Inc. and appointed Tareq managing director. Tareq eventually gained a 5% minority interest in the vineyard. According to court papers, Tareq also began operating a new business out of the vineyard, Oasis Enterprises, which was developed to raise ancillary income as a venue for polo events and other functions such as weddings. Oasis Enterprises included a limousine operation, wine country tours, and an events-and-catering business. A dispute arose amongst the Salahi family regarding business matters between Oasis Vineyard and Oasis Enterprises, and the winery started losing money. A lawsuit was filed, in which the Salahi family alleged, according to court filings, that assets were misdirected to Oasis Enterprises from the winery and that Tareq was misrepresenting himself as the President of the winery.[5][18] Tareq fought the charges and made counter allegations against his parents and their lawyer. He began to seek investors to buy the property from his parents, but no deal was ever reached. The winery ceased operations, and the lawsuit was dropped without resolution.[18]

On October 6, 2010, Dirgham Salahi died and Tareq issued a statement that read "In recent days, we have come together as a family."[19]

Oasis Vineyard filed for bankruptcy in 2008,[20] with its winery assets auctioned in late 2011.[21] Oasis Enterprises filed for bankruptcy in 2009.[20][22]

In mid-2011 Tareq and Michaele Salahi were sued by two different parties for fraudulently taking payment for wine tours that were never delivered.[23] On April 23, 2012, the Attorney General of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli II, filed suit against Tareq Salahi for violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act for failing to conduct tours that were purchased, failing to provide refunds for canceled tours and claiming other companies as official partners that had no relationship with his business.[24] Soon afterwards, Tareq announced that he would run against Cucinelli in the 2013 election for Governor of Virginia.[25]

In May 2013, the land and buildings of the former Oasis Winery was sold at auction for $1.1 million in order to satisfy creditors, marking the end of the Salahi family involvement with Oasis Winery. The buyer was undisclosed. Tareq's mother Corinne was the sole beneficial owner of the property at the time of sale.[26]

In February 2014, Tareq Salahi was ordered to stop renting out his home to short term visitors on airbnb.[27]

Public service[edit]

Tareq Salahi sat on the board of the American Task Force on Palestine,[28] and in 2002 Tareq was named National Man of the Year by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in recognition of his fundraising achievements.[29]

Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore appointed Tareq in 2000 to a three-year term on the Virginia Wine Board.[30] At the conclusion of that term, Virginia Governor Mark Warner nominated Tareq as chairman of the Virginia Wine Tourism Office. Tareq was one of 15 board members of the Virginia Tourism Corporation,[31] a "board that shapes Virginia's tourism policy", appointed by Gov. Tim Kaine in 2006. Kaine told MSNBC:

Tareq had served on the state's wine board under both Gov. Gilmore and Gov. Warner, and when his term on the wine board finished, he and the tourism board wanted him on that board because he's a great promoter—you won't be surprised to hear me say that.

During his time in office the Virginia Wineway, Loudoun Wine Trail, Blue Ridge Wineway and Virginia Wineries Alliance were created, attracting, according to a USDA study, 980,000 wine tourists to the state, of which 336,000 visited Piedmont wineries.[7][32][33][34]

After the White House gatecrashing incident in 2009, Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment wrote a letter to Gov. Kaine asking for Salahi's removal from the board: "Mr. Salahi's recent outrageous behavior and personal promotion in regards to trespassing in the White House is not the face we need for Virginia tourism…I would appreciate you taking swift action to avoid any further negative situations."[35] Salahi resigned from the Virginia Tourism Board on December 7, 2009.[36][37]


Salahi describes himself as an experienced horseman who started show jumping at age five and competed in numerous international Grand Prix events before taking up polo at 16. He was a regular competitor on the U.S. National Team and his Oasis squad won two U.S. Polo Association National Arena Titles in 1997 and 1998.[17]

Salahi was involved with sponsoring the Courage Cup in 2006, a polo charity event to raise funds for urban youth to experience equestrian activities. A dispute over control, vendor payment, and use of proceeds from the Courage Cup reportedly led the Salahis to found the America's Polo Cup in 2007.[38][39][40] Allegations of misuse of proceeds from the new charitable event arose,[41][42] and in December 2009 the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services opened an investigation into the annual event.[43][44]

The 2010 America's Polo Cup match took place on June 12 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with teams announced as United States and India. The advertised ticket price for the event was $95 per person. The event had an attendance of about 250 people, with food from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and PF Chang's China Bistro. Reports of the event stated that the players who represented India were actually of Pakistani origin and were from Florida. A spokesman for the Embassy of India stated that neither the Embassy nor the government of India had any association with the event.[45][46][47] The event's website and the US team's uniforms identified an Indian company, Kingfisher Beer, as a sponsor. A spokesperson for Kingfisher denied that the company had sponsored the event.[45] Yashpal Singh, the president and chief executive of Mendocino Brewing Company, Kingfisher's parent company, stated,

We are not sponsoring this event and have informed the people managing this event of that, .... We have sent legal notices to this effect, and he keeps on advertising us as a sponsor. I don't know what world he's living in.[45]

The America's Polo Cup filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in October 2010.[22][48]

White House gate-crashing[edit]

In November 2009, Tareq and Michaele Salahi entered a state dinner despite lacking an invitation.[1][49][50] Michaele Salahi is a member of Bravo's The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C., and the show filmed their preparations for the dinner and followed the couple to the White House.[51][52][53] Tim Burke, who directed MTV Blaggers!, in which a group of friends gatecrash high-profile events and parties, said he was contacted by Salahi a week before the White House incident. Salahi asked him for advice on tricking his way into a black-tie event.[54]

Following the event Salahi was requested by the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee to appear at a hearing on December 3, 2009, but he refused to attend.[55] On December 9, 2009, the Committee on Homeland Security voted 26 to 3 to subpoena Tareq Salahi, and 27 to 2 to subpoena Michaele, for a hearing on the alleged gatecrash scheduled for January 20, 2010. The Salahis invoked the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution at the hearing.[56][57] The Salahis' attorney, Stephen Best, described the Congressional inquest as "...not a hearing looking for information. This was an opportunity for a public flogging."[58]

Journey for the Cure Foundation[edit]

In 2009, Tareq and his wife Michaele were listed as directors of the "Journey for the Cure Foundation". The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Consumer Affairs issued a press release that cautioned consumers that "Journey for the Cure Foundation, 14141 Hume Road, Hume, Virginia, has solicited contributions from Virginia citizens for allegedly charitable purposes. However, as of May 13, 2009, this organization had not registered with or been granted the appropriate exempt status by the Commissioner as required by law".[59][60]

On February 28, 2012, the Virginia Attorney General's office announced a settlement with Salahi, where he would pay a fine for the violations. According to the attorney general:

"Journey for the Cure claimed on its Internet web site that "proudly, 100% of our financing goes directly to find the cure and we have no paid staff." Based on bank records obtained through the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs' (OCA) investigation, the attorney general alleged that only 33% of JCF's expenditures in 2007, and 0.6% of its expenditures in 2008 went directly to disease prevention-related charities. Significant amounts were instead spent on fund raising overhead"

The attorney general's office also alleged that the charity filed inaccurate financial statement with state regulators, and solicited in Virginia from 2004 to 2009 without obtaining the proper registration. It also failed to maintain proper fiscal records, and failed to provide the state with required financial information when it stopped soliciting contributions there in 2010.

Salahi was accused of personally violating the solicitation of contributions law by signing a notice that said the foundation was registered with the Office of Consumer Affairs when it was not, and signing a registration statement that made false claims about the foundation's financial information and history.[61]

In the settlement agreement, Tareq Salahi agreed to pay $2,500 in civil penalties and $7,500 to compensate Virginia for attorney fees, and the Journey for the Cure organization will pay $25,000 in civil penalties.[62]

Reality television[edit]

Tareq and Michaele appeared in 2010 on the Bravo reality television show The Real Housewives of D.C.. The couple clashed with other featured cast members, and the conflicts continued after the show aired.[63][64] The production was not flattering to the Salahis, and included coverage of the White House gate crashing in detail.[3][65] Critics have noted that the show's producers edited the material in ways that exaggerated the truth.[65]

2013 Virginia gubernatorial election[edit]

On April 25, 2012, Salahi announced his candidacy as a Republican for Governor of Virginia in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election.[25] When making his announcement, Salahi stated that his candidacy would avenge a lawsuit that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, who was hoping to become the Republican gubernatorial nominee, had recently brought against him. He added that the lawsuit had made him realize the amount of taxpayer money that politicians waste.[25] On December 4, 2012, Salahi announced the establishment of the website "Crashthevote.com" to promote his candidacy.[66] The website stated that his platform included: Promoting the Commonwealth of Virginia; Promoting the Military, both our troops and defense workers; Increasing Jobs; Pro-Business; Pro-Tourism; Pro-Agriculture; Less Tax; Kill the Car Tax; Pro Eco-Friendly Energy Production.[67]

On January 14, 2013, Salahi announced that he would run for governor of Virginia as an independent.[68] He stated that he had been informed that his refusal in December to sign a pledge of support for all 2013 Republican candidates[69] could disqualify him from the Republican nomination process. He explained that he could not "agree with anything that Cuccinelli believes in."[68]

Salahi failed to submit the necessary signatures to the Virginia State Board of Elections by the June 11, 2013, deadline and did not appear on the ballot as an independent. He transitioned his run into a write-in campaign and said he would pursue a congressional seat if he didn't win the governorship.[70][71] Salahi was also scheduled to have a film document his campaign by Campbell Media Group, but the production company faced legal allegations for targeting and scamming its film subjects.[72]

Salahi was one of two significant declared write-in candidates for Governor, along with John Parmele, Jr., a Navy retiree. All write-in candidates received 11,087 votes, 0.49% of the total votes cast.

2014 Congressional election[edit]

In December 2013, Salahi announced that he was running in the Republican primary for Virginia's 10th congressional district in the 2014 elections, to succeed Frank Wolf, the retiring Republican incumbent.[73] However, he withdrew from the 10th's Republican primary and switched to the Independent Greens in March 2014 to run for Virginia's 7th congressional district seat currently held by Eric Cantor.[74] Salahi attempted to collect 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot.[75] In June 2014, Salahi submitted 2,051 signatures to the Virginia State Board of Elections,[76] but only 480 of them were valid and he will not appear on the ballot.[76]

Wine Tour and Travel Businesses[edit]

As of 2015, Salahi owns several Virginia-based businesses, including Connoisseur Traveler[77] and Blue Ridge Wine Way, the latter of which made news for owing a Maryland-based limo company $34,000 in unpaid bills as of January 2013.[78] He also rents out his home on Airbnb.[79]

In November 2015, Salahi announced his engagement to Northern Virginia socialite Lisa Spoden, who also serves as CEO of their joint venture, Hotels at Sea (Salahi serves as Chairman),[80] which operates as a go-between for companies looking to charter cruise ships. Like Salahi, Spoden has also tried her hand at reality TV, starring in a failed reality show called "Wicked Politics" that never made it to air.[81]

See also[edit]

Biography portal


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