A Denver Nuggets superfan known as the “Red Pant Man” has been accused of squandering the profits from his single-branch Lakewood bank on “a veritable fleet of aircraft.”
Michael Quagliano, an Illinois native who lives in Florida, is the majority shareholder and chairman at the publicly traded Solera National Bank, which opened in 2006 with a focus on Hispanic customers. Its only location is at 319 S. Sheridan Blvd. in Lakewood.
He is also @TheRealRedPantMan on TikTok and a courtside staple at Nuggets games, where he dances around, teases opponents and takes selfies in signature trousers.
And those two sides of him are commingling in questionable ways, a local developer said.
Rob Salazar, whose family office Central Street Capital has real estate projects in Glendale and Globeville’s Fox Island, sued Solera’s holding company on Sept. 22. Salazar has a background in accounting and is a shareholder in Solera National Bancorp. He wants access to its books so that he can investigate what he calls “Quagliano’s self-dealing.”
“A single-branch community bank has no apparent need for any aircraft, let alone a veritable airline,” his lawsuit states. “That decision, standing alone, sounds in waste.”
“But the aircraft were not sitting unoccupied in an aircraft hangar in a Denver suburb,” the developer goes on to allege. “They appear to have been repeatedly used by Quagliano … to literally jet around the country following his favorite basketball team.”
Salazar’s lawsuit, filed in Delaware Chancery Court, was first written about by Law360. Salazar is represented by the Delaware lawyers Matthew Murphy and Morgan Harrison.
“To read that thing is disheartening,” Quagliano said by phone last week, “because I had a hard time finding anything true in it.” He claims Salazar has chosen “to lie” about him.
“Let Mr. Salazar buy a bank and see how well he can do,” Quagliano said. “We made $18 million last year. Eighteen million. Which is just unbelievable for a bank our size. How did we get there? Well, that’s a business decision. I’m really proud of what we do at Solera.”
Quagliano said that Salazar has the same access to Solera’s books as other shareholders.
“Whatever he’s entitled to, we’re going to give him,” he said. “I’ve got nothing to hide.”
In July 2020, Solera sent a letter to shareholders announcing that it would be paying dividends for the first time, after accumulating $3.5 million in retained earnings. The letter quoted Quagliano: “It’s time to start sharing some of our success with our shareholders.”
But those dividends were never sent, Salazar said. Instead, Solera spent $4.9 million on a corporate jet “as a tax planning strategy and to allow for safer travel during the pandemic,” it told shareholders the next year. It added an “airplanes” line item to its annual reports.
At the end of 2021, that line item was $10.6 million. At the end of 2022, it was $17.1 million.
Quagliano is listed as the registered agent of Solera Aviation, a Florida company that owns three airplanes, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. Solera National Bank separately owns two other airplanes and a helicopter, according to the FAA.
“It is unclear why the company would need to own an entire fleet of personal aircraft,” Salazar’s lawsuit states, referring to the bank. “Currently, the company owns more aircrafts than it has members on the board. There can be no legitimate business purpose for doing so.”
But Quagliano disagrees. He said that Solera is a bank that “specializes in aviation” by lending money to people in that industry and also by making money from its own planes.
“The planes that he’s talking about, the five or six planes, most of those are leased to (flight) schools. It’s a 100-percent tax deduction and we get a very, very good return,” he said.
Quagliano said that he flew commercial to Nuggets games rather than take the bank’s aircraft.
“We didn’t go on the corporate jets. Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” he said. “I could have gone to all the games on the corporate jet and there’d still be nothing wrong with it.”
By including the bank’s private aircraft in his TikTok videos, Quagliano has allowed Salazar to track their use. In a June 15 post, he boards a plane with the registration number N420NW and uses hashtags like “#denvernuggets” and “#courtsideseats.” That plane is registered to Solera Aviation. His next TikTok video shows him in courtside seats at a Nuggets game.
In both videos he is wearing what Salazar’s lawsuit refers to as his “infamous red pants.”
Asked about his sartorial moniker, Quagliano said, “I wish I was famous for something other than my pants” but added that the Nuggets’ championship run was great for Solera.
“Red Pant Man has taken more deposits and made more loans than he ever has,” he said.