Why Trump Son-in-Law’s $400 Million Bonus from Chinese Company Is even Shadier than it Sounds
Trump’s Son-in-Law is at the Center of a Fishy Deal
Known as Donald Trump’s consigliere, Jared Kushner has amassed a great deal of influence in the White House. As he entrenches himself as one of his father-in-law’s top lieutenants, the value of his business is beginning to soar.
On Monday, the White House announced that Trump would host Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in April. The same day, Bloomberg reported a $4 billion real estate deal in Manhattan between Chinese company, Anbang Insurance Group and Kushner Companies LLC. The deal included an unusual $400 million windfall for the Kushner family’s corporation.
“The planned $4-billion transaction includes terms that some real estate experts consider unusually favorable for the Kushners. It provides them with both a sizable cash payout from Anbang Insurance Group for a property that has struggled financially and an equity stake in a new partnership.”
Kushner bought the building for $1.8 billion in 2006. At the time, it was the “highest price ever paid for a single office building in the United States,” the New York Times reported. Fast-forward 11 years, and it’s setting records again. According to Bloomberg,
The deal would value the 41-story tower at $2.85 billion, the most ever for a single Manhattan building: $1.6 billion for the office section and $1.25 billion for the retail section. The new partnership will refinance $1.15 billion in existing mortgage debt.
“This is a huge, huge exit strategy for an office building,” said Joshua Stein, a New York real estate lawyer. “It does sound like a home run of a transaction for Kushner and his group.”
As fishy as this sounds, it gets worse. The buyer is a murky entity. In September, the New York Times published an investigation of Anbang entitled, “A Chinese Mystery: Who Owns a Firm on a Global Shopping Spree?” The short answer to NYT’s question is that no one knows exactly who owns the company. The longer answer is that shares of Anbang are widely dispersed in China, however, there seem to be quite a lot of them held by family and friends of Wu Xiaohui, Anbang’s chairman and CEO. Wu is married to Zhuo Ran, granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping. Deng took the reins of the Chinese Communist Party after the death of Mao, and for much of the 1970s and ’80s, he orchestrated the country’s transition from communism to unofficial state capitalism.
This follows a distinct pattern. I previously reported on another Chinese insurance holding company with ties to a major Republican official whose shares led in a similar direction. The top donor for House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz is Nu Skin. Nu Skin is owned by Ping An. Ping An’s shares are widely dispersed among family of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Ping An also invested in Oscar Health, a company owned by Joshua Kushner, Jared Kushner’s brother.
Why are large Chinese insurance holding companies whose shareholders are apparently trying to hide their links to the Chinese state’s past leadership suddenly so interested in Trump-family owned businesses? That seems like it would be a great question for the House Oversight Committee Chairman to investigate, if he wasn’t also on the receiving end of it.
There are also serious questions about how Kushner Cos. is being run. In January, Bloomberg separately reported that when Jared officially stepped away from Kushner Cos., his dad Charles Kushner took over the family company. Charles had run the company before, until he was imprisoned for 2 years for 18 counts of tax evasion, illegal campaign donations and witness tampering. Two buddies that Charles made while he was in the slammer are also helping him run Kushner Cos.
“But Avram Lebor and Richard Goettlich walked from their Alabama penitentiary into top jobs at the real estate company then run by Jared Kushner, now President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. The two men, convicted in separate sprawling fraud schemes, were hired several years ago by his father, Charles Kushner, who had been locked up in the same federal prison with them.”
A spokesperson for Kushner Cos. said that it “has taken significant steps to avoid potential conflicts.” A White House spokeswoman said that Kushner would “recuse himself from any matter where his impartiality could be reasonably questioned,” according to Bloomberg.
To recap, for the second time, a Chinese insurance holding company with murky ties to the Chinese state is giving a sweetheart deal to the company owned and formerly run by the president’s chief fixer, and now run by three convicted felons. The company and the White House say, don’t worry about it.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images