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Real Estate Whiz Jared Kushner Just Wanted $500 Million From Qatar, So What Who Cares?
Jared Kushner's real estate company made some dubious history back in 2007 when it spent a record-setting $1.8 billion on an office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. At the time, it was the biggest real estate deal ever, and ever since, the Kushner Companies has been trying to deal with the debt. An attempt to reach a deal with a Chinese insurance company to refinance the property fell apart in March after the words "Kushner," "China," and "conflict of interest" got linked in the press. Today we learn that when that deal went south, Kushner lost another potential source of bailout money: a half-billion dollar loan from one of the richest billionaires in Qatar.
Oh, hey, and as it happens, J-Kush is now one of the more hawkish voices advising his father-in-law to take a tough line on Qatar now that Saudi Arabia and a bunch of other Gulf nations have decided Qatar is no longer invited to any of their slumber parties. Probably because he's very concerned about terrorism.
The complicated ins and outs of the failed private deal are detailed at The Intercept today, along with the ongoing fuck-tussle that is the Kushner investment at 666 Fifth Avenue; we won't delve into all the gory financing details, but for much of 2015 and 2016, Kushner and his dad, the felon Charles Kushner, were trying to get a $500 million investment from Qatar's former prime minister and manager of the country's sovereign wealth fund, a super-rich guy named Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, but you can call him "HBJ," at least if you're doing business or reading the Intercept article. The deal eventually fell through -- probably -- but Kushner's connections to a Qatari bezillionaire are yet another example of Trump World's ethical swampiness. The piece includes this helpful quip to give us a sense of how big HBJ is in Qatar: A former emir of the country once said, “I may run this country, but he owns it.”
HBJ was willing to invest $500 million in the Kushner's multi-billion dollar scheme to recoup their investment: Since the rental revenue from 666 Fifth Avenue isn't enough to cover their upcoming 2019 (interest only!) mortgage on the building, they want to tear down the whole shebang and build a fabulous new 80-story residential/retail tower on the property. It's New York real estate, so apparently that makes a lot of sense to everyone. There was one condition on the loan: The Kushners would have to come up with the rest of the financing from other sources for HBJ to stay in, according to sources who knew about the deal.
The negotiations continued long after the election, carried out as recently as this spring by Charles Kushner. “HBJ basically told them, we’re good for 500, subject to a lot of things, but mainly subject to you being able to raise the rest,” said one source in the region with knowledge of the deal
Wouldn't you know it, once Jared's wife's daddy was elected president, there were suddenly a lot more investors who wanted to see a grand new development go up at 666 Fifth Avenue, including that Chinese insurance group, Anbang, whose involvement in a potential deal was covered by the New York Times back in January. For perspective, that was such a long time ago that the headline had to explain that Kushner is "a Trump In-Law and Adviser." The Kushner Companies had been courting Anbang since at least the time Trump had clinched his victory in the Republican primaries, and had been talking to HBJ since sometime in 2015.
One of the Intercept's sources didn't exactly portray the Kushners as all that savvy in their dealings with foreign partners like "Hamid bin what’s-his-name":
Top executives at Kushner Companies, the source said, “are dumb enough to not know that why they want to deal with them has nothing to do with the real estate. Around the New Year they were like, ‘LPs” — industry slang for limited partners, or investors — “are engaging more!’ It’s like, I wonder why?”
Once it looked like more foreign investors were coming on board, the Kushners had a hope of recouping their own $500 million investment in the property, which would have been a neat trick, especially given the crappy prospects for the existing building to make their money back -- again, the Anbang deal would have involved an even bigger project to raze and replace 666 Fifth Avenue with something even better, much like the Trump administration's hopes for killing Obamacare, only in this case a lot fewer people would die from preexisting conditions, probably. Unfortunately, all the public scrutiny of the reported deal, especially the talk of the president's son-in-law depending on China for a deal that would bail him out on his biggest investment, led Anbang to get cold feet, and the deal collapsed. Since HBJ's half-billion chunk was dependent on the Kushners getting additional financing, that part of the deal went south, too.
OR DID IT? One of the sources for the Intercept story said the additional outside financing wasn't actually a deal-breaker, and that HBJ has simply put things "on hold as the deal’s mix of loans and equity was reconsidered." So it's quite possible that even now, Jared Kushner is looking for money from a Qatari financier, even as he's pushing the president to take a hard line on Qatar in the current diplomatic mess with other Gulf countries. My, that could indeed be a bit of a sticky wicket! Looks like it's time for yet another Kushner-based ethical soup, huh? As the Intercept puts it,
If the deal is not entirely dead, that means Jared Kushner is on the one hand pushing to use the power of American diplomacy to pummel a small nation, while on the other his firm is hoping to extract an extraordinary amount of capital from there for a failing investment. If, however, the deal is entirely dead, the pummeling may be seen as intimidating to other investors on the end of a Kushner Companies pitch.
Now, as Kevin Drum points out at Mother Jones, there's "no way to know what’s really going on based solely on the information in the story," since the world of New York real estate is by its nature filled with all sorts of foreign investments, and it's difficult to draw a direct connection between Kushner's business interests and his Trump administration job of running all the policy in the world. Oh, and the Kushner company is still underwater on 666 Fifth Avenue and desperate to save its investment, so "We have at least 42 months left of questions like this popping up constantly."
Gosh, looks like Walter Shaub picked exactly the right moment to hit the eject button on his job at the Office of Government Ethics. Fuck all y'all, he's out of there. So in Trump World, it's simply another day where Fox News and Twitter are the only reliable sources of information. There's not a word about this story on the front page of Breitbart today, so it is officially a nothingburger.
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