Kush­ner firm ‘sought Qatar investment’

Com­pany owned by fam­ily of Trump’s son-in-law wanted cash in­fu­sion

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - David Kocieniewski

A FEW months be­fore Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump en­cour­aged Saudi Ara­bia and other coun­tries to block­ade Qatar, the real es­tate busi­ness owned by the fam­ily of his son-in­law, Jared Kush­ner, sought a sub­stan­tial investment from one of the Gulf state’s wealth­i­est and most po­lit­i­cally in­flu­en­tial fig­ures, ac­cord­ing to a spokesper­son for Kush­ner Com­pa­nies.

Since at least 2015, Kush­ner, his fa­ther, Char­lie, and other of­fi­cials of the com­pany had dis­cus­sions with Sheikh Ha­mad bin Jas­sim bin Jabr Al Thani, the for­mer prime min­is­ter of Qatar, who now runs a pri­vate investment firm. The talks were about a pos­si­ble cash in­fu­sion of $500 mil­lion (R6.7 bil­lion) for the Kush­n­ers’ fi­nan­cially chal­lenged high rise at 666 Fifth Av­enue in Man­hat­tan. On­line pub­li­ca­tion The In­ter­cept first re­ported the ne­go­ti­a­tions, which were later con­firmed by the Kush­ner spokesper­son.

Fi­nan­cial ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the Kush­n­ers and a po­lit­i­cally pow­er­ful Qatari fig­ure such as Al Thani raise con­cerns about a pos­si­ble con­flict of in­ter­est, be­cause Jared Kush­ner is one of the pres­i­dent’s clos­est ad­vis­ers. Although Kush­ner sold his stake in 666 Fifth Av­enue to fam­ily mem­bers upon join­ing the administration, he still has in­put re­gard­ing US diplo­matic pol­icy.

The two sides had ten­ta­tively agreed on a deal that would have pro­vided Kush­ner Com­pa­nies with $500m in re­turn for a stake in the build­ing, which was slated to be ren­o­vated and ex­panded, but the planned investment was con­tin­gent on other fi­nanc­ing, the In­ter­cept re­ported. In March, when Chi­nese in­sur­ance com­pany An­bang In­sur­ance Group ended dis­cus­sions about a po­ten­tial investment in 666 Fifth Av­enue, ne­go­ti­a­tions with Al Thani also stalled.

Al Mirqab Cap­i­tal, Al Thani’s com­pany, did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment sent out­side reg­u­lar busi­ness hours. James Yolles, the spokesper­son for Kush­ner Com­pa­nies, said the talks had ended “re­cently”, but de­clined to dis­cuss de­tails.

In June, Saudi Ara­bia and a con­tin­gent of Gulf states be­gan a pun­ish­ing eco­nomic block­ade of Qatar – sev­er­ing diplo­matic ties as well as air travel, land and sea links – a move that Trump said he had in­spired with his call to iso­late na­tions that fund anti-Western groups such as the Mus­lim Brother­hood.

Trump’s words against Qatar were met with scep­ti­cism by some in the diplo­matic com­mu­nity, be­cause Saudi Ara­bia also funds Is­lamic ex­trem­ist groups. The US has a ma­jor mil­i­tary base in Qatar, so the pres­i­dent’s sup­port for the block­ade worried some US mil­i­tary lead­ers.

Bol­ster

Kush­ner Com­pa­nies’ at­tempts to part­ner with Al Thani are just the most re­cent ex­am­ple of the fam­ily’s ef­forts to bol­ster 666 Fifth Av­enue. The Kush­n­ers pur­chased the build­ing for a record price of $1.8bn in 2007 un­der fi­nanc­ing terms so oner­ous that they have had to sell off some sec­tions of the build­ing. In 2011, the firm turned to Vor­nado Realty Trust to re­fi­nance the build­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to fil­ings by LNR partners, the loan man­ager, the build­ing been los­ing money for three years. Kush­ner Com­pa­nies of­fi­cials say that rev­enue de­cline is by de­sign, be­cause they are hop­ing to re­duce oc­cu­pancy as they pur­sue plans to re­cast the prop­erty.

But moves by Kush­ner to at­tract new in­vestors have led to an as­sort­ment of con­tro­ver­sies for the fam­ily and the Trump administration. Ne­go­ti­a­tions with An­bang, which has close ties to the Chi­nese rul­ing party, ended af­ter news re­ports dis­closed that a pro­posed deal con­tained pro­vi­sions that some real es­tate ex­perts said were highly favourable to the Kush­n­ers. – Bloomberg

PHOTO:AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump en­cour­aged the block­ade of Qatar.

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