Kushner firm ‘sought Qatar investment’
Company owned by family of Trump’s son-in-law wanted cash infusion
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.
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
President Donald Trump encouraged the blockade of Qatar.