Kushner's Deal With Brookfield For 666 Fifth Ave. Under Congressional Investigation
Democrats in Congress have launched an investigation into whether Brookfield’s decision to bail out Kushner Cos. at its debt-saddled Fifth Avenue office building prompted President Donald Trump to publicly back a Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.
Brookfield Asset Management paid $1.3B for a 99-year lease deal at 666 Fifth Ave. in 2018, with the intent of revamping the Midtown skyscraper. The building was then a major problem for Kushner Cos., which was facing maturity on the loan it secured when it paid $1.8B for the property in 2007.
Two Democrats, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, launched an investigation this week into whether the deal influenced the Trump administration’s policy stance on Qatar, the Financial Times reports. Wyden is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. Castro is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee.
The Qatar Investment Authority is a major backer of Brookfield, though the company has always said there was no Qatari involvement in the 666 Fifth Ave. deal. An earlier investigation from FT found the funds for Brookfield's ground lease originated from a fund controlled by Brookfield Property Partners, which has sold $1.8B of preferred equity to the QIA, the Middle Eastern nation's sovereign wealth fund.
“While Brookfield has claimed that Qatari representatives had no involvement in the 666 Fifth Avenue transaction, we remain troubled that Qatari funds ended up in a billion-dollar rescue for a company directly tied to Jared Kushner,” Wyden and Castro wrote in a letter to Brookfield Asset Management CEO Bruce Flatt. “Federal criminal conflicts of interest statutes for senior White House officials extend not only to matters affecting their own financial interests, but that of their direct relatives.”
The lawmakers further noted that QIA, with its links to Brookfield Property Partners, would have had “significant influence” and that those links afford it access to “confidential information that other investors never see.”
Just before the lease for 666 Fifth Ave. became public, Trump made what Castro and Wyden describe as a “stunning reversal” and dropped his support for a Saudi-run economic blockade of Qatar, which he had tweeted his approval of a year before.
The lawmakers claim that move suggests Jared Kushner’s economic interests could be playing a role in U.S. foreign policy. They also wrote to the White House Attorney's Office requesting proof of any ethics counsel provided to Kushner regarding his work in the Middle East.
Kushner Cos. and Brookfield did not respond to Bisnow’s requests for comment.
The 666 Fifth Ave. purchase was Jared Kushner’s main undertaking as CEO of his family business. His father, Charles Kushner, who has been running the firm while Jared serves as an adviser to Trump, has since taken the heat for the investment.
"I pushed Jared to do the deal," Charles Kushner told CNN in 2018, adding the decision was based on "bad timing and bad judgment.” Speculation about the future of Kushner Cos. is growing, with many questioning if Jared, who is married to Ivanka Trump, will return to New York City after Inauguration Day.
Some have suggested Kushner and Trump are likely to head south rather than go back to Manhattan, and the couple has reportedly spent $30M on a lot for a residential property in Indian Creek, a high-security, tiny island village next to Miami Beach.