Jared Kushner, boy wonder. Not so long ago, the son of a disgraced NY real estate developer, looking to make a new name for himself. But presiding over an empire of low income apartment buildings doesn’t make the kind of name you’re looking for, so what does one do? Maybe make a little deal with the devil, courtesy of a tried and true template perfected by another NY real estate failure?
As a former commercial real estate lender, I’m amazed by story after story that paint a similar picture; Trump (and following in his footsteps, Jared) are consistently able to raise the cash to pull off staggering purchases… purchases that industry experts say don’t pencil out at the prices paid for them. Ever. Like Jared’s coming of age party with the purchase of the 41 story Manhattan Tower, for the jaw dropping price of $1.8 Billion.
Instead, however, the building has been nothing short of a burden, nearly going into foreclosure in 2011 and now with only 70 percent of the property occupied—far below the Manhattan average of the low 90s—and after losing $10 million in 2015 after debt payments. The Kushners now face a looming $1.2 billion debt payment on the building that has sent them scrambling to find other investors. Real estate experts remain mystified by the purchase, doubting the building will ever be profitable for the amount Kushner paid. (Kushner has sold his personal stake in the building since joining the White House.)
Want to bet that magically, the Kushners are able to find a source for that looming $1.2B payment? Well, I will allow the odds were better before Daddy-in-law went and accidentally got himself elected President. That puts a real crimp in flying below the radar in questionable billion dollar real estate deals. Almost makes one wish for some really secure way of communicating with your personal piggy bank. Some way that all those pesky government agencies can’t listen in on, now that you’re definitely ON the radar. Hmmm, that might make for an interesting story, have to file that one away…
Back to commercial real estate finance. So here’s the basics in commercial real estate lending, and it should make sense. If you want to use someone else’s money to buy a property, that someone else is going to study the cash flow of that property pretty carefully. You know, to see if it can generate enough in rents to cover its expenses AND pay back your loan, or provide an acceptable return for an equity investment.
For some unfathomable reason, the sources for transactions related to clan Trump never seem to be very good at cash flow analysis. Time after time, team Trump pulls cash out of thin air like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. And then afterward, we hear that the property isn’t performing well and is in financial trouble. Who could have predicted it?! Well, who except for every expert in the local market and every American based bank operating under regulations that include anti money laundering laws and wouldn’t touch the deal with a ten foot pole even if it didn’t have Donald Trump’s greasy fingerprints on it, of course.
What’s maybe the most perplexing is this; none of these horribly bad purchases – ones that no other buyer will touch at the price because they don’t pencil – none of them are a secret. Just how awful a deal they are is out there for all to see. Yet just like a street magician pulling rabbit after rabbit from a hat, the money never dries up. Always cash available for the next deal.
You know, when you put it all out there like that, it almost makes sense that the backers of these deals, those shadowy sources behind a few LLC’s , might have some additional, maybe one could use the word, ulterior, motive in putting all that cash into play in the real estate market. NY, FL, these are EXPENSIVE markets to buy up certain types of real estate. A lot of money has to go through that transaction to make it happen. And the sources of that cash don’t get a whole lot of scrutiny. Hell, put yourself in the place of a seller getting an above market offer worth a couple extra hundred million to you. You know what they say… Money talks.
Of course, this post is pure conjecture, and I would never insinuate that our Great and Magnificent Oz… er, I mean pres*dent… or any of his equally litigious family, for that matter… would ever, ever be involved in anything nefarious like the above fiction. A pure work of fiction, any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No animals were harmed in the writing of this story, either.