The Canadian investment firm bailing out a financially troubled New York City tower owned by White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner’s family is also heavily invested in the Chinese market, amid high-stakes trade negotiations between the Trump administration and China.
Brookfield Asset Management — which invests in oil pipeline, off-shore drilling, renewable energy, and real estate operations around the globe — is close to finalizing a deal that would rescue the financially troubled 666 Fifth Ave. tower in Manhattan — a 41-story office building purchased by Kushner in 2007, according to the Washington Post. Kushner Companies has a deadline of early next year to repay a $1.2 billion debt.
Brookfield’s extensive investments with China raise questions about the true motivation of the company’s bailout of the Kushners’ office tower.
Brookfield, which will reportedly purchase about a 50 percent stake in the building, has also invested millions in development projects around China and plans to operate solar projects on millions of acres of logistic and commercial rooftops in the country. The firm is expected to develop around 300 megawatts of rooftop solar projects over the next three years in China, part of a joint venture between Brookfield and GLP, a company co-founded by Chinese entrepreneur Ming Zhi Mei.
The solar project was announced on March 21, the day before Trump announced he would impose tariffs on $60 billion worth of Chinese imports and limit the country’s ability to invest in the American technology industry, according to the Washington Post. Trump has blamed China for the loss of 60,000 U.S. factories, millions of jobs, and America’s trade deficit with China.
The announcement prompted China to place tariffs on U.S. goods including crops and aircrafts. The two sides have since been involved in high-stakes trade negotiations in an effort to deescalate heightening threats of a trade war that would impact both economies.
Kushner Companies, Brookfield, and White House representatives did not immediately respond for comment.
In the past, Brookfield’s CEO Bruce Flatt has downplayed the effect certain Trump policies would have on the economy. He said in January that he did not think Trump’s previous threats to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would hurt Canada’s economy long-term and that a new deal would be completed in the end, according to Bloomberg.
But in its April 2 SEC filings, Brookfield claimed “unforeseen political events” in markets where they operate, including the U.S. and Asian markets, could create economic uncertainty that would have negative impacts on its financial performance. That could affect its relationship with its customers and its relationship “among tariffs and currencies.”
Flatt has praised China’s rapidly growing GDP as the reason for the investment, according to Forbes. While Brookfield only has about 1 percent of its assets invested in China, Flatt says he expects a third of the $285 billion asset management firm’s business will be in the country in 25 years.
Meanwhile Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a White House adviser whose responsibilities range from solving the country’s drug epidemic to securing peace in the Middle East, has been mired in controversy over his alleged conflicts of interest. Kushner, who resigned from his family’s company before moving into the White House, still has a large stake in Kushner Co. In February, he lost his top-secret security clearance after federal officials raised fears that foreign governments have considered trying to influence the White House by conducting business with the company.
Joshua Harris, an equity firm magnate who advised the Trump administration on infrastructure and benefited from several recent oil pipeline policy decisions, met several times with White House advisor Jared Kushner and later gave Kushner Companies an $184 million loan.
Jared Kushner bought the tower for a record-breaking $1.8 billion in 2007, just months before the global recession. He divested his stake in the building before taking the White House job.
Brookfield has financial ties to the government of Qatar, according to the New York Times. However Brookfield officials claim they will invest in the building through one of its investment funds, not its real estate arm, meaning Qatar will not be involved in the purchase, the Washington Post reported. The paper was not able to independently verify the company’s claims.