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Plan for $7.5 billion Kushner family New York tower faces hurdles: report

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The family-owned company that until recently was headed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law hopes to turn an aging New York office tower into a signature development that could be worth up to $12 billion, a report said on Wednesday.

Chinese insurer Anbang Insurance Group is in advanced talks to provide as much as half of $2.5 billion in equity for the planned redevelopment of 666 Fifth Avenue, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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The overall project for the flagship 39-story building, which is controlled by Kushner Cos, is valued at $7.5 billion. The company was run by Jared Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka. He sold his stake to a family trust in January.

Extensive talks are under way between Kushner Cos., its partners in the building, potential investors, lenders and tenants who would have to be paid to move for the project to go forward, the Journal said, citing people close to the deal.

Plans call for stripping the structure down to its steel columns and adding about 40 floors to the building, which was built in 1957. The project was designed by Zaha Hadid, a Pritzker Prize award winner for architecture, before she died last year.

Concerns about a conflict of interest given Jared Kushner’s role as an advisor to Trump could halt Anbang from taking part. Anbang last week said it was not investing in the project after Bloomberg News named the firm as a potential investor.

Kushner Cos believes it could gain the necessary equity from other investors if Anbang decides to exit the transaction, the Journal said. The project faces other hurdles.

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The Kushners would have to buy out the building’s current tenants to allow for domolition to start and an existing $1.15 billion in debt would need to be refinanced.

Talks are under way with Vornado Realty Trust, a real estate investment trust that owns 49.5 percent of the building’s office space and much of the property’s retail space, to buy out its interests, the Journal said.

The need to sell the luxury condo units at near record prices and the overall financing for the project could raise the eyes of the U.S regulators, a banking source said.

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(Reporting by Herbert Lash)


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Arkansas church vows to continue services: ‘Jesus died with COVID-19 so that you didn’t have to bear it’

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An Arkansas church intends to hold church services despite recommendations from state officials to limit gatherings as part of the fight against the coronavirus.

Awaken Church, in Jonesboro, vowed in a Facebook post to continue holding services in defiance of a Health Department directive banning gatherings of 10 or more, and after churches in other parts of the country were the source of community outbreaks, reported Newsweek.

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2020 Election

Trump’s path to re-election ‘smashed to splinters’ as his only achievement is swallowed up by the pandemic: report

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In a piece for Politico, Ben White writes that Donald Trump was going into November's election with only one achievement under his belt -- a healthy economy -- and now he has nothing left to run if he wants to be re-elected.

With all of the gains made in the stock market long gone due to the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of oil prices, White claims that the president's campaign strategy lies in tatters.

"The fundamental pillars of Donald Trump’s presidency — a hot economy, strong job growth and a rocking stock market — are all being smashed to splinters by the ravaging coronavirus, which has shuttered much of the nation and now officially ended a streak of 113 months of job gains dating back to the end of the Great Recession a decade ago," he wrote before noting the explosion of unemployment claims -- over ten million so far -- that has the country reeling.

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Top South Dakota Republicans face investigation for appearing to be drunk during crucial coronavirus session

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Lawmakers in South Dakota are investigating whether or not Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer (R) was drunk during a meeting earlier this week -- a meeting that dealt with new legislation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, the Rapid City Journal reports.

Another South Dakota Republican, Brock Greenfield, is also under investigation for his conduct during the meeting.

"Langer and Greenfield oversaw the Senate proceedings from a conference room in the Capitol as lawmakers convened through teleconference to decide on a series of emergency bills for the coronavirus outbreak," the Journal reports. "As the Senate prepared to adjourn Tuesday morning, Sen. Phil Jensen, a Rapid City Republican, said he had heard Langer was intoxicated and had interrupted meetings in the House and Senate. He then attempted to move to create a disciplinary committee."

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