The Real Deal New York

White House’s Gary Cohn is Joe Sitt’s partner on 5 New York buildings

Sitt defended Cohn’s involvement with the Trump administration on Fox Business last week
By Will Parker | April 03, 2017 07:00AM

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Joe Sitt, Gary Cohn and 1566 Third Avenue

White House chief economic adviser and former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn is Joe Sitt’s investment partner on at least six Thor Equities properties, including five in New York, financial disclosures released by the White House Friday show.

Cohn holds personal interests in or receives distributions from LLCs affiliated with Thor-owned buildings at 115 Mercer Street, 452 West Broadway, 98 Morningside Avenue, 1231 Third Avenue and 1566 Fifth Avenue, the filings show. He also holds a stake in Thor’s luxury shopping center at 65 Boulevard de la Croisette in Cannes, France.

It’s difficult to determine what Cohn’s collective stakes in the Thor TRData LogoTINY properties are worth. They could be valued at over $4.5 million (the disclosures provide ranges instead of discrete values). His stakes in the Cannes retail and in 1231 Third Avenue are simply listed as having a value “over $1,000,000.”

Sitt, a Brooklyn-born real estate mogul who got his start in plus-size clothing retail, is a self-described early supporter of Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency. He regularly plays pundit on cable television, predicting a golden age of economic prosperity under the Trump administration. He’s also gone to bat for Cohn on air.

“I think all the rhetoric against his children’s involvement, be it Jared or Ivanka, and/or Gary Cohn, I think it’s so wrong,” Sitt told Fox Business’ Stuart Varney last week. He told Varney that Cohn, a friend of his, “really is running the entire economics of this country,” and said he thinks Kushner, Ivanka and Cohn will be helpful in courting moderate Democrats to Trump’s causes. Sitt, in a November interview on Bloomberg TV, also described himself as “very, very close to Jared Kushner.”

A representative for Sitt and Thor declined a request for comment. The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment.

White House officials such as Cohn are expected to recuse themselves from matters that could pose a conflict of interest with financial assets they hold while employed by the executive branch. The White House released disclosures for dozens of administration officials Friday, including Kushner, senior adviser Steve Bannon, and press secretary Sean Spicer. Outside ethics experts have been sounding alarms for months about the unprecedented amount of wealth concentrated in the net worths of Trump’s top White House personnel, which Bloomberg estimated to be about $12 billion.

Apart from Cohn’s investments with Thor, disclosures reveal he holds an interest in 25 Bond Street, LLC. 25 Bond is a condominium building in Noho developed by Tony Goldman’s Goldman Properties. Shinbone Alley Associates, LLC, in which Cohn holds an interest, has bought and sold multiple units in the loft building. 25 Bond Street, LLC, with a listed value of over $1 millon currently owns unit #5 at the address.

Cohn, like White House colleague and adviser Dina Powell, held shares in Goldman Sachs’ fee-free private investment funds for senior employees, which have significant national real estate holdings, the disclosures show. The funds invest in ventures such as WeWork and in Zigbang, a Korean real estate listings website. Other funds have listed holdings that include interests in Alexico Group’s 56 Leonard Street and Hines’ Moma Tower condos.

On March 17, however, Cohn filed a document with the Office of Government Ethics announcing he would sell more than $200 million in Goldman Sachs stock, including in company-managed funds, so it’s possible that Cohn has already divested or is divesting these aforementioned interests. Unlike Kushner’s disclosure, which made note of such divestitures, Cohn’s does not.

Kushner announced in January he would divest from dozens of personal assets, including all foreign ones. His recent disclosures indicate he has retained interests in at least 40 New York City real estate companies.

Cohn has agreed to recuse himself from all specific matters related to Goldman Sachs for two years, a White House official confirmed Friday.

Sitt donated $25,000 to the Trump Victory election fund last fall, but the money wasn’t received until Trump had already prevailed, Federal Election Commission filings show. He previously gave to a Trump-supporting political action committee, Make America Great Again PAC.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify when Joe Sitt made political contributions to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.