From mostly unknown to getting quoted on the front page of every major national newspaper, Nicole Kushner Meyer has had an eventful few days.
The younger sister to White House senior adviser Jared Kushner flew to China last week to promote a 1,467-apartment luxury tower in Jersey City under development by her family firm, Kushner Companies.
In a presentation to more than 100 potential investors at Beijing’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, Nicole touted the benefits of the EB-5 visa program, which grants citizenship to foreign investors who fork over $500,000 or more into American real estate projects. She stood before slides that sported phrases like “founded by celebrity developers,” “government sponsored” and “key decision makers.” At one point, a photo of U.S. President (and father-in-law to Jared) Donald Trump was displayed in the frame, just below the characters “EB-5.”
To fund the Jersey City project, known as both “One Journal Square” and “Kushner1,” the firm is seeking a bank loan of about $525 million as well as roughly $150 million from Chinese EB-5 investors, according to the pitchbook obtained by Bloomberg. (The version of the project pitched in China, at $1 billion, was larger and more expensive than the November 2015 plan floated to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which estimated costs at $400 million.)
Aside from recounting the Kushner family history in real estate, Nicole also noted its Beltway ties. “In 2008, my brother Jared Kushner joined the family company as CEO, and recently moved to Washington to join the administration,” she told the audience. Attendees told Western news outlets that the company’s connection to the U.S. government made the investment pitch much more attractive.
Those news organizations were eventually forced to leave the publicly-advertised event, and what was otherwise a pedestrian sales pitch to grab EB-5 funding became a red-hot American news story. Kushner Companies later apologized for invoking Jared’s name in the pitch, and said he had no involvement in the project.
But what was also surprising to some in New York real estate was the presence of Nicole Kushner herself, who only formally joined the company as a principal in 2015 and has largely shied from the limelight.
Raised in Livingston, New Jersey with two older siblings (Jared and Dara) and one younger one (Joshua), Nicole is either 33 or 34 years of age. After obtaining a master’s degree in Urban Planning from NYU in 2006, she opted not to join the family business, but instead went to work in fashion, starting a decade-long career at Ralph Lauren, where she last served as senior director of creative services for global fashion until 2015.
Along the way she married Joseph Meyer, a hedge funder and the current CEO of Observer Media, which owns the New York Observer newspaper that Jared Kushner purchased in 2006. Jared appointed Joseph to the position in 2013. The same year, Joseph and Nicole bought an $8.5 million apartment at 812 Park Avenue and sold their Harlem co-op for $3.4 million, city property records show.
Nicole joined Kushner Companies in 2015, and was then a novice in the real estate arena, sources told The Real Deal, despite her family’s name and status. But her educational background in urban design and architecture probably comes in handy, plus she likely holds significant ownership stakes in Kushner properties through the same trusts that Jared Kushner has his own interests. Property records show that Nicole has been one of several Kushner family members to benefit from a family-created “Trust #1.” According to Jared’s White House ethics disclosures, Trust #1 holds interests in entities linked to the Puck Building in Manhattan and Kushner Companies’ vast East Village rental portfolio.
The attorney advising Jared on ethics issues told the New York Times that his client divested his interests in the One Journal Square project by selling them to a family trust that he’s not a beneficiary of.
A Kushner Companies spokesperson told TRD that Nicole “focuses on new acquisitions, developments and commercial portfolio management” at the company.
Kushner Companies clearly thought it was important to send a family member to China to promote the project. Jared’s not an option, father Charlie tends to stay in the background these days, and remaining siblings Josh and Dara are not formally involved. The Kushner matriarch, Seryl, is often spotted in the Kushner Companies office, sources told TRD. She controls trusts that hold various real estate assets, and is an on-paper sponsor of a company condo offering plan in New Jersey, but does not appear to hold a formal position at the firm.
(To learn more about properties owned by Kushner Companies, click here)