Meet Paul Manafort’s real estate fixer

Brad Zackson is a Fred Trump protégé with a checkered past and an appetite for fanciful deals

TRD New York TRD ARCHIVE /
Jul.July 31, 2018 07:00 AM

From left: Yan Jiehe, Paul Manafort, Yulia Tymoshenko, Harry Macklowe, Fred Trump and Brad Zackson (Photo illustration by Lexi Pilgrim for The Real Deal)

Editor’s note: Paul Manafort’s federal trial begins Tuesday morning. Check out our August 2017 investigative feature that explores Manafort’s real estate deals and his fixer, Brad Zackson.

TRD Special Report: In late July, around the time the FBI raided his Virginia home, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was out making real estate deals.

Manafort, who spent decades as a Washington power broker for oligarchs and dictators, was attending a meeting at the New York office of architecture firm Perkins Eastman. The group, which included representatives from engineering firm Langan, sipped Trump-branded water and perused printed materials.

There with Manafort was his client Yan Jiehe, the billionaire who heads Pacific Construction Group, China’s largest privately owned builder. Manafort had been working with Jiehe since at least the spring, advising the company on global infrastructure contracts. According to Brad Zackson, Manafort’s real estate fixer and the man who brought all the parties together for the July meeting, Manafort was helping Pacific identify U.S. construction firms that were ripe for acquisition.

At a separate meeting, Manafort and Jiehe posed for a photograph with principals of one of these potential targets, Munilla Construction Management, a Miami-based firm that has a Pentagon contract to develop a school for the U.S. Navy at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Zackson posted that photograph on his website.

Manafort is one of the most scrutinized men in the country and a central character in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. But despite the spotlight, he appears to be trying to put together major real estate deals with a motley crew from across the globe. (A potential deal between a foreign firm and a U.S. firm doing sensitive government work, such as Pacific acquiring Munilla, could attract the attention of the Treasury Department.)

A common denominator in those deals, both past and present, is Zackson, a veteran New York real estate operative who is far from a household name in the industry but has long aspired to be one.

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