Editor's note: Kushner’s conundrum

Jun.June 01, 2018 10:00 AM

Stuart Elliott

When Charlie Kushner agreed to a sit down for an extended interview with The Real Deal, the first question we asked ourselves was, “Why?”

The Kushner Companies founder — whose firm has been thrust into the limelight since his son Jared became one of Donald Trump’s senior White House advisers — has mostly kept a low profile until recently.

Privately, Charlie has been seething at press coverage, including stories in The Real Deal. Now, however, he appears anxious to settle scores and tell his side — even if those around him don’t seem quite as keen for him to speak out.

Indeed, he seemed to revel in the more than hour-long conversation with TRD reporters Will Parker and Konrad Putzier, which hit a wide-ranging field of topics and took place at his 666 Fifth Avenue headquarters.

With his advisers and his wife, Seryl, by his side, Kushner blasted ethics watchdogs (“jerks” who “can’t get a real job”) and lambasted the Jersey City mayor, who has stymied one of his projects (“just another New Jersey asshole politician”).

He also dismissed accusations that his company was trying to leverage its White House connections into landing EB-5 financing during a road show in China (“We don’t speak Chinese! How the hell do we know what they were saying?”). And he turned the tables on renters in his buildings who’ve made accusations of harassment (“How do you fix a broken building if you don’t create dirt and noise?” he asked, adding that “tenants are very often like the Trump haters”).

Kushner saved his choicest words, not surprisingly, for the press (“fake news,” “fucking nonsense,” “totally false” and “like parrots, you just report what the other idiots say”).

Yet despite the negative press, Kushner said he will complete more than $2 billion in financing in the first half of this year and that “business is plowing ahead like a bulldozer.” That business includes a recent victory to sell a minority stake in the much-covered 666 Fifth Avenue — which was swimming in leverage and had a looming debt payment — to Brookfield.

During the back-and-forth, Kushner’s publicist, Christine Taylor, tried to pull him away from answering questions about ongoing investigations, as did Seryl. Company president Laurent Morali also interjected with innocuous diplomatic points, only to be cut off by Kushner, who chimed in with saltier answers. There was debate about whether TRD could release the audio of the interview. This was Kushner unfiltered, clearly.

“I don’t care if the lawyers are happy,” Kushner responded to his wife at one point, talking about separate investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the New York City Department of Buildings into the company. He has claimed that the investigations have ended, although the DOB later told TRD it’s still ongoing. (The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.)

Some have suggested that Kushner has a tin ear for the role he’s been thrust into — oblivious to his insider role in the Trump universe and the fact it could land him in more hot water — but his supporters say he’s been unfairly targeted by politicians and the press. Turn to page 37 and decide for yourself. The interview is more than revealing.

Elsewhere in the issue, we have in-depth stories on the state of the residential market — including on the rising level of condo inventory, which is making things harder for developers and on the uptick in foreclosures citywide. Also check out our annual ranking of the top brokers in Manhattan, as well as a look at the contenders vying to replace Eric Schneiderman as the next permanent New York State Attorney General — and, of course, what that will mean for the industry.

Enjoy the issue!

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