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Related makes $80M stock buy in Trump Organization’s second-largest lender

The development company announced its "strategic investment" in Ladder Capital on Tuesday
By Will Parker | February 28, 2017 10:45AM

Jeff Blau

Jeff Blau

From the New York website: Related Companies purchased $80 million of stock in Ladder Capital, a Manhattan-based real estate investment trust best known for issuing more than $250 million in loans to the Trump Organization. Related bought the stock from pre-IPO shareholders of Ladder and the investment was made through “Related Real Estate Fund II,” the company’s opportunity fund with over $1 billion in equity commitments.

In a statement, Related CEO Jeff Blau cited Ladder’s deal sheet and said the company was currently undervalued. “Ladder’s core earnings have been positive each quarter since their inception and they have never had a credit loss,” Blau said.

Related’s [TRDataCustom] decision to invest in Ladder comes less than three months after rumors circulated that Ladder, which was founded in 2008, was up for sale. Shares of Ladder were trading at about $14 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday morning. The company has a market capitalization of $1.7 billion, according to Yahoo! finance.

In less than 10 years, Ladder has lent the company headed by now-President Donald Trump more than a quarter billion dollars, and holds a $160 million loan for Trump’s ground lease at 40 Wall Street and a $100 million loan on Trump Tower. Although the company has stepped up to to give Trump debt when larger banks have not, Ladder’s CEO Brian Harris told the New York Times last year he’s never had any problem collecting payments. “I’ve read all the stories you’ve read, but I’ve never had a default,” Harris said.

As Trump’s critics continue to push for more transparency in his lending and income history, Related, like other shareholders of the publicly traded company, will effectively become a partial holder of more than $250 million of the president’s debt. The only bank to currently lend more to Trump is Deutsche, which holds more than $350 million of Trump’s debt, including a $170 million loan for Trump’s Washington D.C. hotel. Deutsche has been restructuring much of that debt to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Along with the significant stake in Ladder, Related will also appoint an executive to the lender’s board of directors. Related’s general counsel, Richard O’Toole, will replace TowerBrook Capital Partner’s Jonathan Bilzin on the board, but TowerBrook remains a large shareholder, Bilzin said in a statement.

According to Crain’s, Ladder’s market specialty is taking on riskier loans than what large institutional lenders are typically comfortable with, and in 2015, it lent $21 million to struggling grocery store A&P, which went bankrupt the day after the loan closed.