Trump in talks with Blackstone’s Gray for Treasury secretary

Private equity giant lent on Jared Kushner’s $340M Watchtower building buy in DUMBO

Jonathan Gray, Donald Trump and the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C.
Jonathan Gray, Donald Trump and the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C.

Blackstone Group head of global real estate Jonathan Gray is in talks with Donald Trump about joining his administration as Treasury secretary.

Gray met with Trump Sunday afternoon to discuss the position, Politico reported, despite the fact that the Blackstone [TRDataCustom] exec donated to Hilary Clinton’s campaign and has openly criticized Trump’s immigration policies.

Gray, 45, is a Chicago native and graduate of Trump’s alma mater, the Wharton School.

It’s not clear how the prospect of joining the administration was broached, but Gray does have a connection with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law who’s playing an influential role shaping the president-elect’s transition efforts.

Blackstone, along with SL Green Realty, lent $376 million to Kushner and his partners CIM Group and LIVWRK on their purchase of the Jehovah’s Witness’ Watchtower building in DUMBO earlier this year.

Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding, which had partnered with Kushner on their previous Dumbo Heights buildings and has been a vocal critic of Trump, was slated to be a partner on the deal but backed out before the closing.

Gray, too, has at times seemed at odds with Trump’s controversial campaign. He donated the maximum amount to Clinton’s presidential campaign, and also written checks to other Democrats over the years including Reps. Seth Moulton and Jared Polis; as well as Sens. Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Chuck Schumer and Ron Wyden.

In an email to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, finance director Dennis Cheng described Gray as a supporter of the former secretary of state.

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“Really admires HRC and wants to be helpful, but doesn’t know our world that [well],” Cheng wrote in an email that was later hacked. “Would be good for him to get to know you. The next time you are in NYC, I think you and I should meet with him.”

Gray, believed by Forbes to be a billionaire, also criticized Trump’s immigration policies during the campaign. He told Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo that immigration reform “could bring in more highly educated people and resolve the issue with a lot of undocumented folks who I think could pay taxes and be more productive in society.”

Following the election, though, Gray said he thinks Trump’s victory could be a game-changer for the real estate industry.

“It does appear like we’re going to have lower taxes, less regulation and probably more fiscal spending, particularly around infrastructure. All of that should be good for growth,” he said during a conference hosted by Bank of America.

Gray is just one of several real estate figures Trump is turning toward as he shapes his administration. Richard LeFrak, Steven Roth and Howard Lorber were named to his economic advisory committee.

Trump is also facing an avalanche of conflicts of interests from critics who say he’s not done anywhere near enough to separate his political and business interests.

“Trump is the only politician at this level that I know who has been totally unwilling to draw a line between his political persona and his business,” Daron Acemoglu, an economist at MIT and co-author of the book “Why Nations Fail,” previously told The Real Deal. [Politico] – Rich Bockmann