Seeking Backers for New Fund, Jared Kushner Turns to Middle East

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Former President Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law is trying to rise superior for his concern steadfast and is turning to a portion that helium dealt with extensively portion successful the White House.

Jared Kushner’s talks with the Saudis astir  an concern    successful  his backstage  equity steadfast  stay  successful  flux.
Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Nov. 26, 2021, 6:12 p.m. ET

As a White House advisor successful the Trump administration, Jared Kushner took a peculiar involvement successful the petroleum-rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf.

He formed a personal friendship with the brash young crown prince of Saudi Arabia. He helped forge ties betwixt Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and backed Emirati rulers successful a feud with Qatar. Since the electoral decision of his father-in-law, erstwhile President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Kushner has stayed progressive successful the portion done a nonprofit enactment helium established.

Now, successful a determination that has raised eyebrows among diplomats, investors and morals watchdogs, Mr. Kushner is trying to rise wealth from the Persian Gulf states for a caller concern steadfast helium has founded. So far, helium is having lone mixed success.

Qatar, whose leaders saw Mr. Kushner arsenic an hostile successful the administration, declined to put successful his firm, a idiosyncratic acquainted with those conversations said. So did the main Emirati sovereign wealthiness funds; Emirati rulers saw Mr. Kushner arsenic an state but questioned his way grounds successful business, according to a idiosyncratic with cognition of the discussions.

But the Saudis are much interested, according to 4 radical briefed connected their continuing negotiations. The kingdom’s $450 cardinal Public Investment Fund is negotiating with Mr. Kushner implicit what could beryllium to beryllium a sizable concern successful his caller firm, 2 of those radical said.

In a little telephone call, Mr. Kushner declined to sermon his caller firm, Affinity Partners, and it is not wide which different investors helium has spoken to truthful acold wrong oregon extracurricular the United States. According to a idiosyncratic acquainted with the firm’s plans, Mr. Kushner hopes to rise an magnitude successful the debased billions of dollars by aboriginal adjacent year.

But his inquiries to Middle Eastern sovereign wealthiness funds person raised questions astir the morals — oregon astatine slightest the optics — of seeking to rise ample sums from officials helium had dealt with connected behalf of the U.S. authorities arsenic precocious arsenic January, particularly fixed the anticipation of Mr. Trump moving for president successful 2024.

Mr. Kushner’s concern acquisition is mostly constricted to the clip helium spent moving his family’s existent property company. His best-known woody was the acquisition of 666 Fifth Avenue successful Manhattan, for $1.8 cardinal successful 2007, which became a fiscal albatross erstwhile the recession deed soon after. He was besides the proprietor and steadfast of The New York Observer for a decade, until his father-in-law became president.

During the Trump administration, Mr. Kushner developed a peculiarly adjacent rapport with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He played a starring relation successful the White House successful defending Prince Mohammed aft U.S. quality agencies concluded that helium had directed the sidesplitting of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post, who had criticized of the kingdom’s rulers.

Mr. Kushner would not beryllium the archetypal erstwhile Trump White House authoritative to participate a lucrative concern woody with the administration’s allies successful the Persian Gulf soon aft leaving office. Steven T. Mnuchin, Mr. Trump’s Treasury secretary, has already received investments from the Saudis, the Emiratis and the Qataris, according to radical acquainted with the matter.

Other erstwhile advisers and employees person besides actively sought wealth from the Saudis. An authoritative of the Saudi Embassy successful Washington declined to comment.

“When erstwhile White House officials commencement cashing successful their clip served with our authorities by cozying up to monarchs, it turns the tummy a bit. Is it illegal? No,” said Nick Penniman, the laminitis and main enforcement of Issue One, a good-government enactment successful Washington. “Is it swampy and seemingly hypocritical? Yes.”

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Credit...Iman Al-Dabbagh for The New York Times

During a caller sojourn to the Middle East, Mr. Kushner made a halt successful the United Arab Emirates, 2 radical with cognition of the travel said. While moving successful the White House, helium had developed a adjacent narration with the Emirati ambassador to Washington and worked intimately with Emirati leaders connected the archetypal successful a bid of deals, known arsenic the Abraham Accords, that opened diplomatic relations betwixt Arab states and Israel.

But his practice with officials determination portion successful the White House ran into Emirati concerns astir Mr. Kushner’s concern record, according to the idiosyncratic with cognition of the discussions.

Mr. Mnuchin, who led a trading table astatine Goldman Sachs, financed Hollywood movies and turned a failing determination slope profitable earlier joining the Trump administration, has had amended luck. Emirati officials invested this twelvemonth successful his new, $2.5 cardinal concern fund, Liberty Strategic Capital, 2 radical acquainted with the substance said, arsenic did the Public Investment Fund. A spokesperson for the steadfast said successful a connection that Liberty “has a divers capitalist base, including U.S. security companies, household offices, sovereign wealthiness funds and different organization investors,” without mentioning specifics.

Qatari officials initially feared that they mightiness look retaliation if they rejected Mr. Kushner’s invitation to put and Mr. Trump oregon his allies returned to power, 1 idiosyncratic acquainted with the Qatari deliberations said.

Qatar had turned down requests for concern by Mr. Kushner’s household successful its New York existent property business, and Qatari officials person said they suspected that helium held the rejection against them erstwhile Mr. Trump was successful office. (The officials’ views were reflected successful coverage connected the Qatari-controlled quality web Al Jazeera.)

In 2017, Mr. Trump initially appeared to backmost an effort by the Saudis and Emiratis to chopped disconnected Qatar’s diplomatic and commercialized ties with the remainder of the portion arsenic portion of a powerfulness struggle.

But Qatar appears much unafraid now. It has agelong hosted and subsidized a large American aerial base, and it has precocious bolstered its prominence arsenic an state by playing a cardinal relation successful the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan this year.

In 2018, a existent property money successful which Qatar has invested besides provided a much-needed cash infusion to the Kushners for 666 Fifth Avenue, which had been struggling to screen its debts amid a stubborn vacancy rate.

Mr. Kushner’s existent negotiations with Saudi Arabia, reported earlier by the website Project Brazen, are continuing, the 4 radical acquainted with the substance said; but nary woody has been announced. His narration with elder Saudi officials goes backmost to the opening of the Trump medication successful 2017.

In the archetypal 3 months aft Mr. Trump took office, Mr. Kushner bent protocol to orchestrate a backstage repast with the president astatine the White House for Prince Mohammed — successful a format usually reserved for heads of authorities — adjacent though the prince had not yet been designated arsenic the successor to the throne occupied by his father, King Salman.

That spring, lone a fewer months later, Mr. Kushner successfully pushed for his father-in-law to marque his first planetary travel to a acme successful Riyadh, the Saudi capital, wherever the president was photographed participating successful a accepted sword dance. Around the aforesaid time, Mr. Kushner personally helped negociate a 10-year statement for Saudi Arabia to bargain much than $110 cardinal successful American weapons. Prince Mohammed was named crown prince that June.

Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed regularly and informally communicated by substance message, and they addressed each different by archetypal name. After the Khashoggi killing, Mr. Kushner defended Prince Mohammed wrong the White House, contempt intelligence reports showing his engagement successful the program to execute the journalist.

In a determination wide interpreted arsenic an effort to support the prince, Mr. Trump kept those reports classified passim his term. They were unsealed this twelvemonth by President Biden, who has called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” and has adopted a overmuch cooler attack to the kingdom than his predecessor.

While successful the White House, Mr. Kushner devoted overmuch of his vigor to trying to enlist Arab states successful a expansive bargain to supply economical benefits to the Palestinians successful speech for Palestinian concessions to Israel. Although that effort was nary much palmy than erstwhile efforts astatine Middle East peace, his talks with the Emiratis and a fewer neighbors yet yielded the much constricted Abraham Accords connected normalizing relations with Israel.

Mr. Kushner has adopted a debased illustration since leaving the White House. Along with his wife, Ivanka Trump, and their children, helium relocated to Miami, beyond the media glare of New York and Washington. He established Affinity determination successful caller months.

He has told associates that helium has nary tendency to re-enter politics. Seeking to physique connected pacts helium helped negociate successful government, Mr. Kushner started the Abraham Accords Institute for Peace, a nonprofit radical that volition question to grow commercialized ties betwixt Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Mr. Kushner besides hopes that his caller firm, Affinity, volition find opportunities successful cross-border investing successful the Middle East, the idiosyncratic with cognition of the firm’s plans said. One cardinal country of interest, this idiosyncratic said, is to physique concern relationships betwixt Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The steadfast is inactive being staffed up, the idiosyncratic said, adding that approaching investors successful the United States and overseas is connected the agenda.

Affinity precocious hired Bret Pearlman, a laminitis of the Silicon Valley concern steadfast Elevation Partners and a longtime wealth manager for Josh Harris, a laminitis of the backstage equity steadfast Apollo Global Management, according to 2 radical with cognition of the move. Asad Naqvi, a erstwhile spouse astatine the London-based backstage equity steadfast Apis Partners, has besides joined the concern team, 1 of those radical added. (Both hires were reported earlier by Reuters.) Mr. Kushner volition beryllium the main enforcement officer.

Neither Mr. Pearlman nor Mr. Naqvi responded to requests for comment.

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