Jared Kushner, son-in-law and advisor to President-elect Donald Trump, has held talks recently with one of China’s most politically-connected tycoons about a potential real-estate deal, raising fresh questions about conflicts of interest in the New York billionaire’s incoming administration.
The 36-year old real estate developer, who is married to Ivanka Trump, met with Wu Xiahoui, chairman of Anbang, a privately owned Chinese conglomerate, as recently as November 16, a week after Mr Trump was elected US president, said a person with knowledge of the talks.
The meeting, first reported by the New York Times, sheds further light on the intricate web of business ties that Mr Trump and his family have with foreign entities that risk compromising the integrity of his office.
Mr Wu is married to the granddaughter of China’s former leader Deng Xiaoping, and his company is known for having an opaque ownership structure that includes associations with other prominent Communist Party connected families.
Mr Kushner and Mr Wu met at the Waldorf Astoria, a property acquired by Anbang for nearly $2bn in 2014, in an effort to hand over ongoing negotiations about a possible joint venture linked to the landmark 666 Fifth Avenue building his company owns to Mr Kushner’s father, Charles, and other business associates, said a person informed about the talks.
Nevertheless, the revelation of Mr Kushner’s meeting with Mr Wu, who has struggled to buy assets in the US over US security concerns, is likely to spark fresh ethics questions in Washington, as Mr Trump’s son-in-law is in line for a top White House role.
The New York Times’ investigation also revealed that Mr Kushner has acted as a conduit between the Obama administration and Mr Trump’s transition team on Chinese diplomatic matters.
Anbang did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Chinese group, which unexpectedly pulled out of a heated battle to take over Starwood Hotels for $14bn last year, was blocked by US authorities from buying the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego due to its vicinity to a major US naval base.
Anbang, which was founded in 2004 as an auto insurer and has grown into a multi billion dollar group with assets across the globe, is currently struggling to finance its deals because of capital controls set by Beijing.
Unlike other international Chinese companies, Anbang has no offshore listing, making it harder for it to raise cash abroad due to a lack of transparency. Anbang recently canceled its plans to issue debt abroad after major rating agencies said it would only get a credit rating below investment grade.
A person who was involved in the negotiations for the acquisition of Starwood, said that it was very hard to establish how and where Anbang was going to raise dealmaking funds.
Anbang, which already owns an office building on Fifth Avenue, a block away from Trump Tower and close to 666 Fifth Avenue, has also put on hold plans to convert part of the property to condominiums as the New York luxury property market is suffering a downturn.
It is currently unclear whether talks between Anbang and Mr Kushner’s family business, which are ongoing, will lead to a deal.
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