Today’s New York Times profile of Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner—a real estate scion in his own right, whose influence on the presumptive Republican nominee’s presidential campaign has been steadily increasing since the spring—contains, amongst other things, this titillating anecdote:
Unlike his father-in-law, with his seemingly bottomless appetite for conflict, Mr. Kushner is, by all accounts, soft-spoken and restrained. In the midst of a difficult real estate negotiation a few years ago, the Swatch-wearing Mr. Kushner playfully proposed an unconventional solution to a standoff: an arm-wrestling match.
“It was such a simple way to resolve a conflict when the conflict didn’t need to be there in the first place,” said his counterpart in the negotiation, Adam Neumann, a founder of WeWork, which provides shared work spaces to entrepreneurs.
Mr. Kushner lost.
Kushner is, according to Neumann, “the opposite of a traditional New York developer.” This is not really true. In fact, Kushner comes from a long-standing tradition of New York developers who inherit their fortune and subcontract the dirty work. Now, though, Kushner is spending less time on real estate and more time in politics, supporting his father-in-law’s presidential ambitions.
Though Trump praised him in a statement provided to the Times, saying that “Despite his great business success, he has the right priorities—family first,” it’s worth noting Kushner regularly overpays for things.
In January 2007, Kushner acquired what may be his most famous building, 666 Fifth Avenue, paying more than $1,100 per square foot at a time when comparable buildings were selling for less than $800 per square foot, according to market analysis by Real Capital Analytics. In total, Kushner paid a record $1.8 billion for the building—his first in Manhattan. It was also the signal purchase of his attempt to restore the family name after his father was successfully prosecuted in 2005 for “crimes of greed, power, and excess” by none other than Chris Christie, then-U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey.
Described at the time by the New York Times as “a classic example of reckless underwriting,” the deal was a spectacular failure. Rather than entering foreclosure, however, Kushner brought in Vornado Realty Trust, which spent tens of millions of dollars refurbishing the building in exchange for a 49.5 percent ownership stake.
And in March of last year, Kushner paid $131.5 million for a portfolio of 16 apartment buildings that the seller had bought about two years prior for $73 million—an 80 percent increase. According to RCA, overall pricing for Manhattan apartments only increased by 58 percent in that time.
Anyway, given the fact that Neumann keeps a heavy bag near his desk and served in the Israeli military, Kushner’s arm-wrestling challenge seems to have been something of a forlorn hope—or maybe he was just looking for a way to bow out without losing face. Sound familiar?