Anbang drops out of NYC tower deal

The Chinese insurer ended discussions with the Kushner Companies after talks of a deal drew lawmakers’ scrutiny.

Anbang Insurance Group has ended discussions to buy a stake in a New York City office building from the Kushner Companies, the New York-based firm owned by the family of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, according to a Wednesday statement.

The deal could have seen Beijing-based Anbang provide up to $1.25 billion in equity for the planned redevelopment of 666 Fifth Avenue, an office and retail building, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Kushner Companies bought the 41-story building in January 2007 for $1.8 billion.

“Kushner Companies is no longer in discussions with Anbang about 666 Fifth Avenue’s potential redevelopment, and our firms have mutually agreed to end talks regarding the property,” the firm said in a statement. “Kushner Companies remains in active, advanced negotiations around 666 5th Avenue with a number of potential investors.”

Anbang could not be reached for comment.

The office building has reportedly been losing money for three years and has increasing loan fees this year, while facing a vacancy rate of 30 percent, according to Bloomberg. In a redevelopment plan that would leave Kushner Companies with a one-fifth stake, the firm would oversee the conversion of the retail and office building to a 74-floor luxury skyscraper with condominiums, a hotel and retail space.

Five US lawmakers – four senators and one House representative – raised concerns to a White House ethics official last week about the Chinese insurer’s ties to Jared Kushner through the deal, writing “the highly troubling transaction… would appear to present a clear conflict of interest for Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Trump and a senior White House advisor.”

In their letter to the official, the congressmen wrote that while Kushner and the White House told media outlets last month that he sold his personal stake in the building, it was unclear if the divestiture is complete. Even if the White House advisor did not retain an interest in the building, the lawmakers said that an Anbang deal with his family’s company could violate federal ethics laws.

Anbang has made other real estate forays in the US. In 2014, the insurer bought New York’s Waldorf Astoria for $1.95 billion, and last year, the insurer inked a deal to buy Blackstone’s Strategic Hotels & Resorts Worldwide for $6.5 billion. However, Blackstone stopped the sale of one of the properties in the portfolio, the Hotel del Coronado, in October after the US government raised questions about security issues for the property.