Colony Capital founder Tom Barrack is the first private equity real estate executive to publicly endorse Donald Trump, the frontrunner Republican presidential candidate whose campaign has divided the party.
Barrack broke ranks with his fellow private equity executives, who have largely rallied around Florida Senator Marco Rubio, to back Trump on the candidate's website.
“My point of view is based on my 35 years of personal and business relations with Donald and my private reactions to him as a 'man,'” Barrack told PERE. “My endorsement of him is not related to the business of Colony – or our industry. It is an effort to clarify the attributes of one of the athletes on the field, as they all proceed through the tunnel to the stadium.”
Before the endorsement, Barrack appeared on various media outlets to promote the real estate magnate's business record and political aptitude. His official endorsement came just ahead of Super Tuesday, a polling day across 11 states designed to crown a candidate – or at least whittle the contenders down – in cases of crowded primary races. Trump picked up the lion's share of delegates, taking seven states compared with Rubio's single win.
“Donald is a seasoned and tested executive who can get things done, speak simply and clearly, force consensus and solve for complex common denominators,” Barrack told PERE . “Policy making is a melange of a myriad of interests with differing and varying points of view, and that is the job of the legislature, not of the president.”
Colony's latest deal was back in 2012, assisting with the financing for Trump's eponymous Washington DC luxury hotel, slated to open in September. Barrack told PERE that Colony exited the joint venture after the project's timeline became too long for the firm.
Business leaders in and out of the private equity real estate space have shied away from Trump's campaign, which has angered religious and ethnic minorities, women, media and other groups. One executive at a Washington DC-based private equity trade group told PERE that Republican private equity executives have backed Rubio financially, if not publicly, citing the senator's track record and attractive tax plan.
“Any industry looks for stability and you find the opposite of that in Trump,” the executive said.
Barrack, though, has praised Trump's business acumen.
“All the candidates are elegant, educated, talented and good thinkers; however, the mission, in my simple mind, is to find the most capable CEO of the biggest business and country in the world,” Barrack told PERE . “The questions is, 'who has the most experience at running complex organizations in both good and bad times, with the courage and conviction to lead with integrity and strength?'”
Private equity players and Wall Street as a whole have largely stayed out of endorsement headlines, with the exception of a Goldman Sachs financial adviser in the bank's wealth management division who was reportedly the only employee to donate to the campaign. He was placed on administrative leave this week after creating an unapproved side business to sell apparel with the slogan “Make Christianity Great Again,” mirroring Trump's motto “Make America Great Again.” The New York Times reported that Goldman employees had contributed more than $199,000 to Rubio's campaign as of last week.