Brookfield Asset Management has agreed to purchase the lease the office portion of 666 Fifth Ave. in midtown Manhattan from the Kushner family, the WSJ reported.
“Given Brookfield’s experience in successfully redeveloping and repositioning major office assets in New York and other cities around the world, we are well placed to capitalize on that opportunity,” Ric Clark, Brookfield Property Group’s chairman, said in a statement.
The infamous “devil” tower with the “666” sign on the entrance, has been under scrutiny because Jared Kushner is married to Ivanka Trump, and is a senior adviser to the president. When the Kushner Cos acquired the building in 2007 for $1.8 billion, it represented a New York commercial real estate record and was made when Kushner was taking a leadership role in the business. It remained precarious for years, and potential deals became complicated after Mr. Kushner took the senior White House job.
While terms of the deal weren’t disclosed in a statement Friday, the WSJ notes that the proceeds would give the family enough to pay off the more than $1.1 billion of debt on the building and buy out its partner, Vornado Realty Trust, for $120 million so it can transfer 666 Fifth to Brookfield unencumbered.
The sale means that the Kushner family likely won’t make any money on its investment in 666 Fifth Ave.
In recent years, the building hasn’t been generating enough money to pay its debt service. Jared Kushner had already sold his stake in 666 Fifth to a trust controlled by other family members to avoid potential conflicts. Still, the talks between Anbang and his father ignited criticism that Kushner might use his position to help his family salvage its investment.
Brookfield, which is buying the property through one of its private-equity funds, also plans to invest more than $600 million in overhauling the 39-story building, giving it a new lobby, façade and mechanical systems, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The building has seen its rental payments suffer in recent years due to a relatively high vacancy rate but is viewed in real-estate circles as having potential due to its prime location on Fifth Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets.
The structure of the deal is different from what Brookfield and Kushner Cos. discussed in the spring. Back then, Brookfield was considering a deal in which it would essentially acquire Vornado’s 49.5% stake in the property and become partners with the Kushner family.
One of the uncertainties about the Brookfield purchase of the 99-year lease is how much of the current debt on the building is going to be repaid. In the 2011 restructuring, the debt was carved into two pieces—a senior piece and a junior piece. The senior piece is worth $1.1 billion and the junior piece has increased since 2011 to over $300 million, because interest on it has been accruing.
Kushner executives have been arguing that only the senior debt on the building has to be repaid, partly because 666 Fifth isn’t worth the total $1.4 billion of debt on the building.
The recent history of the building is remarkable.
The property has taken numerous twists, both financial and political. Kushner Cos. sold a controlling stake in the retail space for more than $500 million a few years after it purchased the tower in 2007, using most of the proceeds to repay debt.
But that wasn’t enough to shore up the property in the post-crash years. In 2011, Kushner Cos. renegotiated what was then $1.2 billion in debt and brought in Vornado as a 49.5% partner.
In 2017, soon after Mr. Trump took office, Mr. Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, was negotiating with Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese insurer with connections to Beijing government. The elder Mr. Kushner’s plan at the time was to use Anbang’s capital in a $7.5 billion plan to convert 666 Fifth Ave. into a 1,400-foot-tall mixed use skyscraper with retail, hotel and condominiums.
Soon after, the Anbang talks soon collapsed. Since then, Kushner Cos. has steered clear of any deals with sovereign funds, a decision which has made the firm rein in its ambitious plans for the site. The family also faced a deadline: the debt on the building needs to be repaid next year.
And thanks to Brookfield, that will no longer be Jared’s problem any more.