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March 29, 2017

Jared Kushner family firm and Chinese company end talks over skyscraper deal

Anbang was discussing buying stake in Fifth Avenue building in New York but critics had suggested China was seeking to curry favor with White House

Talks between the family of Jared Kushner and a Chinese company seeking a stake in a Fifth Avenue skyscraper are over.

The Kushner Companies confirmed on Wednesday that negotiations with Anbang Insurance Group to help fund redevelopment of the familys office tower on Manhattans Fifth Avenue have ended. The news was first reported by the New York Post.

The talks had drawn criticism from lawmakers and government ethics experts. They saw it as a potential attempt by China to curry favor with the White House.

Jared Kushner is Donald Trumps son-in-law and a senior adviser. He stepped down as CEO of the real estate company in January and has sold stakes in several properties, including 666 Fifth Ave, to help allay concerns about conflicts of interest.

Company spokesman James Yolles would not say why the Anbang talks were called off, only that the decision was reached by both parties. He said that Kushner Companies is still negotiating with other potential investors.

Kushner Companies bought the property in 2007 for a reported $1.8bn when Jared Kushner was running the business. It was a big leap for a company previously associated mostly with garden apartments in the New York suburbs.

It soon became apparent that Kushner had overpaid. The debt taken on to land the property nearly crippled the company during the financial crisis. In 2011, Kushner Companies sold a stake in the 41-floor building to Vornado Realty Trust.

Jared
Jared Kushner is a senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Trump. Photograph: Jim Bourg/Reuters

Anbang has ties to politically powerful families in Beijing, and its ownership structure is unclear. The company has come under scrutiny as it has moved to expand its holdings in the US. In 2015 Anbang bought Manhattans Waldorf Astoria hotel for nearly $2bn.

Four months after the close of that sale, the state department abandoned decades of tradition, saying that during the annual UN general assembly in the fall, it would set up shop in another New York hotel other than the Waldorf-Astoria.

Officials with the state department gave no reason.

It was widely reported that Anbang was considering a $4bn deal to help Kushner refurbish 666 Fifth Ave.

Jared Kushner sold his stake in the building as part of his agreement with the Office of Government Ethics, but his family would have stood to benefit from an Anbang deal.

A senior White House official told the Associated Press earlier this month that Kushner would recuse himself from any government business to which Anbang was a party if the deal went through. The official requested anonymity to discuss a personnel matter.

The Kushner family owns or manages 20,000 apartments, 13m sq ft of office space and industrial properties in several states, including New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Illinois.

Originally published at: http://www.theguardian.com/us