Did George Soros free Donald Trump of a $312 million debt?

  • In 2005 Trump started construction on his skyscraper the Trump International Hotel and Tower (Chicago)
  • To build the tower, Trump received a loan from Deutsche Bank for $650 million
  • Trump also received a $160 million mezzanine loan* from a group of private investors including George Soros, Fortress Investment Group and Blackacre Capital (The loan was estimated by the Wall Street Journal of having a total value as high as $360 million with accrued interest)
  • By October 2008 Trump had sold nearly $600 million in condo and condo-hotel units, more than half of the total value of all the units in his tower
  • After seven years (2005-2012) Trump was on his way to paying off his main construction loan to Deutsche Bank
  • For reasons unexplained to the public, the majority of Trump’s mezzanine loan was quietly forgiven by the loan’s original lenders
  • No media outlet covering the deal has put together the pieces and told the public that George Soros let Donald Trump off the hook for what has been valued between $82 and $312 million in debt
  • Why would Soros give what amounts to a massive debt relief to Trump during a financially successful period in Trump’s life? Are these men friends, enemies or business partners?

We have come across information related to a long and bizarre financial deal between Donald J. Trump, George Soros, Fortress Investment Group and Blackacre Capital, a deal discovered by following a specific on-going money trail and likely partnership between these entities.

In 2005, when Trump began financing the construction of the tallest residential tower on the North American continent the Trump International Hotel and Tower (Chicago), he needed more than just the basic loan he had received from Deutsche Bank. Trump needed what is called a “mezzanine loan”, a loan which is far more expensive than a regular bank loan. This kind of loan needs to be paid off more quickly to avoid high interest payments. It also needs to be paid back in full to keep the lender from taking ownership of the underlying asset.

“Mezzanine financing is basically debt capital that gives the lender the rights to convert to an ownership or equity interest in the company if the loan is not paid back in time and in full…

…Since mezzanine financing is usually provided to the borrower very quickly with little due diligence on the part of the lender and little or no collateral on the part of the borrower, this type of financing is aggressively priced with the lender seeking a return in the 20-30% range.” 1

Soros along with Fortress and Blackacre came to Trump with just such a loan at a costly $160 million principal*. The The Wall Street Journal had valued the loan at as much as $360 million, depending on the length of time it accrued interest.

“Donald Trump has lined up three New York hedge funds, including money from billionaire George Soros, to invest $160 million in his Chicago skyscraper, a key piece in perhaps the largest construction financing in the city’s history, according to real estate sources and public documents… The massive financing, which sources say also will include a $650 million construction loan from Deutsche Bank…” 2

“Big names back Trump tower” Chicago Tribune – October 28, 2004

“A loan document says Mr. Trump could have to pay Fortress as much as $360 million, depending on how long the loan accrues interest. Combined with the Deutsche Bank senior loan, he would owe more than $1 billion in total.” 3

“In Chicago, Trump Hits Headwinds” The Wall Street Journal – October 29, 2008

By October 2008, the tower was almost complete and Trump had sold nearly $600 million in condo and condo-hotel units, more than half of the total value of all units in the tower.

“So far, Mr. Trump has lined up buyers for a bit less than $600 million of condo units and condo-hotel units in a residential market that has virtually seized up… He has closed around $200 million in sales so far, with roughly $380 million still in contract.”3

“In Chicago, Trump Hits Headwinds” The Wall Street Journal – October 29, 2008

In 2012, Trump continued to owe money to his lenders but sales of his condominiums had picked up and his tower had a 69% occupancy rate. As Crain’s Chicago put it: “The region’s housing and condo market is still mired in a historic slump. But when it comes to buying and selling in Chicago’s high-end condo market, life is surprisingly good… Condominium owners at the $850 million Trump International Hotel & Tower and other newer top-end buildings have, more often than not, experienced value appreciation when they sold in recent years.” 4

While Trump was not yet making a profit on his tower, his sales and value appreciations were such that his building was generating significant revenue, more than enough revenue to pay back to his lenders large portions of his loans. As former New York real estate developer David Rose writes in his article “How to pay off a Skyscraper”:

“After a number of years have passed, several things are likely to have happened: 1) the mortgage has been significantly paid down; 2) the value of the underlying building has increased; and 3) the owner has waited for a time in the economic cycle where mortgage rates are low. At that point [they] will ‘refinance’ the original mortgage, and put the balance to work somewhere else where it can make even more money.” 5

“How Long Does It Take To Pay Off a Skyscraper?” Slate – July 12, 2012

(Fortunately for Trump, favorable financial conditions existed in 2012. 6 By all accounts, including his own, Trump was ready and able to pay off the loans for his Chicago tower. 7)

Yet Trump did not have to worry about paying back the majority of his mezzanine loan. A special group of lenders came in and erased a significant portion of this obligation.

That group was the original mezzanine loan lenders: Soros, Fortress and Blackacre; all of whom decided to forgive Trump’s future interest payments on the loan, selling it to him at the massively reduced price of $48 million. To put that in starker terms, Soros and the others effectively gave Trump possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in debt forgiveness, while cutting down the principal of his loan by $82 million**. Basically, Soros and the others forgave Trump as much as $312 million for no apparent reason.

“Donald Trump has paid $48 million to buy out junior creditors on his 92-story Chicago condominium and hotel project… The New York developer says he bought the debt, which had a face value of $130 million, back from a group of creditors led by Fortress Investment Group.” 8

“Trump buys out tower creditors” Crain’s Chicago Business March 28, 2012

In a further twist to the story, in the same article from Chicago Business revealed: “After buying out the junior debt [the mezzanine loan], Mr. Trump says he now owes about $120 million on the building that comes due in 1½ years.” 8

The aforementioned shows us that in 2012 Trump had already paid off most of the Deutsche Bank loan before Soros, etc. came in and wiped out most of his mezzainine debt. This raises the question, why wasn’t Trump expected by Soros, Fortress and Blackacre to pay back their riskier, high-interest mezzanine loan? Also, how was Trump able to pay down his Deutsche Bank loan – demonstrating the means to pay off all his loans – yet still have Soros and the others give him somewhere between $82 million and $312 million in debt forgiveness?

Additionally to that, why have we heard almost nothing about this gigantic giveaway to Trump? And why were Soros and Blackacre, two of the three main investors in the mezzanine loan, scrubbed from media’s coverage of the final debt forgiveness deal? What backroom agreements were made concerning this mezzanine loan?

As Trump is now a leading candidate for the presidency of the United States, the American public deserves to know the details behind this deal.

And indeed, not only was this deal made in a cloaked manner, it may have been the most generous amount of debt forgiveness ever given on a mezzanine loan to a borrower who was in good financial health and who had a steadily appreciating asset, as was Trump and his Chicago tower.

Footnotes:

*Two articles quote the total for the mezzanine loan at $130 million, however due to the limited coverage of the deal we do not know at this time which is the true figure. 6 7

**If we were to rely on the original figure of the $160 million principal, this would be $112 million giveaway on the loan’s principle to Trump

Sources:

  1. “Mezzanine Financing” Investopedia: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/mezzaninefinancing.asp
  2. “Big names back Trump tower” Chicago Tribune – October 28, 2004: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2004-10-28/news/0410280265_1_donald-trump-soros-fund-management-blackacre-institutional-capital-management
  3. “In Chicago, Trump Hits Headwinds” The Wall Street Journal – October 29, 2008: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122523704293478077
  4. “Trumped up: Trophy towers’ condos rise above housing slump” Crain’s Chicago Business – April 14, 2012: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20120414/ISSUE01/304149974/trumped-up-trophy-towers-condos-rise-above-housing-slump
  5. “How Long Does It Take To Pay Off a Skyscraper?” Slate – July 12, 2012: http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2012/07/12/how_long_does_it_take_to_pay_off_a_skyscraper_.html
  6. “Mortgage rates sink to new record low” CNN Money – June 7, 2012: http://money.cnn.com/2012/06/07/real_estate/mortgage-rates/
  7. “The 400 Richest Americans – #134 Donald Trump” Forbes – Sept. 17, 2008: http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml
  8. “Trump buys out tower creditors” Crain’s Chicago Business – March 28, 2012: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/realestate/20120328/CRED03/120329769/trump-buys-out-tower-creditors
  9. “Trump sues lenders for more time to pay off loan on Tower” Chicago Real Estate Daily – November 07, 2008: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/realestate/20081107/CRED03/200031749/trump-sues-lenders-for-more-time-to-pay-off-loan-on-tower
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