Jul 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Trump confidante Tom Barrack's fall from grace

Tom Barrack

Photo illustration: Trent Joaquin/Axios. Photo: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tom Barrack is an extraordinarily successful private equity and real estate investor, building a multibillion-dollar empire that spans data centers to hotels to telecom towers. He's also under arrest and being held in federal custody.

Driving the news: Barrack, a longtime friend of Donald Trump and chair of his 2017 inaugural committee, was charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates.

  • The DOJ alleges that the financier attempted to advance UAE interests by influencing foreign policy positions of Trump's 2016 campaign and subsequent administration.
  • He's also accused of obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a 2019 interview with federal law enforcement agents.
  • The charges are not under the Foreign Agent Registration Act but under the same foreign agent statute that was used to charge Russian agent Maria Butina and other alleged spies.
  • Barrack didn't enter a plea yesterday during a hearing in Los Angeles, although a spokesperson says he plans to plead not guilty. A bail hearing is scheduled for Monday. Barrack didn't return my emailed request for comment (shocking, I know).

Background: Barrack founded Colony Capital in 1991, raising billions of dollars for private equity funds. It went public as a real estate investment trust in 2015, and it soon began to stray a bit from its real estate strategy — including its ill-fated attempts to bail out Harvey Weinstein's production company. He stepped back from the firm last fall, as it rebranded to DigitalBridge and refocused on digital infrastructure.

Investment angles: Under Barrack's leadership, Colony raised fund capital from the UAE and also bought some funds from scandal-plagued, UAE-based private equity firm Abraaj Capital.

  • One of his co-defendants, Matthew Grimes, is president of a SPAC that Barrack chairs. It filed for an IPO back in March, but hasn't yet priced.

The bottom line: Barrack had past dealings with Harvey Weinstein and Arif Naqvi, walking away from both unscathed. His relationship with Trump, however, landed him in jail.

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