Apr 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

What to know about Don Hankey, billionaire who backed Trump's N.Y. bond

Doug Hankey, wearing a light gray shirt, medium gray tie and dark gray pants, sits on top of a desk holding a pen. To his left and right, people are seen working at cubicles. He is in an office environment with has some plants as decor.

Don Hankey, chairman of Westlake Financial Services, in Los Angeles in October 2018. Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo

Billionaire Don Hankey has gone beyond campaign donations to support former President Trump ahead of the 2024 election.

The big picture: Hankey, California-based chairman of Knight Specialty Insurance, underwrote Trump's $175 million bond in a New York civil fraud case, as the 2024 presidential candidate's legal team appeals the judgment.

  • Hankey, 80, presides over the $22.5 billion Hankey Group, which includes a real estate firm, Toyota dealership, auto insurance, rental car and dealer software companies, per Forbes.
  • Knight Specialty Insurance provides high-interest loans to car buyers with low credit scores.

By the numbers: Hankey's net worth is valued at $7.4 billion.

  • Described as the "little-known king of subprime car loans," he ranked No. 358 on Forbes' real-time billionaire list as of Wednesday afternoon.
  • He ranks a 1 on Forbes' 5-point "philanthropy scale," and Forbes gave him a 7 out of 10 on the "self-made score."
  • He regularly rents out his Malibu beach house for commercial, TV show and movie film sets.

Between the lines: Trump's legal team had difficulties finding a company willing to cover the previous $464 million bond.

State of play: Hankey reached out to Trump's team to negotiate a deal helping cover the previously higher bond, he told the Washington Post.

  • Trump's legal team revived these talks, despite Trump having the cash to post the bond himself.
  • He is charging Trump a "modest fee," per the Post, and Trump gets to keep his money.

What they're saying: Hankey said the bond was a good business deal, per the Post, not a political one.

  • "I will support him in the future, but I wouldn't consider myself a major supporter," Hankey told the Post.
  • Hankey, his wife and two sons have donated to Trump's previous presidential campaigns, he told CNN.

Catch up quick: In February, New York Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump, his companies and fellow defendants to pay nearly $364 million total in the civil fraud trial over business practices.

  • They were accused of decades of financial fraud.
  • The civil fraud case is one of several that Trump is facing while campaigning for the 2024 presidential election.

Friction point: New York Attorney General Letitia James warned that she was ready to seize Trump's buildings and other assets if he couldn't pay the imposed penalty.

  • Trump has falsely claimed that he had to post bond in the case before being able to appeal it.

How it works: Trump had to post bond to prevent collection of the $454 million judgment.

The intrigue: Hankey said he agreed with Trump's defense in the New York civil case, partially prompting him to provide the bond.

  • "Quite often, when credit statements or financial statements are submitted to us, the values are exaggerated on some of the assets. … I would say it probably happens on 75 percent of our applications," he told the Post, referencing loans provided by Westlake Financial Services.
  • Hankey is also a shareholder of Axos Bank, which provided $225 million in loans to Trump's businesses in 2022.
  • Hankey said he was unaware of the loans, needed because of fallout after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, until after they were provided to the Trump Organization.

Zoom in: Hankey said on Tuesday that he spoke with one of Trump's sons, Eric Trump, who thanked him.

  • He said he had not yet spoken with the former president.

Go deeper: Trump keeps falsely claiming New York charged him millions to appeal fraud case

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