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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.

Go deeper

Jul 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Chair of Trump's 2017 inaugural fund arrested on federal charges

Tom Barrack speaking on a panel in Beverly Hills, California, in 2019. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Real estate investor Tom Barrack, a longtime ally of former President Trump who chaired his 2017 inaugural fund, was arrested Tuesday and charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates, the Department of Justice announced.

Why it matters: The DOJ said Barrack attempted to advance the interests of the UAE by influencing the foreign policy positions of Trump's campaign in 2016 and, subsequently, the foreign policy positions of the U.S. government in the incoming administration.

Harvey Weinstein extradited to California for second rape trial

Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein on Tuesday was extradited to California from New York to face a second trial on rape and sexual assault charges.

The big picture: Weinstein was convicted in early 2020 and sentenced to 23 years in prison. He faces 11 counts of sexual assault-related charges in California for allegedly attacking five women between 2004 and 2013, per Reuters.

Everyone wants to be an influencer

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The number of people looking to become online influencers has exploded during the pandemic.

Why it matters: Almost anyone can find themselves in a position to become an influencer, and brands are throwing billions of dollars at online content creators.