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A scion of a wealthy real estate family, Jared Kushner is gaining fame quickly as President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law. A recent Forbes cover story on Kushner detailed the critical role he played in helping deliver Trump’s stunning election win. Now, he and his wife Ivanka are reportedly shopping for homes in Washington D.C. and Ivanka Trump will apparently assume some of the responsibilities typical of America's First Lady while Kushner will likely have his own office in the West Wing.
FORBES estimates that Jared Kushner, his brother Josh and his parents, Charles and Seryl, have a fortune worth at least $1.8 billion, more than half of which Forbes estimates is held in real estate. (A spokesperson for the family had no comment on the net worth.) Not unlike his father-in-law, Jared's family has prospered largely due to property investments.
The Kushner family's key real estate assets include stakes in Midtown Manhattan's 666 Fifth Avenue, the former Jehovah's Witness Watchtower headquarters on the Brooklyn waterfront now being redeveloped, former weekly and online website The New York Observer, which Jared bought in 2006, and an investment in $2.7 billion (estimated value) health insurance startup Oscar that Jared’s brother Josh cofounded.
The story of the Kushners’ financial success began like so many other hard working immigrants. Jared's grandparents Joseph and Rae came to the U.S. from Belarus after surviving the concentration camps during the Holocaust. Rae's brother wasn’t so lucky, perishing at a camp. So when Joseph and Rae had their second son, they named him Chanan, after her brother. A nurse at the hospital couldn't understand the name, and said his Americanized name would be Charles, which is what he went by from that day on.
Growing up in Elizabeth, N.J., Charles often went with his father, a carpenter and then builder, to construction sites. Over time his father began managing as many as 4,000 apartments he helped build.
Charles liked the industry, but decided he didn’t want to build the buildings. He wanted to own them. After law school and a stint working for his father, he struck out on his own and started Kushner Companies in 1985. For nearly 20 years, he bought apartments. At his peak in 2004, Kushner owned 25,000 apartments across the Northeast. That same year, Charles pled guilty to tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and witness tampering. (The last charge came during the investigation. After his brother-in-law began talking to prosecutors, Charles Kushner paid a prostitute to tape their encounter. He later sent the tape to his sister.) Kushner Companies then hired an outside CEO.
When Charles got out of jail two years later, the real estate market was peaking and Jared was getting ready to take the reins as CEO. (Charles went back to work. He still goes into the office everyday and is involved in all projects, but he never regained his role as CEO or chairman.)
Around 2007, the company sold about 20,000 apartments in New Jersey. Soon after, Jared struck his first big deal, acquiring 666 Fifth Avenue in the heart of Midtown Manhattan for a record-breaking $1.8 billion in 2007. His timing was terrible. Within a few months, the financial crisis hit real estate. Credit dried up. Kushner then sold off the building's retail space as two separate properties. The first sold in 2008 for $525 million. Then the market began picking up and the second parcel sold in two pieces, in 2011 and 2012, for a total of $1.05 billion.
As New York City’s real estate market began booming again, Jared refocused on up-and-coming neighborhoods, like SoHo in Manhattan, Dumbo in Brooklyn, Astoria in Queens, and, more recently, Jersey City, just across the Hudson River, where he and partners bought approximately 4 million square feet, much of which is under development. Indeed, this year Kushner made one of its biggest redevelopment purchases yet: With partners, it paid $340 million to buy the former 2.3 acre Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters.
The family now owns 13 million square feet plus 20,000 apartments across six states. While its office buildings have traditional blue chip tenants like AT&T (its Midwest HQ is in a Kushner-owned building in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood), the company, which Jared still runs, particularly touts its spaces for attracting creative companies like millennial-focused startups Warby Parker, Etsy and WeWork.
Jared’s younger brother Josh meanwhile has made a name, and a small fortune, for himself in the tech industry. He launched his first business, a social media network, from his dorm room. It flopped. Then, in 2009, he cofounded Thrive Capital, a venture capital firm that was an early investor in Instagram, and also has since invested in tech darlings like messaging app Slack, online payment platform Stripe, fitness app ClassPass, tech-based real estate brokerage Compass, Amazon competitor Jet, cosmetics startup Glossier and more. In 2012, Josh also cofounded Oscar, a health insurance company aimed at millennials that was valued at $2.7 billion as of its last funding round in February 2016. Investors include billionaires Vinod Khosla and Jim Breyer.
Josh, who's never had a formal role at the family real estate company, and Jared also cofounded Cadre, an online platform for investing in real estate, in 2014. Two years later, it raised $50 million from a group of big-name investors including Goldman Sachs, billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma, billionaire George Soros's private equity firm and Russian billionaire tech investor Yuri Milner.
Jared has distanced himself from the business in the past few months which may continue if he takes a formal White House job. A Kushner spokesman said, “If Mr. Kushner accepts a position in the government, he and the company will take the appropriate steps to comply with all applicable ethical rules and standards.”