Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The potential parallels (and not) between Trump's Hong Kong deal and Atlantic Yards

A front-page New York Times article, headlined Donald Trump Soured on a Deal, and Hong Kong Partners Became Litigants (and in print as "Soured Deal With Hong Kong Allies Is Tale of Trump’s Extremes"), has a couple of passages with interesting parallels--or potential parallels--to Forest City Ratner's deal with Greenland USA to buy 70% of the Atlantic Yards (now Pacific Park) site, minus the B2 modular tower and the Barclays Center.

The structure of the deal:
In need of cash, he agreed to meet with intermediaries from a consortium of Hong Kong billionaires who were willing to buy the land, assume Mr. Trump’s debts and pay him 30 percent of the profits, as well as fees for helping to manage the development of the site, which they agreed to finance. It was by far the best offer he received.
This wasn't quite a full 70/30 deal, it seems because Trump wasn't responsible for paying 30% of the costs going forward. But the numbers are notable.

Selling a slice:
The project proved extremely profitable, as the New York real estate market rebounded. In 2005, the Hong Kong partners sold the development for $1.76 billion. Although it was believed to be the largest residential real estate transaction in the city’s history, Mr. Trump was furious, and contends to this day that his partners did not consult him first.
That's not what's happened so far with Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, as far as we know. The announced sale of three development sites has been coordinated, so even if Forest City, as junior party, objected internally, that disagreement has not surfaced.

Long litigation:
Nonetheless, Mr. Trump’s litigation over Riverside South dragged on for at least four years. He forced his partners to produce more than 166,000 pages of documents in court and accused them of various transgressions, including fraud and tax evasion.
So far the deal between Forest City and Greenland is copacetic, at least publicly. Not until/unless there is litigation--and, remember, Forest City and former modular partner Skanska remain embroiled in lawsuits--might we know differently.

New owners:
After the lawsuit, the Hong Kong partners moved swiftly to cut all ties to Mr. Trump. Mr. Lo sold his shares in the partnership to the Cheng family, which sold to Vornado Realty Trust, now the owner of a 70 percent interest in the Bank of America buildings.
Given the planned sale of three development sites, it's inevitable that there will be new owners of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, and perhaps multiple ones.

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