Tom Barrack is an extraordinarily successful private equity and real estate investor, building a multi-billion-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 fund, was charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates.
- 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 under the same foreign agent statute that was used to charge Russian agent Maria Butina and other alleged spies, not under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.
- The indictment also includes obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a 2019 interview with federal law enforcement agents.
- Barrack didn't enter a plea yesterday during a hearing in Los Angeles, although a spokesman 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 REIT in 2015, and 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 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: Tom Barrack had past dealings with Harvey Weinstein and Arif Naqvi, walking away from both unscathed. His relationship with Trump, however, landed him in jail.