Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump with Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, last year.
Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—Jared Kushner has toured Persian Gulf monarchies with a pitch for his new $3 billion fund: Get a piece of deals made possible by Trump administration diplomatic initiatives such as the Abraham Accords, which forged Israeli relations with several Arab states.
Mr. Kushner, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has met in the past two months with the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, sovereign-wealth fund, oil and investment officials, and senior bankers, said people familiar…
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—
has toured Persian Gulf monarchies with a pitch for his new $3 billion fund: Get a piece of deals made possible by Trump administration diplomatic initiatives such as the Abraham Accords, which forged Israeli relations with several Arab states.
Mr. Kushner, former President
son-in-law and senior adviser, has met in the past two months with the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, sovereign-wealth fund, oil and investment officials, and senior bankers, said people familiar with the meetings.
who was also a senior adviser in her father’s administration, often accompanied him on trips to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar that mixed business and leisure, the people said.
In one pitch to a major investment bank in the region last month viewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Kushner’s presentation for his new firm, Affinity Partners, included a slide about “investment opportunities” that listed several Trump administration initiatives. Among them: the Abraham Accords, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade pact, the former president’s Israel-Palestinian peace initiative and his phase-one trade deal with China.
Mr. Kushner was the Trump administration’s point person on Middle East peace. He played an instrumental role in the U.S.-brokered pact to normalize relations between Israel and several Arab states in 2020, including the U.A.E. and Bahrain, and organized a conference in 2019 to promote a $50 billion economic program aimed at reviving talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Our unique experience and perspective allows us to tie macro and government policy trends to economic themes and investment opportunities,” said the presentation slide.
Mr. Kushner was the Trump administration’s point person on Middle East peace.
Photo: saul loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
People familiar with Affinity Partners’ efforts said the new fund aims in part to build on the Abraham Accords by finding investment opportunities that bring together Americans, Israelis and Emiratis, including helping to broker deals for Israeli companies to do business in the Gulf. Some of the firm’s other associates were deeply involved in the accords and other foreign-policy initiatives under Mr. Trump.
Mr. Kushner’s attempts to do business with foreign-government officials he dealt with during the Trump administration don’t violate any U.S. laws, ethics groups said. But Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan group that has been led by people affiliated with the Democrats, said Mr. Kushner’s recent activities represented an ethically questionable use of public office for private gain.
“It calls into question what his motives were when he was engaged in some of those initiatives, in particular the Abraham Accords, and whether or not he was using that more as a vehicle to serve his post-employment interests,” she said.
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A person close to Mr. Kushner dismissed Ms. Canter’s ethics concerns. “The private sector has an important role to play in advancing the Abraham Accords,” the person said.
Mr. Kushner has failed to secure much money in the Gulf, getting a clear no from the Qataris and Emiratis, who were discouraged by Mr. Kushner’s limited investment record, according to people familiar with those discussions.
“Kushner’s fund didn’t make commercial sense for the Qataris,” said a person familiar with their thinking.
But his pitch has sparked debate in Saudi circles, where some officials believe an investment could pay off if Mr. Trump runs for and wins the White House again in 2024. Aides to Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman,
who developed a close relationship with the former president’s son-in-law, have advised him that Mr. Kushner’s ties to former U.S. and Israeli officials and Mr. Trump’s continued influence in the Republican Party could prove useful, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Saudis haven’t decided whether to invest in Mr. Kushner’s fund, the people said.
Kalman Sporn, a New York-based veteran of Middle East financial transactions and managing director at boutique investment firm Marylebone LLC, said the oil-rich Arab monarchies in the Gulf are looking primarily to attract capital to their own countries for internal investment and generally offer private-equity investments only to seasoned fund managers like
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In September 2020, President Trump presided over the signing of a Middle East peace agreement between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in mid-September. Photo: Alex Brandon/Associated Press
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“It will be interesting to see if the affinity people had for Jared in the diplomatic realm transfers to his commercial activities,” he said.
Alongside private-equity veterans Asad Naqvi and Bret Pearlman, Affinity Partners has hired several Trump White House officials, including Mr. Kushner’s then-deputy, Avi Berkowitz; retired Army Maj. Gen. Miguel Correa, whose close ties to Abu Dhabi’s crown prince helped broker the Abraham Accords; and John Rader, who worked on trade relations with Canada and Mexico.
Other former administration officials hired by Mr. Kushner’s company include senior adviser to the president
deputy director of the National Economic Council Thomas Storch, White House policy coordinator Nick Butterfield, and associate counsel to the president Chad Mizelle.
Mr. Kushner’s recent travels have allowed him to reconnect with foreign officials he developed close ties with while in government. In January, he and Ms. Trump went to the U.A.E., where he met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and attended Dubai’s Expo 2020 world fair. On an earlier trip they attended the Formula One race in Abu Dhabi with one of their sons, sitting in Sheikh Mohammed’s paddock, according to people in attendance.
This month, Mr. Kushner was spotted in Saudi Arabia alongside Public Investment Fund Gov. Yassir al-Rumayyan at a golf tournament sponsored by the sovereign-wealth fund, according to people in attendance. He later flew to Riyadh where investment minister
hosted a dinner and arranged meetings for his team with figures from the Saudi private sector, say people familiar with the gatherings.
Mr. Kushner, middle, at the Public Investment Fund golf tournament earlier this month.
Photo: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images
Affinity Partners, based in Miami, is separate from Kushner Cos., the family real-estate business where Mr. Kushner served as the chief executive officer before stepping down in 2017 after nearly a decade in the role. He oversaw the firm’s rise from a suburban-apartment landlord to a big player in the Manhattan commercial-property market.