Jared Kushner’s White House portfolio is coming to consist of pretty much everything — most recently Trump dispatched him to the Hill to talk with Congressmen about criminal justice. We don’t know much about Kushner, other than that he’s a supposedly smart Harvard MBA who was involved in his own family real estate companies and that he married Ivanka Trump.
The Washington Post has a really interesting article written by Elizabeth Spiers, who worked for Kushner when he owned the New York Post. Anyone who’s been in the world of work for ten minutes knows you find out a heck of a lot about someone when you work for him or her.
Here’s what Spiers says of her former boss:
“Kushner’s claim to business knowledge, beyond admiring Silicon Valley, boils down to his work for his family’s commercial real estate company, which is hardly comparable to a government institution. And if industry dynamics are not transitive across the board, expertise isn’t, either.
On that count, I’m not even sure how to quantify Kushner’s expertise, anyway. Yes, he ran the company — which he inherited, not uncommon in New York’s dynastic, insular real estate world. But he was sure he had the goods. When I worked for him, I wasn’t sure he had a realistic view of his own capabilities since, like his father-in-law, he seemed to view his wealth and its concomitant accoutrements as rewards for his personal success in business, and not something he would have had in any case. To me, he appeared to view his position and net worth as the products of an essentially meritocratic process.
Yet when Kushner Co. bought 666 5th Avenue for $1.8 billion in 2007, it was the largest transaction for a commercial real estate building in Manhattan’s history. Had the financing gone south, as it nearly did, it probably would have destroyed the family’s fortune. The building is heavily in debt now and in need of new investors to let Vornado, a real estate firm that owns 49.5 percent of the building, get out; discussions with Chinese insurance giant Anbang fell apart this week.”
Spiers quit her job as editor in chief of the New York Observer after it became clear to her that rather than building the publication, Kushner was really only interested in trying out cost-cutting impulses he brought with him from the world of commercial real estate. She shares an interesting anecdote about Kushner: while at the Post, he had been working on a used Mac running Windows. Clunky? Very. I’m not sure what it says about Kushner, but it’s not what I’d expect from a savvy young executive looking to be on the cutting edge of change.
Trump, as I’ve said before, is replicating the model around which he built his branding empire: trust very few people, and prize loyalty over competence. Kushner is loyal, and his glaring lack of competence in the myriad tasks assigned to him will become more visible with time. Our expectations — like those of former employee Spiers — have nowhere to go but down.