Jared Kushner's Affinity Partners nearing billion-dollar Balkan real estate deals

Jared Kushner's Affinity Partners nearing billion-dollar Balkan real estate deals
Former US president Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is understood to be interested in developing the General Staff building in Belgrade, bombed by Nato in 1999. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews March 17, 2024

Jared Kushner's Affinity Partners is in advanced discussions on three property development investments in the Western Balkans that could surpass $1bn, the former White House senior advisor confirmed on Friday.

Kushner’s company, Affinity Partners, is in advanced talks with Albania and Serbia for investments in tourist properties worth over $1bn, with plans to transform the landscapes of these countries into luxurious destinations for travelers.

In Albania, former US president Donald Trump’s son-in-law Kushner aims to convert Sazan Island, previously a military base, into a luxury Aman branded eco-resort, he told Bloomberg.

However, the ministry said it was not aware of plans to build hotels and villas on Zvërnec Island, a coastal area in Vlorë, in the south of Albania.

Albania's Ministry of Tourism and Environment told Voice of America that Kushner’s company has submitted an application to the Investment Development Agency “for a tourist project on Sazan Island that while they welcome such proposals, they must align with the country's vision of environmentally friendly tourism and nature. The ministry stressed the importance of balancing development objectives with sustainable tourism practices.

In Serbia, Kushner plans to convert three abandoned residential blocks in the centre of Belgrade into a luxury hotel, with commercial space and over 1,500 residences.

Kushner’s interest in the Serbian capital was initially revealed when opposition politician Aleksandar Jovanovic, of the Ecological Uprising movement, told a press conference on March 13 that Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Goran Vedic had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on behalf of the government gifting a building in Belgrade that was bombed in 1999 to two offshore companies, Kushner Realty and Atlantic incubation Partners LLC.

“The cultural and historical complex of the bombed General Staff of the Army in the municipality of Savski venac must not be given away or substantially altered,” Ecological Uprising said in a Facebook post.

The General Staff of the Army building was bombed by Nato forces in 1999, and is still partly standing. 

Vesic has since responded to the accusation on his Facebook page, where he wrote that the “government authorisation he had given was no secret and that it had been adopted at a public session”.

"All Serbian governments since 2000 have been trying to revitalise the General Staff space for years,” he added.

The reports have given rise to speculation that Kushner’s plans could have been facilitated by relationships established during the tenure of Kushner’s father-in-law in the White House. 

According to The New York Times he mentioned collaborating on these agreements with Richard Grenell, former US special envoy for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.

Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, which Trump lost to current US President Joe Biden, Grenell worked towards the signing of several agreements between Kosovo and Serbia, culminating with an agreement on normalisation of their economic relations in September 2020. 

Grenell, who served as acting director of National Intelligence during Trump’s presidency, reportedly created valuable connections that have facilitated Kushner’s investments in the Balkans.

Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump have visited Albania twice since leaving the White House, meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama and building on relationships established during their time in Washington.

The New York Times reported that the success of these projects hinges on finalising agreements with the respective governments.

Affinity Partners, founded by Kushner after his White House stint, boasts assets worth $3.1bn, backed by Middle Eastern investors including about $2bn from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund. The firm also plans to invest in renewable energy, data centres and artificial intelligence.