Distressed Asset: Who is Tom Barrack? (with Lou Neu)

One of Trump's billionaire besties was covertly working for the Emiratis. Oops.

THE FIRST THING to know about Tom Barrack, the financier and Trump crony now under federal indictment, is that there is not a single photograph of him available for license under Creative Commons—not one! For a guy who’s been a more or less public figure for decades, that doesn’t happen by accident.

So I can’t run his picture with this piece. You’ll have to take my word for what Tom Barrack looks like—an older, handsomer, Lebanese Jeff Bezos, with more hair on his arms and a better sense of style—and grudgingly accept my choice to instead run a photo of his good friend and business associate Rob Lowe in the driver’s seat of a Dodge Charger.

Barrack, who unlike Trump is legit loaded, is the founder and former executive chairman of Colony Capital, a real estate investment trust, or REIT. He is variously described as a “private equity investor,” a “billionaire,” a “wealthy investor,” a “contrarian real estate investor,” and the mark of death: “Trump fundraiser.”

Terms like venture capital and private equity make my head spin, so I asked my friend Lou Neu, who worked for a large hedge fund after bond trading for Goldman Sachs, to put it in layman’s—which is to say, English major’s—terms. What does Tom Barrack do, exactly?

“Basically, he’s a matchmaker,” she tells me on today’s PREVAIL podcast. “He has people who have money, and he has people who need money, and he puts the two together.”

Well and good—we need services like the kind Barrack provides, to nurture entrepreneurship and keep the economy going. But the people in his world who need money tend to be what Lou Neu describes as “distressed celebrities,” the available cash tends to originate in the Middle East, whether in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates, and he seems to have no qualms about rubbing elbows with notorious sexual deviants like Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, and Michael Jackson.1 Heck, even Rob Lowe was once at the center of a sex scandal involving a teenage girl.

New York Magazine’s Benjamin Wallace wrote about Barrack’s distressed celebrity business model in 2010:

Over the past two years, Barrack has been lining up deals that target celebrities and entertainment properties whose value he believes to be artificially depressed. In some cases, that’s because they haven’t yet figured out a way to monetize their assets. But mostly it’s because the investment is, in the classic sense, distressed—individuals like Jackson or Annie Leibovitz whose financial mismanagement has obscured their future revenue potential, or properties like the Miramax film library, which Disney is unloading at a time when no one can agree on what a studio archive is worth. This summer, Barrack created a new $500 million media-and-entertainment investment fund, working with his friend Rob Lowe, who is a partner in the fund. 

None of that is illegal, of course. It may even be smart business. But it does leave a Mr.-Potter-offering-to-buy-Bailey-Savings-and-Loan-after-Uncle-Billy-lost-the-deposits sort of bad taste in the mouth. Lou Neu calls it “predatory.”

In 2016, when the Russians were helping install Trump in the White House, Tom Barrack was important for three reasons:

  1. He was one of the few people Trump actually respected enough to listen to.

  2. He was the guy who suggested that Trump hire their mutual friend Paul Manafort to run the campaign.

  3. He led the boondoggle that was the Trump Inauguration committee.

We now know that Barrack was (allegedly) working for a foreign government (the UAE) at that time. We’ve always known that two of the most distressed celebrity assets are Donald John Trump and Jared Kushner, who in 2016 was desperate to refinance the white elephant of a property he’d bought at 666 Fifth Avenue.

Add it all up and what you get is the profligate president and his critically-leveraged shadow president son-in-law, both deep in the red—and a bosom friend of both men, with access to beaucoup dinars, who just so happened to specialize in salvaging just that sort of distressed celebrity asset. If Trump or Kushner exploited their powerful federal jobs by trading U.S. policy—with regards the blockade of Qatar, say, or the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi—for foreign help with their own mismanaged finances, that is tantamount to treason.

It will be fascinating to find out what Tom Barrack knows. Unlike hardened underworld creatures like Paul Manafort and Allen Weisselberg—who, as Lincoln’s Bible has remarked, were “born to go to prison”—Barrack didn’t even last a weekend in the hoosegow. He will talk.


E24: Doomsday Devices & Distressed Assets: Trump as Weapon, Tom Barrack as Matchmaker (with Lou Neu)

Description: Greg Olear argues that Trump is Russia’s ultimate weapon—literally. Then, he and Lou Neu break down the Tom Barrack indictment and sift through his various and sundry connections, including Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, Michael Jackson, MBZ, MBS, and...Rob Lowe?

Follow Lou Neu on Twitter:

Tom Barrack indictment:

Cummings Report:


Photo credit: Dodge Challenger. Rob Lowe in a Dodge Challenger.


Yes, yes, I know, I’m aware of all the pro-MJ talking points. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire.