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How Much Is Former Trump Advisor Tom Barrack Worth?

By News Creatives Authors , in Billionaires , at January 1, 1970

The dealmaker made the Forbes Billionaires list in 2013, but his investments soured in the years that followed. That $250 million in bail he posted covered the largest known chunks of his assets.

When Tom Barrack, a real estate investing mogul and former advisor to Donald Trump, was charged last week with allegedly acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates, the massive $250 million bail he was forced to post raised eyebrows. (Barrack pled not guilty.) The natural question: How big a piece of his net worth did that bond represent?

CNN called Barrack a billionaire, as did the Washington Post and the New York Times, which would imply that he had to fork over less than a quarter of his fortune to secure his release from jail while he awaits trial. “If you were 74, worth over $1 billion and looking at serious jail time would you sacrifice the $250m? I sure as hell would” tweeted Josh Marshall, the founder of Talking Points Memo.

By all accounts Barrack is extremely wealthy, but he’s almost certainly not a billionaire. Which means $250 million is far from chump change for him. 

Barrack last appeared on Forbes’ list of the World’s Billionaires in 2013, worth an estimated $1 billion. In the eight years since, he made a disastrous business deal that shaved hundreds of millions of dollars off his fortune. 

The value of his investment in the company that made him a billionaire—formerly called Colony Capital—and that, according to his own comments in a March 2018 earnings call, formed the majority of his net worth—has cratered from $400 million to around $178 million after a failed 2017 merger sent shares spiraling. He put up $150 million of his roughly 5.7% stake in the company, now called DigitalBridge, as collateral for his bond, plus $5 million in cash and the deeds for approximately $95 million of real estate, including his $15.6 million Aspen home—and the homes of his ex-wife, son and DigitalBridge Chief Investment Officer Jonathan Grunzweig.

In other words, it’s likely that Barrack is feeling the strain of his $250 million bail, because that may well be the majority—or close to the majority—of his net worth. A generous estimate of his fortune, Forbes figures, would be $600 million, given his claim that his company stock was the majority of his wealth in 2018. He’s likely worth even less than that.

A grandson of Lebanese immigrants, Barrack grew up in Los Angeles and spent time in Saudi Arabia while working as a lawyer for the first decade of his career. In the 1980s, he served as a deputy undersecretary of the interior in the Reagan administration (Barrack and Reagan had been neighbors in Rancho del Cielo, Calif. since 1979), before moving on to manage real estate investments for famed billionaire investor Robert Bass.

It was around this time that Barrack befriended Trump while working on a pair of deals with Bass that ended poorly for the future president: Trump’s purchases of Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel, which he resold at a loss, and a minority stake in the soon to be bankrupt Alexander’s department store chain. 

Despite besting Trump on those deals, the two became good friends. Barrack gave a keynote speech at the Republican National Convention in support of Trump in 2016, and he became a top fundraiser and the chair of Trump’s inaugural committee. 

Barrack has been credited with introducing the Trump campaign to influential Emiratis and Saudis, as well as its future campaign manager Paul Manafort. And though he was reportedly not a target of the Russia investigation that followed, as Forbes reported in 2018, he was questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller due to his connections to Manafort and others from the Trump campaign.   

He made those contacts over nearly three decades in business. In 1991, Barrack left Bass to found investment vehicle Colony Capital. Backed by Bass and GE Capital, Barrack found initial success buying bad real estate loans from busted S&Ls. 

There were some money-losing deals after that: Colony Capital’s lead investment in the $1.5 billion recapitalization of New Jersey retail complex Xanadu in 2006 was seized by lenders in short order and Las Vegas’ Station Casino went bankrupt soon after Colony had teamed with gambling tycoons and brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta to acquire it for $8.8 billion in a leveraged buyout in 2007.  

In 2009, Colony Capital’s sister company, Colony Financial, went public to raise capital for Colony Capital deals (Colony Capital later merged with its public sister company in 2015 and the public company was renamed Colony Capital). 

Overall, Barrack was successful in building a real estate investment firm that managed $34 billion in assets by early 2013, when he last appeared on Forbes’ billionaires list. 

That was before Colony Capital’s disastrous 2017 “tri-party merger of equals” with NorthStar Realty Finance and NorthStar Asset Management. 

Barrack hoped the combination would enable the newly rechristened Colony NorthStar to compete with larger real estate investors like Blackstone. But it wasn’t long before management blamed nursing home properties and other securities inherited from NorthStar for a nearly 60% plunge in its stock price from its first trading day in 2017 to July 2018. 

By then the value of Barrack’s roughly 5% stake in the company had fallen to $178 million, down from $400 million just after the merger. And the stock was trading 11% lower than that when Barrack lamented the fate of his shares on a March 1, 2018 earnings call: “It’s the majority of my personal net worth. It’s the dominant factor in my and my family’s pride, reputation and future,” he told investors.    

Seeking to move on from the failed merger, Barrack divested many of the inherited NorthStar assets eventually rebranding the real estate investment trust in June 2021 as DigitalBridge, reflecting its shift to investing in digital infrastructure like data centers and cell towers. But that doesn’t hide the fact that the company is bleeding red ink: It posted a $3.8 billion net loss in 2020 on $1.24 billion in revenues. Barrack, who stepped down as CEO in 2020 and as executive chair in April, resigned from the company’s board on July 20, the day he was indicted. DigitalBridge issued a statement saying that Barrack’s resignation was not the result of any disagreement with the company.

None of these moves have helped the stock price much. Shares are up just 9% since the day before the 2018 investor call and down 36% from Colony NorthStar’s first trading day in 2017, leaving Barrack’s stake worth $178 million. He also owns roughly $25 million worth of real estate, Forbes found, including the $15.6 million Aspen property, a $6 million home in Santa Ynez, Calif. and a $2.4 million condo at Trump Parc East in Manhattan. That puts his fortune in the range of $203 million—plus whatever assets he’s accumulated outside of DigitalBridge and his real estate. A generous assumption—that including real estate, he had $400 million outside of the company’s stock back in 2018, based on his comments—would put Barrack’s net worth at around $600 million, far from billionaire status. (And, in reality, his Colony NorthStar stake likely accounted for more than 51% of his net worth in 2018, meaning his fortune is likely even smaller). 

When presented with this estimate, a spokesperson for Barrack declined to comment. 

The full scope of Barrack’s fortune remains hard to pin down, however. As a private equity investor, much of Barrack’s dealings through DigitalBridge are shielded from public scrutiny. Securities and Exchange Commission rules require the company’s funds to disclose some of their holdings—but not the precise ownership of those funds—making it hard to know how much each individual owner is pulling out of the business.

One asset Forbes did not include in our estimates: a Bel Air “mega-mansion” project worth more than $100 million, for which Barrack reportedly filed construction plans in 2014, but which is alleged to actually be owned by the Al-Thani family, the royal family of Qatar. Barrack did not include this property as part of his bond, instead putting up his own homes plus the primary residences of his ex-wife Rachelle Barrack, son T.J. Barrack III and DigitalBridge’s chief investment officer Jonathan Grunzweig. 

Whatever other assets Barrack may have, they almost certainly haven’t generated enough of a return since July 2018 to make Barrack a billionaire again. And that’s without accounting for the fact that Barrack couldn’t liquidate much of his fortune right now if he needed to, since the U.S. government has the right to his DigitalBridge stock and his homes until Barrack makes all required court appearances. 

If all goes according to his plan, Barrack and his benefactors should be able to reclaim their assets relatively soon. In an emailed statement provided by his spokesperson, Barrack declared: “Of course I am innocent of all these charges and we will prove that in court.”    


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