Southern California businessman comes forward as Manafort family’s mysterious $1 million lender
Journalists have spent months seeking the identity of the businessman who lent $1 million to the family of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former 2016 campaign manager. And Bloomberg News is reporting that the lender has officially come forward: California businessman Arjan “Ari” Zieger.
Previously, Bloomberg News reports, the 56-year-old Zieger (who has been heavily involved in real estate) tried to keep the loan a secret because California is a very Democratic state and Trump is unpopular there. But according to Zieger’s attorney, “very unintended and unforeseen situations” have made it impossible for him to continue hiding his involvement in the loan.
Manafort’s need for a $1 million loan, Bloomberg reports, goes back to 2017, when he was hoping to develop property in Southern California and contacted developer/Hollywood film producer Scott Adler — who introduced him to attorney Keith Berglund. And Berglund mentioned Manafort’s ideas to Zieger.
Bloomberg News recently interviewed Adler in his Los Angeles home, where they were joined by Zieger and Berglund. Adler stressed that despite his disdain for Trump, he was quite intrigued by Manafort’s real estate proposal in 2017.
“Not that I was at all a Trump fan — not at all,” Adler told Bloomberg News. “I just figured it would be kind of cool to meet the guy who ran the campaign.”
Manafort is presently serving seven years in federal prison for a variety of crimes. But in 2017, Adler recalled, he had a favorable impression of Trump’s former campaign manager — political differences and all.
“It was wonderful to talk to the guy,” Adler told Bloomberg News. “He seemed so assured of himself. You got the sense he was the most honest man in the world.”
In 2017, Bloomberg reports, the Manafort family promised to repay the loan at an interest rate of 7.25% in less than five months and agreed to secure it with a condominium in Lower Manhattan that was owned by the family and valued as high as $4.7 million.
Nonetheless, Zieger wanted to keep his part in the loan a secret and tried to do so by extending it to an entity owned by Manafort’s wife and using a Nevada-based company called Woodlawn LLC — and California-based filmmaker Joey Rappa was publicly listed as Woodlawn’s manager.
After the loan was made, things became much more complicated when Manafort became caught up in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the former Trump campaign manager battled a long list of criminal charges, including bank and tax fraud, in federal court. Manafort was convicted on eight counts in August 2018. But in 2017, according to Bloomberg, loaning the money to Manafort’s family seemed like a good idea to Zieger.
Zieger stressed to Bloomberg News that he alone —not Rappa — made the loan, which was issued in August 2017.
“We have clear title,” Zieger told Bloomberg. “We have everything that as a real estate lender you would look to.”