According to an exclusive report by Reuters, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. helped his personal trainer obtain an 18-acre racquet sports and fitness facility on former university property.
Falwell and his wife, Rebecca, started training with Benjamin Crosswhite in 2011, when Crosswhite was a 23-year-old graduate of the nonprofit Christian university.
That same year, Falwell “urged other Liberty personnel in an email to cut Crosswhite a ‘sweet deal’ allowing him to offer private gym training at the Lynchburg fitness facility, then known as the Sports Racket, which Liberty had recently acquired through the trustee’s donation.”
After Crosswhite joined Falwell on a 2012 trip to Miami, where the university president flies every year for his required annual physical, Falwell instructed Liberty to lease its gym space to Crosswhite’s business. A five-year lease began in 2013, which cost Crosswhite $2,300 per month.
In 2016, Liberty transferred the facility to Crosswhite in a deal signed by Falwell, with the price noted as $1.2 million. However, the contract also indicates the “Net Purchase Price” was $580,000, due to the university’s agreement to rent the site’s tennis courts through 2025, Reuters reported.
The university also agreed to finance the more than half a million dollar purchase at 3 percent.
In 2017, Liberty offered Crosswhite another line of credit for $75,000 in order to make repairs and take care of necessary maintenance for the tennis courts.
Last year, a local bank approved a line of credit that allows Crosswhite to borrow up to $2 million against the property. Liberty said the credit amount is tied to the property’s value after Crosswhite puts in a planned swimming pool.
The university also “filed paperwork saying the $576,000 note Crosswhite owed for the property had been paid in full” just one day after the fitness trainer received $2.05 million in financing from the local bank.