President Donald Trump on Tuesday attempted to downplay his business connections to Saudi Arabia, tweeting that he has “no financial interests” in the country.
But the president’s Saudi ties stretch back decades and include a Saudi prince helping to bail out the real estate developer twice in just four years.
In 1991, Donald J. Trump was a mid-tier real estate developer with $900 million in debt, a collapsing casino business, and a name perhaps best known for a headline-dominating split with his wife Ivana. With his empire at risk of falling apart, Trump was searching for cash everywhere; his father even illegally bought $3.35 million worth of casino chips and never gambled them, to help Trump make a massive bond payment a year earlier.
A helpful burst of cash from a Saudi prince eased some tension with his creditors. Alwaleed bin Talal bought Trump’s yacht for somewhere between $18 million and $20 million (reports vary). It wasn’t a great bit of business for Trump—he had bought it from the Sultan of Brunei three years earlier for a reported $29 million.
In 1995, Trump was still in deep trouble—and Alwaleed swooped in again. The prince, who calls himself the “Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia,” took over Trump’s 51% stake in his beloved New York Plaza hotel. As a result, Trump’s creditors forgave $125 million of his debt.
According to Bloomberg, Alwaleed is the world’s 74th wealthiest man, owning stakes in Apple, Snapchat, Twitter and Citigroup.
He was also one of several members of the royal family to be detained by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman last year.