Hunter Biden is the ultimate fail-son, or black sheep.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it has emerged in recent years to describe the spoiled, sloppy and clumsily power-hungry offspring of powerful individuals. Hunter Biden is more infamous for his often drug-fueled antics, and the brief and embarrassingly public romance he shared with his deceased brother’s widow, than he is for being a successful businessman. But now his business career has been exposed for what it truly is: Foreign players hoping to use the younger Biden as a backdoor connection to the White House, and the American political elite.
Often, Biden dropped hints about how these connections could be useful, though there’s not much of a record of him actually using his connections (that is, actually being useful) on his employer’s behalf (which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen).
According to the FT, Biden’s business interests “often show up in unexpected places.” While Democrats obviously prefer to focus on their impeachment investigation, there’s no denying that Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine, China and elsewhere clearly raise questions about potential conflicts that existed while his father was in office. Joe Biden has denied wrongdoing, but questions linger over his role in the ouster of a top Ukrainian prosecutor, which some have suggested was done to help protect Hunter.
When Hunter joined the Navy Reserves in May 2013, he required several waivers (at 42, he was above the age of enlistment, and there was an unspecified ‘drug-related’ incident that also would have disqualified him).
Despite his apparent eagerness to join, Biden was discharged from the Navy the following year after testing positive for cocaine. Soon after, his more successful older brother, Beau, passed away, and his wife Kathleen filed for divorce, citing Hunter’s “spending extravagantly on his own interests including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs and gifts for women with whom he has sexual relations.”
Next, he started dating his brother’s widow.
But in between trips to rehab and legendary drug benders. In 2016, shortly after he started dating Hallie Biden, Beau’s widow, Hunter made plans to stay at a detox center in Arizona. But he somehow got sidetracked during a stopover in Los Angeles, and ended up missing the next wing of his flight. Instead, he traveled to Skid Row, where he was reportedly held up at gun point, but nevertheless apparently succeeded in buying and using crack, causing him to return several times over the following days. Eventually, Hunter Biden took a Hertz rental car to his treatment center in Arizona, but workers at the Hertz office called the police after finding a crack pipe and baggie of crack, along with Biden’s license and a badge from Beau’s time as Delaware AG.
Prosecutors declined to pursue the case, claiming a lack of evidence, but it definitely wasn’t a good look for Hunter. More recently, Hunter has been in the headlines for his whirlwind marriage to a South African Instagram model, and for a paternity suit brought by a woman claiming Hunter is the father of her newborn son.
Of course, none of these transgressions have stopped Biden from earning millions of dollars off his family name and connections. In Wednesday’s issue, the FT published a breakdown of Biden’s foreign business interests.
Role: Board member (2014-2019)
Pay: $50,000 a month.
Burisma, Ukraine’s leading privately owned natural gas producer, obtained some of its most prized production assets while its founder Mykola Zlochevsky headed a ministry that doled out gas licences under the kleptocratic administration of ex-president Viktor Yanukovich. After Mr Yanukovich fled to Russia in 2014, investigators started probing the company.
That year Burisma appointed prominent westerners to its board, including Hunter Biden, who reportedly earned $50,000 per month for this role. Mr Trump’s calls for his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Burisma over links to Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival in next year’s presidential election, triggered the impeachment probe.
In tweets and in a July phone call with Mr Zelensky, Mr Trump and Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, alleged that Joe Biden protected Burisma and his son’s interests while he was vice-president. Ukraine’s western backers deny this narrative.
Role: investor and employee
Pay: $1.2 million salary
In 2006, Hunter Biden acquired a stake in Paradigm, a hedge fund group, following a failed attempt to buy the entire company through LBB, a limited liability partnership set up with his uncle James Biden. Hunter Biden recently told the New Yorker that, while the failed deal sounded “super attractive”, it fell apart after he and his uncle learned that the company was worth less than they had thought.
Both James and Hunter Biden faced a lawsuit from Anthony Lotito Jr, a former business partner, who accused them of defrauding him over the failed deal. The Bidens countersued Mr Lotito, accusing him of hiding company debts and falsely claiming he held securities licences. An independent audit of the fund conducted in 2008 found accounting problems at the firm including “failure to timely prepare financial statements” and “failure to reconcile Investment Advisors reimbursement of fund expenses”.
Paradigm itself was founded by James Park in 1991, the son-in-law of one of the founder’s of the Korean Unification Church, which some have called a cult. In 2009, a fund run by Paradigm became associated with Allen Stanford, a Texas financier, who was later convicted of running an $8bn Ponzi scheme. Stanford’s company was responsible for marketing one of Paradigm’s funds of hedge funds, and also invested millions of dollars in it. At the time, a lawyer representing Paradigm said neither Hunter nor James Biden had ever met Stanford.
The Bidens filed for voluntary liquidation of the company in 2010.
Seneca Global Advisors
Role: Founder, consultant
Hunter Biden launched his consultancy in September 2008, weeks after his father Joe Biden had been announced as Barack Obama’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket. Mr Obama was elected president in November 2008, with Joe Biden as his vice-president.
The consultancy pitched itself as a firm that could help small and midsized companies expand across the US and into foreign markets. Clients included Achaogen, a pharmaceutical company focused on anti-bacterial treatments that filed for bankruptcy in April 2019, and GreatPoint Energy, an energy technology start-up.
In 2012, GreatPoint received a $420m investment from China Wanxiang Holdings, an industrial conglomerate. It was the largest venture capital investment into the US that year. It is unclear if Hunter Biden was directly involved in securing this investment.
Rosemont Seneca Partners
Role: Co-founder, consultant
Hunter Biden co-founded Rosemont Seneca Partners in 2009 with Christopher Heinz, stepson of John Kerry, the former secretary of state, and scion of the Heinz processed food fortune, and Devon Archer, a financier and former Abercrombie & Fitch model who attended Yale with Mr Heinz.
In 2014, Rosemont Seneca was involved in an attempted $1.5bn fundraise for a new fund launched by Harvest Fund Management and Bohai Industrial Group, the Chinese asset manager, according to a Wall Street Journal report at the time. The Bank of China International Holdings was one of the biggest stakeholders in Bohai at the time.
Mr Archer first connected with Mykola Zlochevsky, co-founder of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, in 2014 when he travelled there to pitch a Rosemont-linked real estate fund that he managed. Mr Archer joined Burisma’s board in 2014. Hunter joined soon after.
Role: Director, consultant, 2013-today
BHR Partners, of which Hunter remains a director, is a private investment fund backed by some of China’s largest state banks, local government and the national pension fund.
At its inception in 2014, BHR listed Rosemont Seneca Thornton LLC, an investment firm co-founded by Hunter Biden, as a shareholder that owned 30% of the fund.
A year later, the two partners in RST, a consortium of Rosemont Seneca and Thornton Group, a Massachusetts-based firm with local political ties, split their shares in BHR. Rosemont Seneca took 20% and Thornton 10%. Rosemont Seneca unloaded its BHR stakes in 2017, while Thornton kept its shares.
BHR is known for being an early investor in some of the fastest-growing technology start-ups, including Didi Chuxing, the digital transport group. It has also invested in Megvii, a facial recognition start-up whose technology has been used in Chinese government surveillance of Uighur populations in China’s western provinces.
Li Xiangsheng, CEO of BHR, told local media that the fund’s strong government background would allow it to make super-big investments, saying the fund could take loans from its shareholders such as China Development Bank and Bank of China to complete transactions.
Hunter Biden’s investment in the fund totalled $420,000, according to one of his lawyers, implying the fund’s total value sits at $4.2m. The New Yorker reported in July that Hunter and his partners said they had not yet received a payment from BHR.
BHR Portfolio Companies (per FT):
Cashed out. China’s largest ride-hailing service. BHR invested in Didi in 2015 and exited two years later.
Current. Leading facial recognition company whose technology was linked to Beijing’s mass surveillance of Uighurs in Xinjiang. BHR was an investor in Megvii’s Series C funding round in 2017.
Sinopec Petroleum Sales
Current. Retail unit of one of world’s largest oil refiners. Sinopec participated in China’s mixed ownership reform of the state sector by selling shares in its retail business in 2014 to an investor group that includes BHR. The fund paid Rmb6bn for a 1.7% stake.
Current. Australian subsidiary of China’s third-largest coal producer. BHR teamed up with two Chinese banks in 2016 to purchase a nine-year bond issued by Yancoal Australia and valued at $950m.
CGN Power Group
Current. Major nuclear power company that was placed under US export blacklist in August over accusations of stealing US technology for military use. BHR was a cornerstone investor in CGN’s Hong Kong IPO in 2014.
Current. Major online travel agency. BHR invested in Tuniu in 2016.
Contemporary Amperex Technology
Current. World’s largest lithium-ion battery maker. BHR invested Rmb100m in CAT in 2015 and cashed out for Rmb197m three years later.
Current. Leading Chinese biopharmaceutical firm in which BHR has invested.
Tenke Copper Mine
Cashed out. BHR paid $1.1bn for a 24% stake in DRC’s Tenke copper mine, one of the world’s largest, from Canada-based Lundin Mining. BHR acted as middleman in the deal, as it later sold its stake to China Molybdenum, a state-backed miner, allowing the latter to gain full control of Tenke.
Current. In 2015, BHR teamed up with Chinese state-owned Avic Auto to acquire Michigan-based Henniges Automotive, which makes auto components. The deal, valued at $600m, gave BHR a 49% stake in Henniges. A research institute under Avic Auto’s parent company, China’s largest defence contractor, was added to the US export blacklist in 2014.
Current. In 2015, Gemini Investments Limited, the investment arm of China’s state-owned Sino-Ocean Land Holdings, purchased a 75 per cent stake in Rosemont Realty, Devon Archer’s sister company of Rosemont Seneca, where Hunter Biden was a partner. The deal resulted in a joint venture — Gemini-Rosemont Realty that owns 135 buildings in 22 US states.
Jilin Zhishi Dairy Co
Current. BHR-invested dairy product maker based in northeastern China.
Chengdu Xijiao Rail Transportation Technology Co
Current. Leading railway technology firm in which BHR has a 10% stake.
Source: Financial Times