Meet the billionaire who backed Trump’s $175 million bond

Former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants in his New York civil fraud lawsuit secured a $175 million bond on Monday after a court ruled that they had for years exaggerated the value of his properties. The bond is underwritten by a billionaire-owned insurance company that began by making high-risk, high-interest loans to car buyers with bad credit.

Don Hankey, the entrepreneur whose company delivered the bond, is a little-known billionaire who made his $7.4 billion fortune through car dealerships and subprime auto loans, according to Forbes. That makes him wealthier than Trump, who Forbes estimates is worth $6.4 billion, including a multibillion-dollar interest in the newly public Trump Media & Technology Group.

Meet the billionaire who backed Trump's $175 million bond

Hankey, who told The Associated Press that he has never met or spoken with Trump, stated that his Knight Speciality Insurance company provided cash and bonds as security for Trump’s appellate bond. That bond is now basically a placeholder, ensuring payment if the decision against Trump is upheld on appeal.

“This is what we do at Knight Insurance, and we’re happy to do it for anyone who needs a bond,” Hankey told the news agency.

Who is Don Hankey?

Hankey, 80, got his start in the auto industry when his father purchased a stake in a Ford dealership in Los Angeles in 1958. Hankey, a teenager at the time, began his summer job washing cars before transitioning to sales, he told the Los Angeles Business Journal last year.

Hankey’s father died while he was studying finance at the University of Southern California, and the family lost their part in the auto dealership. However, a few years after Hankey graduated, his family repurchased the dealership with a $250,000 loan.

How did Hankey get into the auto loan business?

After purchasing the dealership, Hankey courted buyers who other vehicle dealers frequently rejected: subprime loans. His dealership offered the loans, as opposed to other vehicle dealerships, which normally turn to banks for auto financing.

Hankey told the Los Angeles Business Journal that his showroom was frequently full of individuals complaining about terms they thought were unfair.

“We had beefs going on, and at the same time people coming in, buying cars,” Hankey said in an interview. “But everything worked. And you’d think that someone buying a car would be annoyed to see someone else haggling about a payment, but it didn’t appear to matter.”

Meet the billionaire who backed Trump's $175 million bond

What other businesses does Hankey own?

According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, Hankey went outside auto dealerships after recognizing a need for subprime auto loans outside of Los Angeles.

He founded Westlake Financial Services, which, according to Forbes, currently partners with over 30,000 vehicle dealerships across the United States to give auto loans to people with bad credit. Westlake is now part of the Hankey Group, which also handles other financial services firms, including Knight Insurance Group, the company that issued Trump’s bond.

Is Hankey a Trump supporter?

Hankey told Bloomberg News that he voted for Trump, but that his support for the real estate tycoon had no bearing on his decision to prolong the bond.

“Yes, I voted for him in the past, but this is a business deal, and this is what we do,” Hankey told the outlet. “I have never met Donald Trump, nor talked to him on the phone.”

Bloomberg claimed that Axos Bank, in which Hankey is a major non-institutional investor, gave the funds to refinance Trump Tower and take out a $100 million loan in 2022, when the Trump Organization’s real estate prices were under examination as a result of the New York fraud investigation. Hankey informed the publication that he was unaware of the purchase until after it was done.

How does the $175 million bond work?

When a defendant appeals a court ruling, appeal bonds are used to prevent the financial judgment from being enforced while the legal procedure is ongoing.

Insurers normally give the bond after receiving proof of collateral and levy a fee ranging from 1% to 2% of the bond amount, according to insurance broker NFP. This implies Trump might pay up to $3.5 million per year for Knight Insurance’s bond guarantee.

If Trump wins his appeal against the verdict, he will not have to pay the state and will receive his money back.

“As promised, President Trump posted bond. “He looks forward to defending his rights on appeal and overturning this unjust verdict,” said one of Trump’s lawyers, Alina Habba.

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