Nikki Haley’s husband, Michael, sold a family property in Lexington, S.C., to a local investment firm in January 2018, removing a major liability from the family’s balance sheets while also earning a profit, at least on paper, state and federal documents show.
Only five months earlier, the property, a small strip mall on Sunset Boulevard that once housed the United Nations ambassador’s family business, was sold to Michael Haley for just $5 by Ambassador Haley’s parents, Ajit and Raj Randhawa, possibly to avoid paying estate taxes, a Wall Street lawyer specializing in such arrangements suggested to PassBlue. At the time, it had a lien on it of $1,099,776.51, appearing to represent an outstanding mortgage loan that passed to Michael Haley as part of the transaction, the documents disclose.
The price for the July 2017 property sale was “the sum of five . . . dollars and love and affection for [Michael Haley] and other valuable consideration to [Ambassador Haley’s parents] paid at and before” the time of the deal, according to the Lexington County, S.C., document recording the transfer of the deed. That deal left Michael Haley with the property as well as the debt. (Lexington County is next door to Richland County, where the state capital, Columbia, is based.)
Michael Haley sold the property on Jan. 11, 2018, for $1,262,500 to a firm called 5483 Sunset, according to Lexington County records. The strip mall on the property had long housed the Haley family’s clothing store, Exotica International Inc., which was founded by Ambassador Haley’s mother, Raj Randhawa, and is now defunct. (The original location of the store was in the ambassador’s hometown of Bamberg, S.C.)
Ambassador Haley’s latest federal financial disclosure form, released by the government in July and covering transactions in 2017, had listed a purchase by Michael Haley in July 2017 of an unidentified commercial property in Lexington County. The form valued the property at $1,000,001 to $5,000,000 and said it provided him with annual rental income of $50,001 to $100,000.
The disclosure form attributed to Ambassador Haley a liability of “over $1 million” in the form of a mortgage taken out in 2017 on an unidentified investment property, which now can be seen as the mortgage that shifted to Ambassador Haley and her husband in her parents’ sale of the family property.
The seller in the January 2018 transaction was identified in the sale documents as Ikor Systems, a company previously owned by the ambassador’s parents, whose sole owner by 2018 was Michael Haley. The buyer was 5483 Sunset, a company in Columbia, S.C., controlled by real estate investors, Rick and Micky Tangri.
The Tangris financed the purchase with a mortgage from the same bank used by the Haleys, Micky Tangri said. She and her husband, Rick, have no ties to the Haley family and have never met them, she told PassBlue in a telephone interview. An intermediary brought them the deal, she said, describing it as “a straightforward transaction and mortgage.”
The buyer and seller in the 2018 transaction are both LLCs, entities that can protect their owners from full liability for debts and obligations. The identification of Ikor Systems LLC as the seller in both the 2017 and 2018 transactions in various documents initially created some mystery, but Ambassador’s Haley’s press office did not respond to PassBlue’s request for more information at the time, as it also ignored requests for this follow-up.
Adding to the initial confusion, the 2017 sale came too late for inclusion in the ambassador’s first financial disclosure form, filed in late 2016, while the 2018 sale came too late for the second filing, which, while released in July 2018, covered only calendar year 2017. The documents filed in Lexington County revealed important details about the sales and Ikor’s changing role in them.
The bottom line? At a time when the Haley family’s debt level was rising, the January 2018 sale removed a major liability, the mortgage on the family property, from the family’s financial picture. Shedding that property and its mortgage in January 2018 lowered the Haley family’s declared liabilities by more than $1 million, to a range of $525,002 to $1,065,000, from a range of at least $1,525,002 to at least $2,065,000.
The sale also made the Haleys money, at least on paper. The difference between the property’s 2018 sale price and the amount owed on it at the time of Michael Haley’s 2017 acquisition of it was $162,723.50.
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Irwin Arieff is a veteran writer and editor with extensive experience writing about international diplomacy and food, cooking and restaurants. Before leaving daily journalism in 2007, he was a Reuters correspondent for 23 years, serving in senior posts in Washington, Paris and New York as well as at the United Nations (where he covered five of the 10 years that Sergey Lavrov spent in New York as Russia’s senior UN ambassador). Arieff also wrote restaurant reviews for The Washington Post and Washington City Paper in the 1980s and 1990s with his wife, Deborah Baldwin.