John Oliver’s secret life as a penthouse-dwelling millionaire

posted at 4:01 pm on May 11, 2017 by John Sexton

“Inequality is a little like cinnamon,” HBO host John Oliver said on a segment of his show devoted to the topic of income inequality. “You definitely want to have a little of it to spice life up a bit, but too much of it can be very dangerous,” he added.

It turns out Oliver really knows something about the upside of income inequality. According to a report in the Observer published yesterday, Oliver lives in a $10 million dollar penthouse in New York city which he bought through a shell corporation named after his dog:

In 2015, Oliver and his wife used Hoagie’s Place to purchase a 39th floor penthouse in an Upper West Side building overlooking the Hudson River for $9.5 million. Property records show they put half down and took out a $4.75 million mortgage from J.P. Morgan. Neither Oliver nor his wife’s name appears on the mortgage, or any of the other property records discussed in this story. Hoagie’s Place is identified as the buyer in the mortgage, but its listed address is an office building in Encino, California that houses dozens of shell corporations and revocable trusts.

The 40-story Aldyn “offers residents countless amenities right at their doorstep – the cornerstone being the 40,000 square foot La Palestra Athletic Club and Spa,” according to its website. “This prestigious facility includes a 75-foot indoor pool, hot tub, 38-foot rock climbing wall, basketball and squash courts, personal training, bowling alley and more!”

The Olivers bought the penthouse from “Andre Crawford-Brunt, the global head of equities trading for Deutsche Bank” with the help of an attorney who specializes in helping “families with significant multigenerational wealth.” Oliver even takes advantage of a tax break created by his frequent on-air foe Donald Trump. Thanks to the so-called 421-a tax break Oliver pays an effective property tax rate of 0.25% on his penthouse digs:

Even though Oliver paid $9.5 million for his penthouse, the city assessed its market value for tax purposes at just $1.3 million. However, only $515,000 of that amount was billable for property taxes. At a rate of 12.8 percent, Oliver normally would have paid $66,390.

However, property tax records show that, thanks to Trump and Roy Cohn, Oliver gets the very generous 421-a tax break on the penthouse. Hence, his property’s billable value after the exemption plunged by over $300,000, and he owed just $27,343 for 2016. That comes out to a property tax rate of roughly 0.25 percent…

Lots of celebrities are raging hypocrites. Sting, for instance, likes talking about the need to reduce our carbon footprint even as he owns 7 homes and flies around the globe on private jets. But Sting makes his living as a musician. You can dislike his politics and his hypocrisy and still think Roxanne is a great song. Few celebrities make their living ritually denouncing the system they then take advantage of the way John Oliver does (though Michael Moore and Bernie Sanders both come to mind).

A guy who has $5 million dollars to put down on a penthouse he bought through a shell company probably shouldn’t be lecturing the rest of us about the dangers of income inequality. And if he’s going to anyway, he could at least mention that he won the lottery (see the clip below) he claims is a rigged game.


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