Gordon Sondland, Donald Trump’s ambassador to the EU, is a self-made hotelier who is worth millions. He gives some of his wealth away through the philanthropic foundation he runs with his wife, Katherine Durant.
A long-time Republican, Sondland describes himself as a “Portland businessman and philanthropist.” He has ties to the Bush family, serving as national finance co-chairman for the George W. Bush Center. He served on a leadership team for Jeb Bush’s failed presidential run. He’s been more mixed on Trump and has given some money to Democrats over the years. As Trump’s EU ambassador, though, it’s his texts and trips involving Ukraine that have stoked controversy.
On October 8, 2019, Sondland notified lawmakers that he wasn’t going to show for a scheduled closed door meeting with the House. His attorney said that he wanted to appear but was told not to by the State Department. However, he appeared on November 20, 2019 before Congress as part of the impeachment inquiry.
Sondland’s attorney, Robert Luskin, told CBS News, “Sondland believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States, and he stands ready to answer the Committee’s questions fully and truthfully.”
Gordon Sondland’s Net Worth
Sondland’s net worth is generally estimated at at least $60 million. His fortune was developed in large part through the hotel industry on the west coast, especially in Portland, Oregon.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sondland, Who Is Worth Millions, Owns a Lear Jet & Is the Son of Immigrants Who Fled the Nazis
Sondland wasn’t born to great wealth. His parents survived great hardship. Sondland’s parents fled Nazi Germany, according to Politico. Oregon Live reported that Sondland’s parents left Gdansk, now Poland, and his father fought the Nazis in the French Foreign Legion and British Army. The family eventually settled in Uruguay and then Seattle, Washington.
That’s where Sondland built a fortune large enough that he can afford a Lear jet all his own. He’s a proponent of the free market who, according to Vice, once gave his wife a first-edition copy of Ayn Rand’s seminal book Atlas Shrugged.
According to Fortune, Sondland dropped out of the University of Washington to go into “commercial real estate sales,” starting with a bankrupt Seattle hotel in 1985 when he was 28 and eventually amassing a fortune.
“My mother was able to get out of Nazi Germany because her father was Russian, and those with a Russian passport could leave,” Sondland said, according to Fox News. “My father was not so fortunate and he had to be smuggled out of Germany by being tied to the bow of a vegetable freighter that was leaving for the North Sea. He almost lost one leg because it was so cold and he wound up in France.” His father later fought the Nazis in North Africa.
Sondland spoke about his family origins and the Holocaust to Portland Business Review. You can listen to that audio interview here. In it, he explained that his parents married at age 15 and were teenage sweethearts who “left Nazi Germany in a very precarious way.”
A video biography introducing Sondland by the U.S. Mission to the EU shows the new ambassador sitting in his home with his wife, making coffee, and sitting next to his dog. He said he had been married for 25 years to Katy Durant and introduced his two children.
“My family is the most important thing to me,” said Sondland.
He said he was born and raised in Seattle, but he was the “first in my family who were born in the U.S.”
The video shows Sondland in the pilot’s seat of a plane. “One of my most favorite hobbies is flying,” he says in it. He said he enjoyed flying jet aircraft, and he’s been a pilot since age 15.
2. Sondland Is Tied to a String of Historic Hotels
Both Trump and Sondland have owned hotels – they share that in common – but Sondland’s hotels are quite different. They don’t contain his name on them, for starters.
Politico described Sondland as a “self-made, multimillionaire hotel magnate from the Pacific Northwest.” His company, Politico reports, is called Provenance Hotels, and it’s known for “refurbishing and reimagining old, historic buildings. Sondland “owns stakes” in four hotels located in downtown Portland: the Lucia, deLuxe, Sentinel and Westin,” according to Willamette Week.
Some of Sondland’s properties are the Healthman Hotel, Sentinel Hotel and Hotel Preston, according to Politico. His LinkedIn page says he attended the University of Washington from 1975 to 1978.
According to Oregon Live, he’s also affiliated with Aspen Capital, described by the newspaper as “a Portland-based hard-money lender.” In the biography video, Sondland said he started in the commercial real estate business and “pretty soon discovered the hotel business which then led to creating my own hotel management company.”
His wife, Katherine Durant, said in the video that she specializes in retail real estate. She’s the managing partner of an investment firm.
3. Sondland Is a Long-Time Donor to GOP Candidates & Gave a Million Dollars to Trump’s Inauguration
Vice reports that Gordon Sondland is a long-time GOP donor whose governmental experience was largely working on an Oregon board to “bring television and movie production to the state.” Campaign finance records on Open Secrets.org bear this out; Sondland has given a lot of money over the years to Republican interests (like the Republican National Committee and Republican Party) as well as Republican candidates. However, he’s periodically given money to Democrats in Oregon and Washington too.
“Gordon Sondland, the chairman of Provenance Hotels and a big supporter of the extended Bush family (including former President George W.), gave $1 million to the inaugural committee through four LLCs,” Open Secrets.org reported.
Open Secrets tallied up Sondland’s donations over the years. “He has given more than $446,000 to federal candidates and groups, 94 percent of which went to Republican causes,” the site reported.
“Sondland was listed as one of Trump’s bundlers in 2016. And after Trump won, he funneled $1 million into Trump’s inaugural committee through four different LLCs,” OpenSecrets reported. “Political donors and bundlers are often selected to ambassador and diplomat positions, with the cushiest jobs going to the most generous givers.”
4. Sondland & His Wife Katherine Durant Run a Philanthropic Foundation Together
Sondland is married to Katherine Durant. He and his wife run the Sondland Durant Foundation. Its website says “The Gordon D. Sondland and Katherine J. Durant Foundation was founded in 1999 by Gordon Sondland & Katherine Durant. The organizations supported by the Foundation include the Portland Art Museum, OMSI, OHSU, New Avenues for Youth, Oregon Ballet Theatre, the Portland Parks Foundation.”
The foundation’s mission is described as “Helping Families & Boosting Communities.” Sondland’s wife, who is also called Katy, “holds a Bachelor of Science in Business form Pepperdine University as well as an MBA in Finance from Willamette University,” according to the foundation’s website. Max and Lucy Sondland are also listed on the website. They are both college students who are the couple’s children.
Sondland’s website lists him as serving on the following boards: Sanford School Board of Visitors at Duke University; Oregon Health & Science University Foundation; U.S. Bancorp Washington State Advisory Board; National Finance Co-Chairman; George W. Bush Center.
5. Sondland, Who Has Ties to the Bush Family, Has an Art Collection Worth Millions
“I’m also a lover of art. Katy and I have assembled a wonderful collection. We’ve been fortunate even to loan a couple of paintings to the White House,” Sondland said in the video biography, which shows off a couple of the family’s paintings. According to Mother Jones, Sondland’s art collection is worth about $25 million.
Sondland was initially a supporter of Trump foe Jeb Bush. He then switched to Trump when Trump became the Republican Party’s nominee, fell out with Trump over Trump’s criticism of Gold Star father Khizr Khan, and then moved back into Trump’s orbit after his election.
He was listed as a member of the Jeb Bush Jewish Leadership Committee. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor led the group, according to The Sun-Sentinel.
The foundation’s news page also showcases several events involving George W. Bush and Sondland Durant. For example, a 2012 article declared, “Sondland-Durant Facilitates Auction for Ford F-150 Owned By President George W. Bush At Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale.” The goal was to raise money for vets.
According to his website, Sondland has also served as Chairman of Governor’s Office of Film and Television; Chairman of the Portland Art Museum; Commissioner, White House Fellows Commission, appointed by President George W. Bush; President, Pioneer Courthouse Square Board Member; Governor’s Kulongoski’s Transition Team Member; and Mitt Romney Presidential Transition Team. Former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, of Oregon, is a Democrat.
On September 9, 2019, at 12:47 a.m., Bill Taylor, former ambassador to Ukraine and the top U.S. diplomat there, wrote Sondland, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. You can see the full text exchanges released by the House here.
Sondland responded at 5:19:35 a.m. on September 9, 2019, writing, “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign I suggest we stop the back and forth by text If you still have concerns I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.”
When asked why he was showing up in Ukraine, Sondland told a state television reporter there, according to Vice, that Trump “has also given me other special assignments — including Ukraine.”
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