President-elect Donald Trump is auditioning someone who knows a thing or two about the hospitality industry to be the next Treasury secretary.
Politico first learned that Jonathan Gray, a Democrat and head of global real estate at Blackstone Group, met with Trump on Sunday to discuss the post. Gray, along with heading Blackstone's real estate group, is also chairman of Hilton Worldwide, which Blackstone acquired in 2007 for $26 billion.
Gray is a Chicago native and a graduate of the Wharton School, Trump’s alma mater. He has worked at Blackstone since 1992 and many have speculated that he would one day replace current Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman.
The “in-depth” discussion with Gray “included the economy, global capital markets and the world financial situation,” as well as “future legislation regarding the tax code and long-term debt,” Trump’s transition office said in a statement Sunday night.
As Politico points out, Gray, who is 45, had been a staunch proponent of Hillary Clinton, having reportedly donated the maximum to her campaign.
Wunderkind Gray has had multiple successes while at Blackstone. While the Hilton acquisition was made at the precipice of the Great Recession, the deal turned favorably as the global economy turned back favorably in the ensuing years.
"Gray also made a major bet on single-family housing after the crash, amassing a portfolio of 50,000 homes, and has made Blackstone the largest owner of office space in India," Politico writes.
Gray is a frequent speaker at hospitality industry events, where he touches on many trends, including investing and developing select-service hotels. "Outside a handful of cities, running full-service hotels in the traditional way is increasingly difficult," Gray said at the NYU Hospitality Investment Conference in 2015. "The move is toward select service in large way.
"Full service is not growing the same way. The core Hilton brand has grown 25 percent; Hilton Garden Inn much more like 225 percent. The major change is the move toward less service: a good clean room, not a lot of interaction—a push toward select service. This is the megatrend."
Gray wasn't the only hotel-connected executive to have an audience with Trump. BET founder Robert Johnson, also executive chairman of REIT RLJ Lodging Trust, met with the President-elect to discuss social issues impacting the black community, along with other topics.