Fox News host Sean Hannity took out $2.5 million in loans on his Long Island mansion last year

Key Points
  • Fox News host Sean Hannity in 2017 took out $2.5 million in loans against his Long Island mansion.
  • Hannity also has been identified as the person behind nearly two dozen shell companies that have purchased almost 900 properties in seven states over the past decade.
  • Hannity was identified recently as a client of Michael Cohen, the long-time personal lawyer for President Donald Trump.
Sean Hannity's secret real estate empire

Fox News host Sean Hannity took out $2.5 million in loans last year secured by his sprawling mansion on Long Island, New York, CNBC has learned.

Land records obtained by CNBC also show that the Hannity-controlled shell company that owned his home for years transferred its ownership to him when the loans were executed in 2017.

The $2.5 million in loans Hannity received from Quicken Loans represent a tiny fraction of the nearly $90 million his companies reportedly spent on acquiring hundreds of residential properties in seven states over the past decade.

The Guardian newspaper on Sunday reported that Hannity had acquired more than 870 properties through 20 shell companies. The companies' names, which share the initials SPMK, would not reveal to the casual observer that they are controlled by Hannity.

The shell company that had owned his Oyster Bay home also had SPMK as its name.

The Guardian reported that "dozens of the properties were bought at a discount in 2013," after banks foreclosed on their owners, who had defaulted on their mortgages.

Hannity's shell companies are registered at the same building Atlanta-area offices of the Henssler Financial wealth management firm, whose principal, Bill Lako, has appeared on Hannity's syndicated radio show.

One of Hannity's shell companies, SPMK II, is listed as one of the owners, along with Lako and Gene Henssler, of two financial entities affiliated with Henssler Financial.

Lako has not appeared on Fox News. According to a recent "full disclosure" about Lako by Hannity on his radio show, which is not owned by Fox, Hannity has used Henssler's firm "for my financial dealings" since Hannity was a radio show host in Atlanta in the early 1990s.

"I didn't have any money, so to speak" at the time, Hannity said on a recent broadcast featuring Lako. "In many ways, Bill, I'm still that kid that you guys took on as a charity case, to be blunt back, in Atlanta. You know never at that time taking people like me that had pretty much zero net worth."

The Michael Cohen connection

The records involving Hannity's Oyster Bay, Long Island, home and his widespread real estate holdings elsewhere are coming to light a week after he was identified as a client of President Donald Trump's long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Hannity's name was disclosed April 16 in federal court in Manhattan by Cohen's lawyers, after they unsuccessfully argued to a judge that Cohen should not be forced to disclose the names of all of his clients.

Fox News host Sean Hannity is seen in the White House briefing room in Washington, DC, on January 24, 2017.
Getty Images

The two other clients identified by name by Cohen's lawyers were Trump, and venture capitalist Elliott Broidy. Cohen had paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 for what she had said was her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump, and Cohen represented Republican fundraiser Broidy in an agreement that paid a Playboy model $1.6 million after she was impregnated by him.

Cohen is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. His New York office, home, and hotel room were raided by April 9 by FBI agents, who seized electronic and paper records, as well as multiple electronic devices belonging to Cohen.

Shortly after he was revealed as Cohen's client, Hannity played down his relationship with Cohen, although he said he "assumed those conversations were confidential."

The discussions with Trump's lawyer, Hannity added, "dealt almost exclusively about real estate." Hannity has said Cohen never represented him "in any matter."

Hannity had not previously disclosed he was Cohen's client either when Cohen had appeared on his Fox News show before the raid, or when he talked about the lawyer on the show.

Fox News said last week it was "surprised" to hear that Hannity was Cohen's client. But the network said it still fully supports the host.

Inside the Long Island transaction

Hannity, who reportedly made $36 million between June 2016 and 2017, bought his Oyster Bay house using a limited liability corporation he controls, SPMK IV. Records show the house sold for $8.5 million in 2008, apparently without a mortgage, to SPMK IV.

In March 2017, records show, Hannity took out a $1.5 million adjustable rate mortgage from Quicken Loans. On the same day, records show, Hannity took out a $1 million variable-rate revolving credit line on the house, also through Quicken.

Also that day, according to records, ownership of the house was transferred from SPMK IV to Hannity, as a named individual and "a married man," in a maneuver known as a "quit-claim," for $1.

The quit-claim is noteworthy because it appears to be one of the few transactions, if any, in recent years in which Hannity is identified by name as the actual owner of a property.

Hannity, when contacted by CNBC through a Fox News spokeswoman last Tuesday, refused to answer when asked why he took out the loan.

CNBC, in its query, noted that Hannity had a very high salary and that land records showed that the property previously had never been used to obtain a loan.

Through the Fox News spokeswoman, Hannity replied last Tuesday: "The intrusion into one's life has crossed the line and this story is beyond the pale. These loans had nothing to do with advice or discussions with attorney Michael Cohen, nor were they used to pay Cohen or any third party, as my statement said yesterday."

It is not uncommon for individuals, even those with a high personal net worth and easy access to cash, to take out loans on real estate and other assets.

Often, the money from those loans is used to make investments with an eye toward earning a rate of return that exceeds the cost of interest on the debt.

'REAL companies that spend real investment money'

On Monday, Hannity also blasted The Guardian and other media outlets for reporting on his extensive real estate portfolio.

The Guardian reported that, when hosting Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on his television show last year, Hannity did not disclose that his companies had acquired a $17.9 million HUD mortgage in 2014. The mortgage was used for the purchase of two big apartment complexes in low-income communities in Georgia that Hannity bought for $22.7 million.

"It is ironic that I am being attacked for investing my personal money in communities that badly need such investment and in which, I am sure, those attacking me have not invested their money," Hannity said in an emailed statement about The Guardian story.

"The fact is, these are investments that I do not individually select, control, or know the details about; except that obviously I believe in putting my money to work in communities that otherwise struggle to receive such support," he said.

"I have never discussed with anybody at HUD the original loans that were obtained in the Obama years, nor the subsequent refinance of such loans, as they are a private matter," Hannity said. "I had no role in, or responsibility for, any HUD involvement in any of these investments. I can say that every rigorous process and strict standard of improvement requirements were followed; all were met, fulfilled and inspected."

"The LLC's are REAL companies that spend real investment money on real properties," Hannity added

Christopher Reeves, a lawyer listed as the registered agent for 23 of Hannity's SPMK shell companies, originally left a voicemail to CNBC, which had contacted Henssler Financial asking about Hannity. After CNBC returned Reeves' call, he emailed: "I have no further comments on this matter at this time."

Reeves' website indicates that his law office is in the same building as Henssler Financial.