Fox News host Sean Hannity is one of the most recognizable media figures in America. He has the ear of President Trump. His show is one of the most popular on cable news.
But you wouldn’t know it from talking to the tenants at the Meadows, a modest neighborhood of duplexes in Lithia Springs, about 15 miles west of downtown Atlanta.
"Who?" Keith Jones, a 62-year-old pipe layer, said blankly in an interview this week.
In this March 4, 2016, file photo, Sean Hannity of Fox News appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md. (Carolyn Kaster / AP)
Journalists uncovered Hannity’s extensive rental holdings in Georgia and Alabama this week after he said he had consulted with the president’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, about real estate issues.
Through a series of limited-liability companies — each using the name SPMK, followed by Roman numerals — documents revealed that Hannity is the owner of apartment complexes and houses worth tens of millions of dollars and capable of housing hundreds of people.
A Nassau County, New York, property document revealed Fox News host as the owner of a property-holding company called "SPMK IV." A series of "SPMK" companies, registered to the same address at a financial firm in Georgia, own rental complexes in Georgia and Alabama. (Los Angeles Times)
"Historically, the typical single-family landlord was a local person who owned a few houses," said Julia Gordon, executive vice president of the National Community Stabilization Trust, an anti-blight nonprofit organization. "They would basically oversee things like collecting the rent, do home repairs themselves, or employ a handyman to do home repairs. It was a very mom-and-pop type-industry."
The rise in out-of-town ownership also coincided with the rise of companies like Renters Warehouse, a national property-management service that received a celebrity endorsement from Hannity.
The duplexes at the Meadows, in Lithia Springs, were built on a former cow pasture in the 1980s by Paul Robinson Jr., a local home builder and small businessman. The subdivision has more than 100 units, which average about 944 square feet.
A neighborhood of duplexes in Lithia Springs, Ga., called the Meadows, is owned by a company linked to Fox News host Sean Hannity. (Los Angeles Times)
It was an investment for his retirement, Robinson said in an interview this week. Living next door, he adopted a hands-on approach, taking on much of the day-to-day work of cleaning up, painting, replacing carpet and collecting rent.
Robinson didn’t raise the rent much, he said, because many of his tenants had lived there for 10 or 20 years and were elderly.
But after the financial crisis hit, Robinson lost the complex, he said, when his bank went under and the new bank demanded that he pay $500,000 of the $2.5 million loan.
With 112 duplex units bringing in a cash flow of about $60,000 a month, Robinson said, he had $500,000. But it was only a one-year deal and, having heard of horror stories of banks upping demands each year, he decided to let the bank foreclose on the property.
A housing development of rental duplexes called the Meadows, in Lithia Springs, Ga., is owned by a limited-liability company owned by Fox News host Sean Hannity. (Jenny Jarvie / Los Angeles Times)
There was nothing in the company’s registration records indicating its owner was a famous TV host. The complex is managed by Henssler Property Management, which is co-owned by another LLC called SPMK II.
"They wanted to raise it to $1,000, but I told them I’m not going to pay that much," he said, as he sat cross-legged on the asphalt outside his tiny duplex, surrounded by a hammer, ratchets and lug nuts as he installed new brake pads on a Honda Accord.
Olander Ragan, a 29-year-old warehouse forklift truck driver, repairs a car to help pay rent for his home in the Meadows, a Lithia Springs, Ga., housing development owned by a limited-liability company linked to Fox News host Sean Hannity. (Jenny Jarvie / Los Angeles Times)