Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. pushed for his personal trainer to get a “sweet deal” to use athletic facilities belonging to Liberty University in 2011, Reuters reported Tuesday, based on internal emails, court documents and other sources.
According to Reuters, the school later transferred ownership of the $1.2 million facility to the trainer, Benjamin Crosswhite, in 2016 without requiring any cash up front. As part of the deal, Liberty University committed $650,000 to lease back part of the facility through 2025 and offered Crosswhite financing on the remainder of the sale at a generous 3% interest rate, per Reuters.
Falwell’s business relationship with Crosswhite, a former Liberty student, began in 2011, Reuters reported, when Falwell and his wife Rebecca began training with the 23-year-old.
Liberty had just received an athletic center as a gift from a recently deceased trustee, Reuters reported. The same year, 2011, Falwell emailed Liberty staff pressuring them to make Crosswhite a “sweet deal,” allowing him to access the facilities for private training sessions.
“Becki and I wouldn’t mind working out over there with Ben as a trainer because it is more private,” he reportedly wrote.
The next year, 2012, the couple reportedly brought Crosswhite along on Liberty’s private jet to Miami for Falwell’s required annual physical, “to explain to the doctors Mr. Falwell’s diet and exercise program and help document the results,” a school spokesperson told Reuters.
(Around the same time, Reuters noted, the Falwells had their fateful meeting with poolboy Giancarlo Granda at a hotel in Miami Beach, which kicked off another engrossing business relationship.)
Per Reuters, Falwell then sent an email to staff directing them to lease the gym space to Crosswhite, and the trainer began leasing space at the facility in 2013.
In 2016, Falwell signed the deal transferring ownership of the 18-acres-worth of facilities entirely to Crosswhite.
A Liberty spokesperson didn’t respond to TPM’s questions, but told Reuters that the facilities quickly became a “drain on university resources” after their 2011 acquisition. Since Crosswhite had already begun leasing the facilities in 2013, the school said, he was “the most viable purchaser.” The school denied to Reuters that Falwell had abandoned his fiduciary duty to Liberty.