Report: Jerry Falwell Jr. Pushed ‘Sweet Deal’ For Personal Trainer On Liberty U. Facilities

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers the convocation at the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University  January 18, 2016 in Lynchburg, Virginia. A billionaire real estate mogul and reality television personality, Trump addressed students and guests at the non-profit, private Christian university that was founded in 1971 by  evangelical Southern Baptist televangelist Jerry Falwell.
LYNCHBURG, VA - JANUARY 18: Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. introduces Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with a sports jersey after he delivered the convocation in the Vines Center at th... LYNCHBURG, VA - JANUARY 18: Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. introduces Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with a sports jersey after he delivered the convocation in the Vines Center at the university January 18, 2016 in Lynchburg, Virginia. Although Falwell said the university does not endorse a particular candidate, he left no question as to who he is supporting in the 2016 presidential race. Highlighting Trump's conservative credentials, charity and politically incorrect speech, Falwell said, "I see a lot of parallels between my father and Donald Trump." (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
August 27, 2019 6:14 p.m.

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.

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