On Feb. 6, conservative media personality Sean Hannity brought his longtime financial advisor, William Lako, on his popular radio show to talk about money.
"For 25 years, you’ve watched me start with nothing, right, pretty much?" Hannity asked Lako. "Yes, I did," replied Lako.
Since Hannity started investing with Lako’s Georgia-based firm, Henssler Financial, as an Atlanta radio host in the 1990s, he has risen to stardom as a host of Fox News. He’s built an image of himself as a blue-jeans-wearing regular guy willing to take on out-of-touch elites and hypocritical "Learjet liberals."
Over the last decade, Hannity appears to have built a real-estate empire worth tens of millions of dollars that spans at least four states and whose existence has remained hidden from the public behind anonymous shell corporations registered to the address of Henssler Financial, according to property records and corporate filings reviewed by The Times.
The companies all start with the same four letters — "SPMK," followed by Roman numerals — and, along with high-end luxury properties, they also own rental properties that could house hundreds of tenants and which are currently taking new renters.
Property records show that a neighborhood of duplexes in Lithia Springs, Ga., is owned by a shell company reportedly linked to Sean Hannity. ()
One of the companies, SPMK II, is a co-owner of Henssler Property Management LLC, which manages rental properties owned by other SPMK-named limited liability corporations, according to financial disclosures from Henssler Financial. Lako is also listed as an investor.
A deed for Sean Hannity’s mansion in Nassau County, N.Y., revealed that Hannity was the managing member behind a limited liability company titled "SPMK IV NY, LLC." (The Nassau County Clerk’s Office)
The shell companies’ links to Hannity were first reported by the Guardian, which said that many of the properties were bought after banks foreclosed on their previous owners after the Great Recession.
The companies also appear to have obtained mortgages insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, leading some commentators to ridicule "Handout Hannity" for using taxpayer help to build his wealth at the same time that Hannity was criticizing the Obama administration’s housing policies. Hannity had not previously disclosed his relationship with HUD when previously interviewing and praising HUD Secretary Ben Carson on Fox News.
"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 a statement on his website. "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."
Hannity’s personal business dealings, and their mixture with his on-air media commentary, have recently been thrust into the public spotlight after President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, disclosed that Hannity was one of his other clients.