(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump called California “a dumping ground” for “prisoners, terrorists, mental patients” in a September speech. 

It’s “not a great state anymore,” he added. 

But it’s where he’s turning for crucial support from a small group of financiers.

Don Hankey, the billionaire who’s known as Los Angeles’s subprime auto king, arranged Trump’s $175 million appeal bond in New York state’s civil fraud suit. Hankey is also the largest individual shareholder in Axos Financial Inc., the San Diego-based online lender that refinanced the former president’s $100 million Trump Tower loan as his asset valuations were in question and floated him $125 million more for his Doral property.

Trump’s cash crunch in the face of mounting legal costs is revealing who’s willing to come to his aid as he seeks another term in the White House. While some on Wall Street may donate to his campaign, co-mingling financial interests is seen as another matter after he was found to have inflated the value of his assets by billions of dollars in bank transactions.

“In my view, it’s the low-end, high-flying lenders who are willing to deal with him,” said Abe Wallach, who was the Trump Organization’s executive vice president of acquisitions and finance decades ago. “The only people who will touch him are very wealthy people who want to be associated with him and his name and his power.” 

Axos executives declined to comment. A Trump Organization representative didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

Hankey, chairman of Knight Specialty Insurance Co., said in an interview after the firm posted Trump’s bond Monday that he “heard they were looking for somebody, and this is what Knight insurance does.” He added that even though he voted for Trump previously, it was a business deal: “We have the liquidity, and I’m just happy to provide it.”

Read more: Trump Got His $175 Million Bond From Billionaire Fan’s Firm

It’s a different tone than the one Chubb Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Evan Greenberg struck when he took the rare step of penning a letter defending the company’s decision to guarantee Trump’s $92 million appeal bond in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case. He said it’s not Chubb’s place to make “judgments about the claims, even when the claims involve alleged reprehensible conduct.” 

“We are in no way supporting the defendant,” Greenberg added. 

Subprime Pioneer

Hankey, 80, has a net worth of $7.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He got his start working at his father’s car dealership — but it’s his auto-adjacent businesses that are responsible for the bulk of his fortune.

Westlake Financial, a subprime auto lending pioneer, booked earnings of $1.1 billion last year. The loans are known for their high interest rates, extended to borrowers that often don’t have another choice. His car dealer technology business, Nowcom, collected revenue of $190 million in 2023, up more than 80% since 2019.

Among Angelenos, he’s perhaps best known for owning Toyota of North Hollywood, an auto dealership just off the intersection of the Ventura and Hollywood freeways in the San Fernando Valley passed by tens of thousands of commuters each day. 

Even those not in the market for a new or used Prius or Camry may know it for the two dozen mannequins — figures some called creepy — that once looked out over traffic from the railings of its parking garage. Hankey purchased the 3.8-acre site in 1988, according to the Hankey Investment Co. website.

More recently, Hankey Capital extended a $77 million loan in 2021 to MedMen Enterprises, a cannabis company. It was repaid $31.6 million in March 2023, and a month later, Green Sentry, which bought MedMen’s Florida operations, also made payments related to the debt. MedMen shares are now effectively worthless after trading at about $7 in 2018.

Hankey and his family have made more than $250,000 in political donations since 2013, including to Trump Victory, Federal Election Commission data show.

Top Pay

Meanwhile, Axos and its boss Gregory Garrabrants managed to keep a low profile for years. Then, in 2018, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. investment banker won attention for pay that reached $34.5 million, enough to top Goldman boss David Solomon and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon. 

Though Axos is less than 1% the size of JPMorgan, Garrabrants has remained one of the best-paid executives in the country. While critics have found that discrepancy bizarre, the bank’s defenders tend to point to a stock that’s soared since he took over in 2007. 

He’s also used some of his shares to back loans. When the bank’s price plunged last year, he sold pledged stock to help cover borrowing costs.

Garrabrants’ biggest political donations in the past few years have been to Republicans — including $4,800 to Donald J. Trump for President Inc. in 2020.

Timothy Coffey, a managing director at Janney Montgomery Scott, said he’s talked to Axos executives about its loans to the former president. 

“In my discussions with management, the decisions to extend credit to Mr. Trump was a business decision and not political,” Coffey said. 

The bank, he added, “sees the lack of competition on certain loans as an opportunity to charge a better rate than a loan with which there are multiple financial institutions competing for the business.”

--With assistance from Erik Larson, Daniel Taub, Tiffany Kary, Bill Allison, Diana Li and Paige Smith.

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