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From Socialite to Donald Trump Adviser: The Rise of Carla Sands

Wife of late real estate broker Fred Sands, the Vintage Capital chair was named to the GOP presidential contender’s economic advisory council.

  • Imogen Rose-Smith

After Donald Trump rolled out his economic advisory council last month, Democratic rival Hillary Clinton mocked the then-presumptive GOP candidate for picking an all-male 23-member team stacked with billionaires and hedge fund tycoons, noting that it included “six guys named Steve.”

Three days later the Trump campaign added nine names to the list, among them eight women plus hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci. Of those female advisers, perhaps the most curious and least well known, at least outside of certain Bel Air social circles, is Dr. Carla Sands.

Sands, 55, earned her doctorate in chiropractic medicine from Life Chiropractic College, now Life University, in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta and worked as a private chiropractor from 1990 to 1999. In 1990 she married Fred Sands, who was already established throughout much of tony Los Angeles as a high-profile real estate broker. By the time Sands sold his company in 2000, to a group backed by private equity firm Apollo Management, Fred Sands Realtors had 23 offices and 1,200 agents across Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

After the sale Sands started Vintage Capital Group, an investment management firm whose strategies included acquiring and redeveloping distressed shopping malls. For her part, Carla Sands was active on the LA social scene, serving on the board of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, among other appointments.

When Fred Sands passed away in 2015 after suffering a stroke, his wife replaced him as chair and CEO of Vintage Capital, which has $150 million in assets. In a statement on its website, the firm said that Carla Sands “was mentored by Fred over the many years of their partnership and is extremely active in the business.”

Although Fred Sands might have thought his wife a suitable successor as chair of an asset management firm, he had no such confidence in Trump as U.S. president. “He’s a joke,” Sands told The Jewish Journal in a July 2015 interview when asked about the real estate mogul’s unlikely bid for America’s highest political office. “He likes the publicity because that’s how he lives. He’s not really a real estate guy. He licenses his name and surrounds himself with publicity. And he might show up in the polls right now, but that’s going to go away.”

Trump, of course, has not gone away, and now Carla Sands is serving on his economic advisory committee. Sands has credibility as a Trump supporter, if not as an economics expert. In July she hosted a fundraiser for the presidential contender at her Bel Air mansion, where some 200 donors were asked to contribute between $2,700 and $449,400 each to attend. Those who gave at least $25,000 or raised a minimum of $27,000 got to dine on a meal of pan-seared salmon and fresh-fig salad along with Trump.

As of late August, Federal Election Commission records showed that Sands herself hadn’t given money to Trump, though she and her late husband contributed to the campaigns of some of his GOP presidential primary rivals, including, in her case, Ted Cruz. The Texas Republican senator has been steadfast in his refusal to endorse his party’s presidential nominee.