EXCLUSIVE: A Chinese business executive with close ties to Hunter Biden and a top former adviser to Joe Biden when he was vice president is facing legal action after failing to pay a New York designer millions in “contractually-owed payments,” according to court records reviewed by Fox News Digital.

The son of “Chinese billionaires” who runs a vast real estate empire in China, Bo Zhang previously offered to wire Hunter Biden tens of thousands of dollars to cover expenses. Zhang is also in the middle of a civil dispute with Jacob Barton, a prominent New York-based designer whose company was instrumental in designing the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, among other famous museums and brands.

Local Projects, an entity founded by Barton, and Zhang’s entity, Harves Bridge, entered into an agreement in October 2020 to “form a company called DreamCube Innovations LLC,” whose purpose was to “design and build interactive sports gaming centers for the Chinese market,” the court filings showed. 

More than $4 million in payments were never delivered to Barton, the complaint alleges.


Bo Zhang, left; Hunter Biden, center; and Jacob Barton, right

Bo Zhang, Hunter Biden and Jacob Barton (Getty Images)

Francis “Fran” Person, who served as a top adviser to Vice President Biden from 2009 to 2014 and introduced Hunter Biden to Zhang in 2015, is the co-founder and CEO of DreamCube Innovations, according to a previous FOX Business report. 

Fast Company described DreamCube in a 2021 profile piece as an “enticing new technology and brand that’s already signed deals with the NBA as well as with the Manchester United soccer club” that is set up “across China.”

“It’s humbling to work with incredibly creative, talented, and passionate people to push technology and immersive experiences to another level,” Person wrote in a now-private post on his personal Facebook, sharing the Fast Company article. “We’re living through tough times, but our future is lined with infinite possibilities.”

It is unclear whether Person, whom then-second lady Jill Biden said “has been like a son to Joe and me” and “will always be a part of our family” in a Politico profile piece, is involved in the arbitration case. However, one of the court filings mentioned a May 2021 email Person sent on behalf of DreamCube, acknowledging that DreamCube was late on payments and promised that Harves would “catch up with the quarterly payments and get us back on schedule.” 

Fox News Digital could not confirm whether “Harves” refers to one of the D.C.-based affiliates that Zhang and Person managed or Harves Century Group, the China-based parent organization owned by Zhang’s billionaire parents and managed by his mother.

Fran Person, left, with Joe Biden

Fran Person, a former adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, unsuccessfully ran for Congress in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District in 2016. (Fran Person/YouTube screenshot)

According to documents, the ordeal involving the unpaid money began with Zhang devising DreamCube to “design and build interactive sports gaming centers for the Chinese market.” Zhang and Barton entered into contracts to develop sports-themed gaming centers in China related to the NBA and the Manchester United Football Club. 

Barton, however, claims he fulfilled all his contractual obligations but did not receive a significant amount of the money owed to him. He received $509,000 in earlier payments but was still due millions more, one of the filings states. This forced him to approach an arbitration panel to recover the additional money. 


In September, an arbiter ruled in his favor, ordering Zhang to pay him almost $5.7 million in compensation. Zhang, however, could not be located in China, even after Barton had retained the services of the Dacheng law firm, the largest law firm in China, to investigate his whereabouts. 

“In fact, [Barton’s] investigation suggests that Mr. Zhang has taken active steps to avoid being found,” a January filing states.

The filing went on to list six examples of Barton doing “more than sufficient diligence to satisfy Rule 4(f)’s reasonableness standard” in trying to track down Zhang, including “Direct outreach from Mr. Barton to Mr. Zhang via WeChat, the Chinese messaging application that Mr. Barton and Mr. Zhang previously used to conduct business” and “site visit to the business address for the new Beijing Huarui entity that Mr. Zhang created in the face of demands for payment related to the DreamCube venture.

Bo Zhang in coat and tie

Bo Zhang, pictured here, met with Hunter Biden and Eric Schwerin several times while his business partner, Fran Person, was running for Congress in 2016. (Harves Investment Group/ YouTube Screenshot)

“None of these efforts were successful. Indeed, the facts gleaned from Petitioner’s investigation lead to the likely inference that Mr. Zhang is actively attempting to avoid service and is in fact attempting to stymie attempts to find him,” the filing continued.

The filing says that one of Zhang’s companies, Beijing Shengpuruisi, previously changed its name in December 2021 as Barton demanded money for “outstanding contractual payments.” Months later, Zhang appears to have sold his six-bedroom McLean, Virginia, mansion for over $5 million in July 2022 and likely moved back to China.

“Ultimately, finding a physical residential address for Mr. Zhang in China is highly unlikely — if not altogether impossible,” the January filing said. 

Due to this, Barton then attempted to get permission to serve legal papers to Zhang electronically, which was eventually granted after he was previously denied.

A recent filing shows a phone conference was scheduled for March 22 as Barton continued his attempt to collect his millions in unpaid fees. Fox News Digital could not confirm whether Zhang has paid Barton any of the millions of dollars he owes. 

Fran Person first told Hunter Biden, who is not implicated in Barton’s case, about Zhang’s background in a July 2015 email and invited him to China to meet Zhang and his family. The email detailed Zhang’s family having “great respect and relationships in China” and said Zhang has been “groomed to take over his family’s dynasty.”  The email also said Zhang’s “father-in-law is actually the Governor of Hainan (Chinese Hawaii), which he doesn’t advertise at all,” referring to Liu Cigui, a longtime member of the CCP who has held several leadership positions over the last 15 or more years. 

Fran Person email to Hunter Biden

Fran Person emailed Hunter Biden, laying out how powerful Zhang’s family was in China with a real estate empire and that Zhang was “being groomed to take over his family’s dynasty.” (Fox News)

former Biden adviser Fran Person

Fran Person, a former adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, unsuccessfully ran for Congress in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District in 2016. (Fran Person/YouTube screenshot)

While it does not appear Hunter was able to visit China during the time frame Person mentioned, Hunter and his longtime business partner, Eric Schwerin, met with Zhang several times over the next few years. Zhang even scored an invite to the White House for a holiday reception in December 2015. Fox News Digital previously reported on Hunter and Schwerin working with Zhang during Person’s failed House race in South Carolina in 2016.

While Person was running for Congress, Hunter and Zhang stayed in communication. On May 6, 2016, Hunter referred to Zhang as his “good friend and business colleague” in an email, which was previously verified by Fox News Digital, to Henry Zhao, a Chinese Communist Party official and CEO of Harvest Fund Management, according to the New York Post. The Post reported that Zhao’s fund participated in a Chinese investment fund called Bohai Harvest RST, where Hunter served as a founding board member until October 2019.

Hunter Biden email screen capture

Hunter Biden introduced his “good friend and business colleague” Bo Zhang in May 2016 to a Chinese business partner of his and mentioned a potential “partnership” between Harvest and Harves. (Fox News)

The following year, as Hunter was going through a rocky divorce, Person told Hunter in a July 2017 WhatsApp message that he and Zhang “want to help” him with expenses.

Fran Person's WhatsApp messages

Fran Person, who served as a longtime adviser to the elder Biden and was a failed congressional candidate in 2016, told Hunter in a July 2017 WhatsApp message unveiled by Republicans this week that he and Bo Zhang, Fran’s business partner with ties to top CCP leaders, “want to help” him.  (WhatsApp via House Ways and Means Committee)

“100K at least gets me until next month,” Hunter said. “I am appreciative of whatever [Bo] was comfortable with but I’m very uncomfortable starting a war revised partnership this way.”

“I talked to Bo previously about the 37K – he didn’t flinch. I will talk to him about 56K and possibly 100K,” Person said, according to messages previously reviewed by Fox News Digital. “It really depends on his liquid assets in the US…I will ask. His only problem is getting large sums out of China (especially right now).”

The next day, Hunter asked Person if he knew whether anything was wired or if they were in a “holding pattern,” prompting Person to respond, “No holding pattern…he was on his way to the bank this morning. He will be in touch when it’s confirmed.”

photo split: left, Eric Schwerin, right, Joe and Hunter Biden

Eric Schwerin, Joe Biden and Hunter Biden (Fox News)

“He will help you with what you need. He also mentioned that you should take a trip to China some time this month to just get away for a week or so…just decompress,” Person added. An email in late August 2017 shows that Hunter was scheduled to fly first class to Hong Kong, but it is unclear whether that was related to visiting with Bo.

Another WhatsApp message from Person to Hunter said Zhang offered his home for Hunter to stay in, referring to the multimillion-dollar McLean, Virginia, mansion. Person called the six-bedroom house “unreal” and revealed that Zhang “won’t be there much at least for another couple years.” He added that Hunter Biden should “f’n stay at his house” and that it was furnished. Fox News Digital could not confirm whether Biden took Zhang up on the offer.


In one of the earlier text exchanges, Person told Hunter Biden he “selfishly want[s] to work” with him “because I know what the hell your capable of, AND I want to learn from you. I’m putting myself out there right now, and I’m learning quickly.” He continued, “But I’d love to be there with you doing some of this stuff. I mention the 500K on 10M raise be I’m about to get started on that, and I could really use your help. We could knock it out together. I’d think that’d help take some bite out, and you wouldn’t feel like your ‘resorting’ to anything.”

“I’ve got one loyalty brother. That’s to my family. Your family,” Person added.

President Biden reflected on Person’s tenure working for him when Biden was vice president for a Politico profile piece before his White House departure by saying, “In times of urgency, everyone from the Secret Service to my communications and policy teams, the first guy they go to is Fran.” He added, “People know that he has my ear whenever he wants it.” 

Barton declined to comment for this story, citing pending litigation. Neither lawyers representing Zhang and Person nor Barton’s attorney responded to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.

Fox News’ Aubrie Spady contributed to this report.

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