Steve Bing to Pay $200K for Clinton Korea Trip

Bill Clinton friend will pay the tab for the N. Korea journalist-freeing trip.

August 5, 2009, 3:00 PM

Aug. 5, 2009— -- Hollywood mogul Steve Bing didn't just lend Bill Clinton his private plane for the former president's trip to North Korea -- he's footing the cost of the whole flight.

Bing, a real estate heir and the owner of Shangri-La Entertainment, will pay an estimated $200,000 for the round-trip flight, said Marc Foulkrod, the chairman and CEO of Avjet, the charter company that operates Bing's plane, a Boeing 737.

Clinton used the plane on his trip to secure the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American journalists held by North Korea on allegations that the two illegally entered the country.

A representative for Bing said he was not available for interviews.

Bing, a long-time friend of Clinton's, has a colorful background: He fathered a child with supermodel Elizabeth Hurley and once sued billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, claiming that private investigators hired by Kerkorian invaded his privacy by sorting through his garbage.

Bing is also known for donating millions to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates, including Clinton's wife, former presidential candidate-turned-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Bing will pay the six-figure tab for the trip as part of his monthly bill for Avjet's services, Foulkrod said.

"There's a very large team at Avjet team involved in all categories, from maintenance operations, to scheduling to fuel," Foulkrod said. "It was very much an involved process."

Though government officials initially described the flight as a "private" trip by Clinton, Foulkrod said that travel preparations were closely coordinated with the Air Force, the U.S. State Department, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The logistics required services, permits, visas," he said. "We could not do this without an unprecedented level of cooperation."

Dow Chemical Also Provides Trip Support

Foulkrod estimated that aviation fuel costs for the trip will total $20,000. On the way from Burbank, Calif., to Pyongyang, the 18-seat jet stopped at American Air Force bases in Alaska and Japan to refuel, Foulkrod said. It stopped once in Japan on the way back. The Air Force, he said, will bill Avjet for the fuel costs.

Communication costs -- namely a bill for using a satellite phone necessary for diplomatic phone calls -- could amount to $15,000, he said.

Other expenses include maintenance costs, catering expenses, landing fees and other incidental costs.

The Dow Chemical company also provided support for the Clinton trip. Foulkrod said that a Dow plane flew Clinton to Burbank before the trip began.

Dow said in a statement today that the company was "grateful that Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee are back home safely and we were honored to contribute to President Clinton's humanitarian mission to obtain their release."

At a press conference this morning, Ling thanked Dow, its CEO Andrew Liveris, Bing and a host of others, including government officials and members of Clinton's team, for their work in helping bring the journalists home.

ABC News' Nathalie Tadena contributed to this report.