Trump’s real-estate empire pays price for poisonous politics

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock (10155748e) President Donald Trump listens to a question during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington Trump, Washington, USA - 14 Mar 2019
Joseph Tanfani

Former U.S. president Donald Trump’s slashing rhetorical style and divisive politics allowed him to essentially take over the Republican Party.

His supporters are so devoted that most believe his false claim that he lost the 2020 election because of voter fraud.

But the same tactics that have inspired fierce political loyalty have undermined Trump’s business, built around real-estate development and branding deals that have allowed him to make millions by licensing his name.

Trump’s business brand was once synonymous with wealth and success, an image that now clashes sharply with a political brand rooted in the anger of his largely rural and working-class voter base.

His presidency is now associated in the minds of many with its violent end, as supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Those searing images, along with years of bitter rhetoric, are costing Trump money. Revenues from some of his high-end properties have declined, vacancies in office buildings have increased and his lenders are warning that the company’s revenues may not be sufficient to cover his debt payments, according to Trump’s financial disclosures as president, Trump Organization records filed with government agencies, and reports from companies that track real-estate company finances.

Prospective tenants in New York are shunning his buildings, one real-estate broker said, to avoid being associated with Trump.

Organizers of golf tournaments have pulled events from his courses. Trump’s focus on the political brand has increasingly overtaken his identity as a real-estate mogul, says one hospitality industry veteran.

“Prior to his political career, the Trump brand was about luxury – the casinos, the golf resorts,” said Scott Smith, a former hotel executive and hospitality professor at the University of South Carolina. “When he entered into politics, he took the Trump brand in an entirely different direction.”

Trump’s business also remains under the cloud of a joint criminal fraud investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the New York Attorney General.

The company and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, have been charged with a scheme to evade payroll taxes, and investigators continue to probe whether Trump or his representatives committed fraud by misrepresenting financials in loan applications and tax returns. Weisselberg and the company deny wrongdoing and are contesting the charges.—Reuters

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