Despite mountains of publicity, Trump’s golf courses are losing value and his modeling agency is closing

Trump plays at the opening of his loss-making course in Aberdeen, Scotland in 2012.
Trump plays at the opening of his loss-making course in Aberdeen, Scotland in 2012.
Image: Reuters/David Moir
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Amid flurries of complaints about US president Donald Trump’s conflicts of interests and his alleged use of his office to advertise his businesses, one thing has for the most part been overlooked: despite their name being everywhere, many of Trump’s businesses aren’t doing well.

Trump Model Management, reportedly one of the president’s most beloved firms, on April 10 told business associates to prepare for its impending closure, according to Mother Jones magazine. Trump started the modeling agency alongside soon after he bought the rights to the Miss Universe pageant. It was meant as a vessel to bring yet more pizzazz to his name, and to enable him to scoop up winners of his pageants on modeling contracts.

The agency has been hit hard by Trump’s political career. Its brand became toxic within the modeling industry, spurring rumors of a boycott of Trump models. Top talent, staff, and clients began leaving in droves, and it hit the point of collapse last week.

In a statement, the Trump Organization said it is “choosing to exit the modeling industry” on the back of the sale of Miss Universe, which Trump offloaded after NBC and Univision refused to broadcast the pageant due to his derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants. “While we enjoyed many years of success, we are focused on our core businesses in the real estate and golf industries and the rapid expansion of our hospitality division,” the emailed statement said.

Trump Hotels is indeed planning a massive expansion in the US, with CEO Eric Danziger promising to build 50 to 100 mid-range cost hotels in the next three years. But Trump’s golf clubs, which make up a massive chunk of his declared overall revenue, are failing to keep up with the amount his firm has invested in them, according to independent valuations. The Wall Street Journal reports that based on local property and tax records, his 10 US golf clubs have gained $240 million in value since 2012, far below the $310 million the firm says it has ploughed into them. Participation in golf generally has dropped heavily since the 2008 financial crisis, and Trump’s only clubs required to disclose their finances—those in Scotland and Ireland—all reported losses in 2016, according to the Journal. Since taking office, Trump has given his golf courses mountains of free international publicity by making 16 visits to them in the first 80 days of his presidency.

The Trump Organization said it is “immensely proud” of its golf businesses. “Our clubs are performing incredibly well and we have amazing teams working hard to provide the ultimate luxury golf experience,” it said in an emailed statement. ”We will continue to invest in the game of golf.”