What happens when a hotel is de-Trumped?

Life after Trump.
Life after Trump.
Image: Reuters/Chris Helgren
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The scene is at once cathartic and symbolic: A worker uses a crowbar to peel the name TRUMP from a hotel in Panama City, Panama—dumping the flimsy-looking letters in a plastic tub and into the back of a Hyundai. The now-viral video shows the de-Trumping of Donald Trump’s Panama City luxury hotel, the third to shed the Trump name since the US president’s inauguration.

The Panama tower was one of 12 properties remaining in Trump portfolio of hotels—properties which his firm mostly manages rather than owning the actual real estate involved. Since taking office, the Trump moniker has also been erased from hotels in Toronto and Manhattan, though the Panama “de-flagging” was the most dramatic—with some Trump Organization staff forced to leave the property in handcuffs (paywall).

So how does a hotel, once branded under the president’s controversial name, fare once it’s no longer Trump?

Life after Trump

The Adelaide: The cursed Trump Toronto is reborn

Toronto investor Alex Shnaide hoped that Trump’s reputation and celebrity would draw in guests and investors when he paid to brand the 65-story Trump International Hotel and Tower. But when it debuted in 2012, the streets around the hotel were shut down due to falling glass debris from the building. Five years later, a majority of the rooms were still empty, and lingering debt payments put the property into receivership (i.e. it went bankrupt).

Following a series of anti-Trump protests around the hotel, management reached an agreement to remove the Trump name from the building (paywall). The hotel’s new owners said the break was amicable, and had more to do with the city’s struggling luxury hotel sector than Donald Trump’s political reputation. Today, the building is getting a face lift: New interior design will scrap the Trump-style “champagne-and-caviar” lobby of black marble. And the hotel will soon become part of the St. Regis portfolio of properties—which means little change to its luxury pampering and service as far as guests are concerned.

Partial de-Trumping.
Partial de-Trumping.
Image: Chris Helgren/Reuters

The Dominick: New Trump SoHo owners paid the Trumps to exit 

The Trump SoHo made its debut on The Apprentice 11 years ago, but its bad luck began during construction when a worker plunged 42 stories to his death (paywall). The 46-story skyscraper immediately drew local opposition for violating zoning laws, followed by protests during the 2016 election. There was also a 2011 settlement in which the Trumps and other defendants paid millions after reporting false sales figures to condo buyers, and an investigation into the building’s ties to Russian deal maker, felon, and FBI informant Felix Sater (paywall).

Today, the property is managed by the CIM group, which paid the Trumps an undisclosed amount to terminate ownership. It is henceforth know as the the Dominick Hotel.

TBD: The Trump Panama soap opera comes to a close 

The 70-story hotel was the Trump’s only Latin America venture before new majority owner Orestes Fintiklis launched a legal battle to remove the Trump Organization after its “abysmal management” plummeted the property’s profits thanks to rooms that remained “virtually empty.”

After a two-week standoff that involved shouting and shoving matches, Fintiklis obtained a court order authorizing a change of administration. What happens next remains to be seen.

Full de-Trumping.
Full de-Trumping.
Image: Arnulfo Franco/AP Photo

More to come? 

Trump’s rapidly thinning hotel portfolio is beginning to resemble an episode of The Apprentice, but watchdog groups have warned the president that his refusal to divest from his company could lead to such predicaments. Since inauguration, for instance, his Washington hotel has come under repeated criticism for failing to disclose the flow of money from foreign governments into the property.

Despite the drama, the Trump Organization is currently attempting to launch two different chains of budget-friendly hotels with the Scion and American Idea. They, however, will not bear the Trump name.