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After Capitol violence, Trump brand partners eye dumping toxic asset: The president

"He was one of the strongest human brands we had ever seen," one branding expert said. "The guy burned his bridges."
Image:  Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City
Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City on June 22. In President Donald Trump's hometown alone, there are 17 properties that bear — or used to bear — the Trump name.Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images file

From country clubs to entertainment shows, President Donald Trump's business empire could face heavy pressure after his involvement in last week's violence at the U.S. Capitol.

While consumer mass-market merchandise deals for Trump ties and steaks, as well as his daughter Ivanka's clothing line, largely evaporated years ago, Trump still holds millions of dollars' worth of real estate development and name licensing deals.

The New York mayor's office said it was looking at its legal options to end agreements with Trump Organization properties.

The Trump Organization develops and manages the Trump Golf Links golf course at Ferry Point in the Bronx in an agreement with the city, and it licenses and operates three facilities in Central Park: the Wollman skating rink, the Lasker Rink and the Central Park Landmark Carousel.

"The attacks on our Capital killed a police officer, left four rioters dead, exposed lawmakers to Covid-19 and threatened the constitutional transfer of power," Laura Feyer, deputy press secretary for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in an emailed statement. "They were a national abomination. We're reviewing whether legal grounds exist in light of these new circumstances to terminate concessions with the Trump Organization."

Lucrative arrangements like those could be at risk if partners follow the lead of the PGA of America, which on Sunday pulled the 2022 PGA Championship tournament from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

PGA President Jim Richerson said in statements that the board of directors voted to "exercise the right to terminate the agreement" because holding the tournament there would be "detrimental to the PGA of America brand" and damage its long-term growth.

The Trump Organization said in a statement Sunday: "We have had a beautiful partnership with the PGA of America and are incredibly disappointed with their decision. This is a breach of a binding contract, and they have no right to terminate the agreement."

On Monday, R&A, which runs the British Open, the world's oldest golf championship, said it has no plans to stage the tournament again at Trump's Turnberry Golf resort in Scotland, which has hosted it four times. The organization said in 2016 that the course was part of the pool of nine potential locations.

"We will not return until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself, and we do not believe that is achievable in the current circumstances," R&A CEO Martin Slumbers said in a statement.

Many other deals could be under review by businesses as they, in turn, assess the legal options and risks.

"They're reviewing what adverse effect, if any, this could have on their company due to their association with the Trump name," said William O'Connor, a partner at the Thompson & Knight real estate group in New York City.

Trump's wealth rests largely on his real estate ventures. He owns the Mar-a-Lago and Trump Doral resorts in Florida, Trump Tower in New York and Trump Doonbeg golf resort in Ireland.

He also has a prominent partnership with Vornado Realty Trust for properties at 1290 Sixth Ave. in New York City and 555 California St. in San Francisco. Vornado Realty Trust did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, after difficulties with debt and failed development properties, Trump pivoted to a different business model: Instead of building properties himself and taking on those risks, he would sell the rights to his name to other developers.

Some properties have since voted to remove or diminish the prominence of the Trump name.

In Trump's hometown alone, there are 17 properties that bear — or used to bear — the Trump name, including Trump International Hotel, 1 Central Park West and Trump Palace Condominiums at 200 East 69th St. But Trump himself directly owns only a handful, according to research by Actovia, a real estate analytics company.

In 2018, the majority owner of the property known as Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, Panama, removed the Trump name, saying it impaired the hotel's ability to attract guests. It has rebranded as the JW Marriott Panama.

Properties in Toronto and Rio de Janeiro that also boasted the Trump name now also sport different names.

Pending developments in India and Bali are still listed on the Trump Organization website as bearing the logo, and Trump also has several international properties listed on a Trump Organization disclosure document as "branded" by Trump but not managed by the company, including Trump Tower at Century City in the Philippines, Trump Towers Istanbul and Trump Tower Mumbai.

Depending on how those deals are structured, all of them — and others — could be contract-based, and the contracts could include clauses pertaining to moral turpitude or bad acts, or they could simply be subject to "termination," O'Connor said.

"Some of these brand and licensing arrangements are periodically renewable or reviewable," and the licensing party could decide to end the agreement, O'Connor said.

In another potential stress, online activists began compiling lists of corporate tenants at Trump-owned and -branded properties, which could be subject to consumer pressure.

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Labels and retailers began abandoning the Trump brand at the start of his controversial presidential campaign. Department stores no longer offer Trump-branded jewelry, bedding, home fragrance and barware. Macy's pulled its Trump-branded clothing and accessories line in 2015. Ivanka Trump's women's clothing collection was shuttered after brands like Nordstrom stopped carrying it, removing signage and relegating remaining stock to sales racks.

But the Trump name still resonates in four categories, according to Brand Keys, a brand research consultancy: TV entertainment, country and golf clubs, real estate and hotels.

All but one have declined, showing modest lifts but only among Republicans: TV entertainment.

"He took a sharp right into politics and changed precisely what he was selling," said Robert Passikoff, a researcher for Brand Keys.

The power of the Trump brand 20 years ago was such that simply adding his name to a building would increase the price per square foot.

"He was selling luxury, exclusivity," Passikoff said. "It was literally the ability for him, as a brand, to imbue added value to whatever it was. If it was ice cream, it was luxury ice cream. If it was an airline, it was a luxury flight."

"The guy burned his bridges," Passikoff said. "He was one of the strongest human brands we had ever seen."