Donald Trump’s business in jeopardy with pandemic

Donald Trump is not only presiding over the world’s largest economy, threatened with collapse due to the new coronavirus pandemic. He also oversees the possible implosion of his own empire: the Trump organization, its hotels and golf clubs, which have made him a multi-billionaire.
In the United States and Canada, its five-star hotels are almost empty, its golf clubs in the United States, Ireland and Scotland are under pressure to stop, and its residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida , is closed.

Like many hotels around the world, most of the employees have been laid off, and the Trump organization’s revenues ($ 435 million in 2018) are likely to plummet. Difficult however to assess to what extent faced with a largely opaque organization on its finances.

“It hurts me, as it hurts Hilton and all the big hotel chains around the world,” said Donald Trump on Saturday. The New York-based family business is run by his two sons, Donald Junior and Eric, but the Republican billionaire has retained all of its shares.

The situation did not fail to raise concerns: some wonder how the response of the President to the epidemic of Covid-19 is guided by the interests of his company. Whether it is the 2,000 billion dollar economic aid plan on which the Democrats and Republicans have agreed, or its willingness displayed in recent days to push for the rapid end of containment measures.

“You can destroy a country by closing it this way,” he said on Tuesday, saying he hoped the restrictions would be lifted by mid-April.

The leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate Chuck Schumer assured Wednesday that the massive American recovery plan, which contains important measures intended for the companies, would not be used to save those of the president.

“We have put in place a clause,” he said on CNN. “Not only the president, but also any figure of the government, the Senate, the members of the Congress, if they or their family own the majority share of a company, they cannot be granted a loan”.

“Closed spa”

Donald Trump’s hotels are almost empty in New York, Washington, Chicago, Las Vegas, Vancouver and Hawaii. On Monday, the Scottish golf organization, anticipating an order to close, asked “all golfers in Scotland” to stop playing “until further notice”.

Despite this, the Trump organization refuses to completely close its main hotels.

“The hotel is open, the restaurants are closed, the spa is closed, the pool is closed,” a receptionist at Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York told AFP. Referring to a supermarket “across the street”, she explained that it was possible to buy food there and bring it to the rooms.

According to John Boardman, head of the Unite Here union branch in Washington, the Trump International hotel in the U.S. capital has not closed despite the massive dismissal of employees. “There is no sense in keeping it open. The hotel has an occupancy rate of maybe 3% ”.

“It doesn’t shut it down just to be able to say it’s still working,” said Boardman.

Personal benefit

Since becoming president, Donald Trump has faced numerous criticisms and even lawsuits – which have so far been unsuccessful – claiming that he was taking advantage of his position.

Bosses, diplomats or even kings seeking his favors have, for example, sometimes taken up residence in his hotels, notably the one located a stone’s throw from the White House.

The Washington Post reported the astronomical sums spent by Saudis to book entire wings of Donald Trump hotels, or the hefty bills sent to his own intelligence services when they accompany him to his properties.

Last week, the hospitality industry, which provides employment for 8 million people in the United States, asked the White House for $ 150 billion in aid to help tackle the new coronavirus epidemic.

“Today more than ever it is crucial for Americans to know that the president is acting in the public interest and not for his personal financial gain,” Elizabeth Wydra of the Constitutional Accountability Center told AFP.

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