Once upon a time, Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was a bustling mall with shops, a pink marble atrium, and an indoor waterfall. On a recent visit, the waterfall and pink marble were still there, but the escalator from the first floor was cordoned off, an exchange office was closed, and small shops on the ground floor were converted into showcases for Trump’s branded fan shop.
There’s something new: a wine and whiskey bar called 45. Its logo, surrounded by stars, looks like a presidential seal. Inside are huge pictures of the former president, in and around the White House.
Trump Tower embodies the contradictions of Donald Trump’s post-presidency business. There is a seal of approval for sale, but also an extremely polarizing brand. Trump’s Persistent Lies About 2020 Elections Have Driven Potential Partners Off; After the January 6 attack on the Capitol, employees of the Deutsche Bank of the Professional Golf Association withdrew.
There is an ongoing criminal fraud case by the Manhattan Attorney General against the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg. The New York Attorney General and Westchester District Attorney are also investigating. Trump, his company and the CFO have denied wrongdoing.
Donald Trump did not put his name back on many corporate documents after his presidency; Weißelberg, charged with 15 crimes, removed his own name from some corporate documents; only the names of Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are included in many management filings.
Even without all of the brand challenges, Trump is heavily involved in businesses like office rentals and retail that are struggling in the aftermath of the pandemic. Just this month, Forbes removed the former president from the list of the 400 richest people. If Trump had sold his fortune and invested in markets during his presidency – as recommended by ethics experts – he would have been $ 4.5 billion richer today, Forbes said.
“What kind of company do you want to invest in in 2021?” asked Dan Alexander, the senior editor at Forbes who calculated Trump’s fortune. “Not many people would choose big office buildings and big chic hotels in urban areas.”
The New York State Comptroller released a report earlier this month showing that the value of Manhattan office buildings has fallen by $ 28 billion since the pandemic began. Tourism and retail also collapsed.
“The impact has been really negative in what is called the stationary economy,” said Kathy Wylde of the New York City Partnership, a group of companies.
Neither the Trump organization nor the former president’s spokesman responded to requests for comment.
Even though there are millions of dollars in debt, Trump still has a steady income
Trump’s problems extend beyond New York City. In the years before he became president, Trump bought golf resorts. Although golf has grown in popularity due to the pandemic, Trump resorts from Doral, Florida to Doonbeg, Ireland have seen a loss in conference and tourism customers. Trump’s trademark licensing business is largely stagnating. His Washington hotel lost $ 74 million during his presidency, Congress recently reported.
Andrea Bernstein / NPR
On a recent day at Trump Tower, the escalator was cordoned off from the first floor and small shops on the ground floor were converted into showcases for Trump branded goods.
While Trump disclosed hundreds of millions of dollars in debt during his presidency, his company still owns valuable assets. He earns a steady income from commercial real estate outside of his New York and San Francisco names.
“I don’t think it’s as doomed as many people think,” said Forbes’ Alexander of Trump’s business.
But the Trump brand’s problems are easy to find. At Trump Tower in Manhattan recently, tourists entering and exiting the building reacted not only to the property they had seen but also to the man.
“I like Trump Tower. I like Trump. He’s done pretty cool things,” said Augustin Trustin, an entrepreneur from Buenos Aires, Argentina. But Gail Norwood, an Alabama retiree who had just gone shopping with her granddaughter at the Gucci store that rents retail space on the first floor on Fifth Avenue, refused to enter the main building.
“I’m not going to step on the floors. I’m not even going to walk on the floor. I feel so strong,” said Norwood. She said she didn’t know the Gucci store is in Trump Tower. “I did not know that. Maybe I waited out here and sent them in. ”
Some do not see this as an insurmountable hurdle.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a former president or a former shah or a former dignitary, there are always backstories to the real estate world, especially in New York City,” said Adelaide Polsinelli, vice chairwoman of Compass Realty. She said she went through five real estate cycles in 30 years. “They all end the same way – with New York City returning stronger than before, at levels no one expected and at a price higher than the previous cycle.”
Trump is still trying new things. In mid-October, he announced a new publicly traded company: Trump Media & Technology Group. Its future is uncertain.
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