DORAL, Fla. — It is happy hour at Trump National Doral Miami, the sprawling resort that is the biggest cash generator in President Trump’s business portfolio. But on a weekday evening in November, only a few sprinklings of patrons grace the resort’s bar and high-end steak house. Tables with lit candles sit empty through the night.
The Doral — which Mr. Trump proposed as the site of next year’s Group of 7 meeting before backing off amid intense criticism — is emblematic of the financial pressure on Mr. Trump since he won the White House three years ago. His highest profile hotel properties have become battlefields in the partisan wars that have pushed down occupancy and enmeshed them in constitutional issues about the ability of a president to own and run a business while in office.
But 1,300 miles up the coast, a bustling 43-story officer tower on Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan tells a more nuanced story about the state of the Trump Organization.
The building, partially owned by Mr. Trump, does not carry his name, draws no protesters and has never garnered the president’s attention on Twitter. And his revenues from leasing office space in the building are surging, part of a trend in which his commercial building holdings are largely offsetting the shrinking of his hotel business.
With hotel expansion plans thwarted, marquee hotels in New York, Panama and Toronto stripped of the Trump name, and revenues lagging or relatively flat at properties like Doral, rising rent collections at office and commercial properties have provided the Trump Organization a sorely needed boost.
Revenues at office towers on Sixth Avenue in Midtown, on Wall Street in downtown Manhattan and at a third building in San Francisco — cities that are centers of political opposition to the president — have each jumped during Mr. Trump’s tenure in the White House, outperforming the family’s much better recognized assets like Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, financial filings show.
“Our office buildings are killing it,” Eric Trump said in an interview. “It is under appreciated.”
The result: total company revenues have remained fairly steady over the past several years, even as some of the Trump hotels have seen declines in sales or at least lagged behind competitors in other cities such as Miami and Chicago. Because public filings about the Trump Organization’s businesses generally only include revenue figures, it is not possible to determine the company’s profits or losses.
At the same time, the company has kept its debt levels relatively low, uncharacteristic of Mr. Trump’s penchant for leverage. That has given the company financial flexibility to weather the squeeze on the hotels and fluctuations in another big line of business, its golf courses.
Hotels are the most visible part of the company, but it also includes 16 golf clubs, the office buildings, several luxury condo buildings, a real estate brokerage, a Virginia vineyard and licensing deals for the Trump name to international partners in real estate and other ventures.
For this report, The Times analyzed five years of Mr. Trump’s personal financial disclosure statements, which he first filed as a candidate and then as president. His candidate reports covered periods longer than a calendar year, so The Times adjusted the figures for comparison. Additionally, The Times obtained loan data and other financial reports that offered a fuller picture of the performance of Mr. Trump’s commercial real estate portfolio, and loan data on Trump Organization properties.
Hotels account for about 25 percent of the revenues. About 30 percent comes from golf courses and clubs like Mar-a-Lago, the Florida property where the president likes to spend weekends during the winter.
Another 30 percent is derived from commercial buildings like 1290 Avenue of the Americas — where on a recent chilly morning, several office workers said they either had no idea about the Trumps’ stake in the tower or had put it out of mind.
Documents offer a hint of how the company’s commercial real estate portfolio — built less around the Trump brand than other parts of the Trump Organization — has increasingly functioned as a steadying force for the family business as its founder has become more polarizing.
Trump Organization had at least $572 million in revenue in 2018, about even with 2017, The Times found. Revenue remained stable because commercial real estate added $17 million while hotels and branding deals fell off by about the same amount.
Different filings by the Trump Organization examined by The Times often show differing revenue amounts for the same buildings, as ProPublica has reported recently. But the trend holds that the office properties have performed better than other assets.
Doral, about seven miles from Miami International Airport, reflects the challenges the hotel business has faced, with even Mr. Trump acknowledging that his politics have driven away certain customers.
The Trump family bought the resort in 2012 out of bankruptcy and then spent, according to its own tally, $250 million to renovate the 800-acre complex, remaking its lobby, golf courses and meeting center and constructing new luxury villas.
The resort brought in sales of $92 million in 2015, with particularly strong business at its restaurants and bars, which include a BLT Prime steakhouse, according to financial reports filed with the county tax assessor.
But by 2016, as the presidential campaign was fully underway, the resort began to fall far short of its revenue projections, and sales dropped to $75 million by 2017. The hotel was only filling about half of its 643 rooms on an average night, far below its competitors, internal company records shared with the tax assessor show.
A tax consultant for the Trump Organization told the county late last year, in a recording obtained through an open records request and first reported by The Washington Post, that there was “some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.”
Miami Dade County reduced the hotel’s tax assessment again this year after concluding the hotel had suffered an additional “decline in room revenue projections.” The Trump Organization said the performance of the Doral has rebounded somewhat this year.
But on one recent weekday, with no large events at the resort, the cavernous Donald J. Trump Ballroom sat empty, as did the smaller Ivanka Trump ballroom, with its Austrian crystal chandeliers.
Rather than seeking out the luxurious experience that Mr. Trump has always sought to sell, many of the guests seemed to have ended up at the hotel almost by accident, after finding relatively cheap rates on the internet.
“It is a little too much — the Trump name in gold letters,” said Fernando Oliveria, who was visiting on a work trip from Brazil, after seeing the large “Trump” sign near the hotel entrance. “But it is a nice venue, at a good price.”
Even this week — during the peak holiday season — the least expensive room rate at the Trump Doral resort — $194 a night — was much lower than the two nearby golf resorts that the Trump Organization told Miami tax officials it should be compared to. The PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens was offering a room for $309, and the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa was charging $538 a night.
Financial reports also show declines in the Trump Organization’s branding businesses, which sell the family name to be used on new residential towers outside the United States and licensing it for products from bottled water to furniture and ties. When he took office, Mr. Trump pledged that his business would not enter into new international deals, which had been a growth area for the company, though in September the Trump Organization received approval in Scotland for the construction of 500 homes and 50 hotel cottages next to the Trump family’s Aberdeen golf club.
Further questions about the overall financial health of the Trump Organization emerged after the company moved recently to put its hotel in Washington up for sale.
When it opened in 2016, Trump International Hotel in Washington quickly became a top revenue-generating asset. But sales leveled off in its second full year of operations, Mr. Trump’s financial disclosure covering 2018 showed, even with the steady stream of business coming from Republican groups, lobbyists, business executives and even foreign diplomats, who often are seeking help from the administration.
The potential sale of the hotel — it operates out of the federally owned Old Post Office building between the White House and the Capitol — is premised on the idea that a new owner could significantly increase revenue from corporations and foreign governments. A different owner likely would not have to contend with political opposition that drives away some corporate events, or limitations on certain international business — a result of a constitutional prohibition on the president accepting payments outside of his salary from domestic or foreign governments.
But for the most part, the trend of declining or stagnant revenues does not extend to the Trump Organization’s office buildings.
The 40 Wall Street tower, near the New York Stock Exchange, has seen its net operating income — a measurement of profit — nearly double since 2015, according to financial results assembled by Trepp, a New York-based firm that maintains a national database of the financial health of buildings backed by commercial mortgage backed securities.
The building, controlled by Mr. Trump since 1995 and which has “The Trump Building” on its facade, signed a series of new leases this year with tenants including Katz & Rychik, a law firm, and Unified Capital, a business lender, according to leasing data maintained by Compstak, which runs a commercial real estate database.
The building generated $42.7 million in revenue last year, according to Trepp, more than the Trump hotel in Washington saw in business in 2018. While Mr. Trump has been in office, the Trump Organization has also paid down a loan on the building by 11 percent to $142 million, leaving the building, worth about $540 million, with a relatively small amount of debt compared to its value, said Manus Clancy, a senior managing director at Trepp.
Another office property that has had a strong recent run is 1290 Avenue of the Americas, of which the Trump family is a 30 percent owner. The primary owners of the building, which is near Radio City Music Hall, is Vornado Realty Trust, which has continued to find top-paying new tenants for the building, including a recent major new lease to Linklaters, the global law firm, which rented more than three floors in the building.
The Trump family is also a 30-percent owner of the 555 California Street building in San Francisco, which Vornado also controls and for years was known as the Bank of America tower. The 1.8 million square foot complex is considered the second most valuable office tower in San Francisco and it is listed as 100-percent leased as of the end of September, in a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, an extremely hard standard to achieve in such a large building. Blue chip tenants in the building include Morgan Stanley, McKinsey & Company and Microsoft.
Net operating income at the building jumped nearly 20 percent between 2016 and 2018, according to Vornado’s annual reports. Mr. Trump had once sued to block a real estate deal that resulted in him owning 30 percent of these highly profitable Vornado buildings. Forbes, in an article about these properties, estimated the Trump family’s stake in the buildings has jumped by a total of $230 million since Mr. Trump became president.
Now these skyscrapers are helping push up his family company’s bottom line, even through Vornado actually runs the towers.
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