NEW YORK -- When workers pried the Trump name off another Manhattan building earlier this year, it capped a bad few weeks for the president's businesses.
Donald Trump's golf resorts in Scotland had just posted millions of dollars in losses, one of his hotels in Panama had rebranded itself a Marriott, and New York officials announced they were looking into how he avoided paying tens of millions in taxes.
All that, along with the daily drumbeat of Trump tweets and headlines about investigations into his administration, led Austin, Texas, tech executive Gary Barrett to finally give up hope of ever turning a profit on an apartment he bought as an investment in a Trump tower in Las Vegas.
"People with enough cash to buy these units seem to be shying away from the Trump name," says Barrett, calling it "the Trump effect."
From golf fees and licensing deals to prices for Trump condominiums, many metrics used to gauge his business in the first two years of his presidency are down as the divisive comments and policies so beloved by his political base have turned off a group just as dear to him -- the affluent who fuel his businesses.
"He can be very polarizing. ... The brand has been diminished," says Jeff Lotman, chief executive officers of licensing firm Global Icons. New York brand consultant Robert Passikoff puts it more bluntly: "The Trump brand has lost its mojo."
Though it's difficult to know just how badly Trump's privately held businesses are hurting, Associated Press interviews with two dozen club members, condo buyers and real estate experts suggest the impact has been broad and sustained, with the same political divisions among voters playing out on the links and in clubhouses and condominium board meetings.
The Trump Organization did not respond to repeated requests for comment but has said in the past its core operations are strong.
From the beginning, though, there were signs that mixing politics and business were backfiring. It started when Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, calling some Mexican immigrants crossing the border illegally "rapists," and then snowballed the next year following the Access Hollywood tape of him boasting about grabbing women by the genitals.
Macy's and Univision severed ties with his brand, mattress maker Serta stopped licensing his name, NASCAR and the PGA booked events that used to be held at his Doral resort in Miami elsewhere, and the TV network that aired his Apprentice -- NBC -- ended its relationship with him.
Then Trump blamed "both sides" for violence at the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., in the summer of 2017, and more than a dozen charities and other organizations canceled galas and other parties at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. A hotel in the Soho section of Manhattan that had a licensing agreement to use his name took it off its building, following a decision by one in Toronto to do the same.
The revolt has extended to new Trump hotel ventures aimed at those who can't afford $450 or more to stay at his big-city hotels. Early last year, the Trump Organization announced the rollout of two chains -- one mid-priced, the other budget -- and said it had signed letters of intent for possible deals with more than 20 developers.
Today, only one deal, in Mississippi, has been announced. Hotel experts say potential partners don't want to deal with the controversy the Trump name brings.
"In today's politically charged environment, everyone is cautious," says Lee Hunter, CEO of consultancy Hunter Hotel Advisors in Atlanta. "You want as many guests staying with you as possible."
Trump's condos in New York have taken a hit, too.
An AP analysis of sales data from brokerage CityRealty shows prices per square foot have fallen in nine of the 11 Trump-branded buildings in Manhattan in the first 10 months this year after dropping last year, too. Since Trump has taken office, prices have fallen 9 percent on average and are now down to levels not seen in five years. In that time, Manhattan condos overall have risen 29 percent.
CityRealty consultant Zach Gutierrez says Trump buildings are suffering partly because they look dated next to all the new luxury buildings that have gone up in recent years. But he adds that it doesn't help that some apartment hunters won't even consider a Trump building now.
"His politics are definitely alienating people," Gutierrez says.
Ivanka Trump's business has been hit by the political backlash, too.
The president's daughter shut down her company making dresses, shoes, handbags and other accessories in July after boycotts against her brand and after retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom decided to drop her line, the latter specifically citing weak sales. Her company said at the time that business was strong and that the shutdown was triggered by Ivanka's desire to focus more on her work as a White House adviser.
Ivanka's brother Eric Trump is similarly optimistic about his father's 17 golf resorts around the world, telling the AP earlier this year that the clubs are doing "spectacularly."
The few public numbers available suggest otherwise.
Financial reports released by the British and Irish governments in October show two Scottish resorts and one in Ireland lost millions last year, the fourth year in a row of losses. Revenue at his public course in the Bronx fell 9 percent in the first six months of this year, on top of a 7 percent drop for all of last year. Revenue from his Doral golf resort in Miami, which generates the bulk of Trump's golf revenue, is estimated by Forbes magazine to have plunged 26 percent last year.
Business on 12/25/2018
Print Headline: Trump presidency a hit to his brand