[COMMENTARY] Trump’s Downward Financial Trajectory Steepens

There may not be a more apt metaphor for Donald Trump’s trajectory as United States president than the escalator he rode down to the lobby of Trump Tower to announce his candidacy on June 16, 2015. Almost as soon as the then-real estate developer began descending through the pink marble atrium, the trend line of his portfolio’s value began its downward path.

You could almost hear the value of his branded office buildings, condos and golf clubs sink as he xenophobically branded Mexican immigrants to the U.S. as rapists and pledged to build a great big, beautiful wall to keep them out. Today, after staying on white grievance message for four years, abdicating responsibility for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and succeeding only in making himself the first twice impeached U.S. president, Trump now is confronting a daunting future.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Before times, Trump’s “art of the deal” took place some 50 floors above New York City’s Fifth Avenue. The former president’s new office is the old bridal suite of his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. And it’s from that repurposed dressing room in Florida that Trump is trying to figure out how to maximize cash flow from his massively diminished Trump Organization.

Trump, who said he turned over day-to-day management responsibilities of his companies to his two eldest sons while in office, has shown little interest in reassuming control since leaving the presidency in January. Mostly he’s focused on politics, plotting revenge on his perceived political enemies and raising money through his political action committee. And, of course, golf.

The coronavirus that he told Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward he always “played down” has wrecked the travel and hospitality industry that was the fount of his cash flow. Condo owners in buildings bearing his name in Chicago, Toronto, New York and Florida have unceremoniously removed the letters T R U M P from their edifices to discourage protesters from marching in front of their buildings and protect their property values.

As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, the financial sharks are circling Trump, trying to figure out how they might profit from his upcoming need to raise tons of cash. Four investors told the newspaper they are exploring how to either buy Trump’s properties at a steep discount or to buy the loans he has taken out on them. “The first thing you do is you take the Trump name off them — which, by the way, could be a multiple-week effort, because it’s on everything,” said one of the four, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no offer has been made yet. “Once it’s gone, it’s a competitive asset.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Brokers at other Trump-branded residential buildings say that property values dropped throughout his presidency, but since he’s mostly disappeared from the news and been banned from Twitter things have turned around a bit. Phil Skowron said in the past month buyers have snapped up units in Trump buildings below previous market value. “It’s gotten so cheap there. . . . You get a 30 or 40 percent discount, that’s real money.”

Whether Trump can raise enough cash from his remaining, non-encumbered assets to satisfy his looming financial obligations will be a spectacle worth monitoring in the coming months.

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