President Donald Trump’s adult sons, who now manage his sprawling business empire, were guests of honour at the launch of a new luxury golf course in Dubai, the first opening of a Trump-branded property since Inauguration Day.
Eric and Donald Jr. presided as the red carpet was rolled out at the 30,000-square-foot (2,787 sq metre) clubhouse for the Trump International Golf Course, the first Trump golf resort in the Arab world.
The plush kick-off event started just after sunset on a clear, blustery evening. Guests - a mix of local and foreign business people - were treated to canapes of quail egg, tuna tartar and spring rolls, and a string orchestra played Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” No alcohol was served.
The 18-hole course is part of a larger villa and apartment building project by Dubai-based developer Damac Properties Dubai Co. PJSC, which is owned by billionaire Hussain Sajwani. The layout was designed by architect Gil Hanse, who also designed the 2016 Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro.
A corporate membership is about $15,000 (55,000 dirhams) up front plus about $21,800 per year, according to a rate card distributed at the event. A single person can join for $6,800 plus a $9,530 annual fee.
Damac has a second resort under development, the Trump World Golf Club Dubai, which is being designed by golfer Tiger Woods. Damac paid Trump as much as $10 million in 2015 and the first part of 2016, according to his financial disclosure filed in May.
As president-elect, Trump said he turned down a $2 billion deal with a major property developer in Dubai because he didn’t “want to take advantage of something.” Damac confirmed the talks with Trump, without specifying whether the deal involved properties in Dubai or when the discussions took place.
Sajwani and his family attended the lavish New Year’s Eve party at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where Trump, then the president-elect, praised his Dubai partner. It’s unclear if that was where Trump and Sajwani discussed additional property deals. Trump is spending a third consecutive weekend at Mar-a-Lago while his sons represent him in Dubai.
Trump, the first billionaire U.S. president, didn’t divest from his assets upon becoming commander in chief, bucking a norm established over four decades by U.S. leaders and their deputies. His refusal poses unprecedented conflicts of interest given Trump’s estimated $3.6 billion in assets and more than $600 million of debt tying him to businesses and governments in about 20 countries.
Testing the Boundaries
The president has said the company won’t do any new international deals while he’s in office, but moves by the business in the past month are already testing the boundaries of that vow. A hotel planned for Dallas is backed by investors from Turkey, Qatar and Kazakhstan. The Trump Organization is considering reviving a resort development deal at Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic, dormant since the 2008 financial crisis, after Eric Trump visited the site earlier this month.
Existing deals are also testing Trump’s independence. The world’s biggest lender, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., is a tenant at Trump Tower in New York, and Trump’s business partner for a tower in the Philippines serves as special government envoy to the U.S.
Critics have also targeted Trump’s upscale hotel inside the historic Old Post Office in Washington, which opened for business weeks before the election. The lease with the federal government to operate the hotel expressly prohibits any elected official from benefiting from the property.
In their profiles on the Trump organization’s website, describing “the next generation,” Donald Trump Jr, 39, is listed as an executive vice president at the family business. Eric Trump, 33, is executive vice president of development and acquisitions, “responsible for all new project acquisition, development and construction around the world.”
Daughter Ivanka Trump was involved in the early stages of the Dubai development; on her website she described “reviewing design elements and checking in on the progress” of the golf course, resort and residential community during a visit in May 2015. Trump, 35, has stepped away from the family business and moved to Washington where her husband, Jared Kushner, 36, is a senior adviser to the president.
News by Bloomberg, edited by Hospitality Ireland