Last week, President Trump released his personal financial disclosures, giving the public its once-a-year glimpse inside the business he still owns from the Oval Office.
On the day of the release, most of the attention focused on a single footnote on page 45 of the 92-page document — and a single, relatively small debt revealed in that footnote.
In that note, President Trump admitted reimbursing his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $100,000-plus expense. That expense, it appears, was the $130,000 payment Cohen made to ensure the silence of adult-film star Stormy Daniels, shortly before Election Day 2016.
The other 91 pages — which detailed the debts, assets and revenue streams during 2017 — also provided new details about how the Trump presidency has reshaped the Trump Organization.
Below, the three revelations from those findings that were most surprising:
1.) Presidential visits do not always boost business.
President Trump has visited his own properties dozens of times while in office — but his visits have been concentrated among just a few of his clubs and hotels. It had seemed a good bet these few might have seen a boost in business during Trump’s first year. They offered an implicit deal to customers: Spend money here (for a $200 meal or a $200,000 membership), and you might meet the president!
But, at those clubs, the financial results for 2017 were surprisingly mixed.
Trump’s luxury hotel in Washington, D.C. — where the president often eats dinner — did very well. In 2017, its first full year of operation, it attracted business from foreign embassies, Republican congressmen, and conservative Christian groups. The forms show it took in more than $40 million in revenue.
But Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club — the “Winter White House,” which doubles as a for-profit beach club and banquet hall — reported a 10 percent decline in revenue. One reason: at least 19 charities canceled plans to rent Mar-a-Lago for fundraisers, after Trump said there were “very fine people” among violent crowds that included white supremacists in Charlottesville
Among the golf clubs the president frequents, there were mixed results in 2017. The golf clubs in West Palm Beach, Fla., Jupiter, Fla., and northern Virginia all reported declines in revenue. Trump’s club in Bedminster, N.J., where he spends long stretches in the summer, reported only a 2 percent increase.
2.) Trump’s money-losing courses in Scotland and Ireland reported big gains in revenue
Trump’s golf courses in Turnberry and Aberdeen, Scotland, and his course in Doonbeg, Ireland, have been losing money steadily in recent years. They looked like the boldest — and riskiest — purchases Trump made in his recent spate of all-cash deals. Trump also sank more than $210 million in the properties to keep them running. Trump styles himself “the King of Debt,” but in these three courses he was — uncharacteristically — spending his own money.
In 2017, the disclosure forms show, all three courses took a turn for the better.
At Aberdeen, revenue increased from about $3.2 million in 2016 to $3.4 million in 2017. At Turnberry, revenue nearly doubled, going from $11 million to $20 million. And at Doonbeg, revenue more than doubled, from about $6.6 million to $14.1 million. Possible reasons for the jumps: Both Doonbeg and Turnberry recently finished big renovation projects that had depressed revenue by closing off some facilities.
The question now: Did these courses actually turn a profit for the first time?
The financial forms do not show that. They do not show expenses going out, only revenue coming in. We will not know the full picture for these courses until later this year, when Trump’s company files 2017 profit-and-loss reports with the British and Irish governments.
3.) The Trump Organization is not expanding like it once did — but its old deals are still paying well.
Before Trump took office, the Trump Organization had been expanding its reach rapidly, by signing “licensed” real estate deals in foreign countries. These deals allowed other developers to put Trump’s name on their new hotels or condo buildings. In return, Trump got royalty payments, and often a contract to run the hotel.
After Trump took office, his son Eric took over day-to-day management of the business, and the Trump Organization said it would make no new foreign deals.
What happened next?
The financial disclosures show just three significant business lines were newly listed in 2018. One was a deal to build a Trump-operated hotel in small-town Cleveland, Miss. — the only outpost, so far, of a new “Scion” hotel line that was predicted to appear in 17 cities. The Mississippi hotel has not yet opened. The second is an online site, www.trumpstore.com that sells coffee mugs, golf balls, and other golf-themed tchotchkes with the president’s name. The third is a deal to operate a hotel in suburban Livingston, N.J., that is owned by the family business of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. That hotel does not carry the Trump brand, as first reported by the New York Times.
Even with the Trump Organization running in place, those old licensing deals continue to pay off. The financial disclosures forms show 11 different royalty payments last year from the owners of Trump-branded buildings, from India to Stamford, Conn. In all, they total at least $3,815,000.