President Trump’s company has agreed to remove the Trump name from its hotel in Lower Manhattan and give up management of the property, the most visible sign yet of the toll his presidency has taken on his brand.
The decision, announced by the company Wednesday afternoon, follows signs that business has flagged for months at Trump SoHo, beginning during his polarizing campaign last year.
The hotel's sushi restaurant closed. Professional sports teams, once reliable customers, began to shun the property. The hotel struggled to attract business for its meeting rooms and banquet halls, according to reporting by radio station WNYC.
Trump SoHo has emerged as one of the clearest examples of how Trump’s divisive politics have redefined his luxury hotel and real estate company, which spent years courting upscale customers in liberal urban centers where he is now deeply unpopular.
The Trump name appears poised to come off the SoHo hotel before the president celebrates his first year in office. “The transition is anticipated to take place by year-end,” the Trump Organization and the property’s owners said in a statement.
The change was first reported Wednesday afternoon by the New York Times.
The deal to remove the Trump name was made with the Trump SoHo condominium board and the property’s majority owner, CIM Group, a California-based real estate investment firm. The hotel is divided into condominiums whose owners allowed them to be rented out as hotel rooms.
“We recognize and sincerely appreciate [the Trump Organization’s] contributions to this exceptional asset,” Bill Doak, CIM Group’s first vice president of hotels, said in a statement.
The release did not specify what the building would be renamed or who would run it. Trump Organization and CIM Group officials declined to answer questions about the reasons for the move.
Officials described the transaction as a "buyout" but did not specify whether any money changed hands between the Trump Organization and the building's owners. The president's business now receives 5.75 percent of the hotel's operating revenue as a management fee, according to company documents posted online by Reuters.
This will be the third time since Trump's election that his name has been removed from a building. In July, the Trump name was taken off the Trump International Hotel in Toronto after the property's owner reached a similar buyout deal. The hotel will be reopened as a St. Regis, according to the Toronto Star.
And last year, the owners of three Trump Place apartment buildings in New York announced that those properties would be renamed after tenant complaints. Trump's company no longer had a business relationship with the buildings.
In the United States, the Trump name still adorns hotels in Honolulu, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and Washington. The Washington hotel, opened last year, has been a bright spot in the company's portfolio. Flush with business from Christian groups, trade associations and foreign clients, its profits have greatly exceeded expectations.
Elsewhere, the Trump Organization has seen greens-fee revenue fall at its golf courses in Los Angeles and the Bronx, and it has lost dozens of customers who rented out banquet rooms for parties or golf courses for charity tournaments.
One of the biggest changes has happened at Mar-a-Lago, the president's for-profit social club, which doubles as the "winter White House" in Palm Beach, Fla. Last summer, 19 charities canceled galas or other fundraisers they had planned for this winter at Mar-a-Lago, costing the Trump Organization hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
The SoHo hotel was once a jewel of the Trump empire. Opened in 2010, it offered Hudson River views, a spa named after Ivanka Trump and a location in one of New York’s most fashionable neighborhoods. Trump promoted the property on his reality show “The Apprentice.”
In 2012, prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney's office scrutinized the property's development as part of an investigation into whether Trump's children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. committed fraud by misleading condo buyers about the project, according to a report last month from ProPublica, WNYC and the New Yorker. District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. decided not to pursue charges.
In its early days, the hotel attracted Hollywood celebrities and many National Basketball Association teams. "When I stay here in New York, I'm at the Trump SoHo," Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook told GQ in 2014, saying the hotel's luxe lobby had inspired his fashion designs.
But by this year, at least 11 of the 12 NBA teams that previously stayed at Trump SoHo had quit. Some cited logistical reasons. Others said they could not stay at a hotel with Trump's name on it.
"The president has seemingly made a point of dividing us as best he can," Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr told The Washington Post in an interview earlier this year. His team quit using Trump SoHo in 2016. "He continually offends people, and so people don't want to stay at his hotel," Kerr said. "It's pretty simple."
Trump SoHo hotel rates have fallen dramatically. Rooms are routinely offered online for below $300 a night. Luxury Manhattan hotels took in an average daily rate of $451 in the second quarter of this year, according to the accounting and consulting firm PWC.
The Trump Organization does have plans to expand its hotel business, targeting areas where Trump's political brand is more popular.
Those plans include two new, less-expensive brands of hotels called Scion and American Idea. But since those brands were announced in June, progress has been slow. The three discount hotels that were supposed to start the American Idea brand are still operating under their old names.
And at the site chosen for the first Scion hotel, in Cleveland, Miss., construction stopped weeks ago while Trump Organization and its partners reworked plans.