Trump’s golf clubs in Scotland lost more than $24 million in 2016
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President Trump’s two name-branded golf courses in Scotland lost more than $24 million in 2016 — more than twice what they’d lost the year before — as revenue from golfers and overnight guests dropped, according to documents filed with the British government.
The filings, one of which was first reported by the Associated Press, show that both clubs struggled even as their namesake became one of the most famous men in the world.
At Trump International Golf Links, a course that Trump opened in 2012 near Aberdeen on Scotland’s northeast coast, losses increased 28 percent in 2016 to 1.4 million British pounds, or about $1.8 million.
The numbers were much larger at Trump Turnberry, a legendary 111-year-old course that he bought in 2014. There, losses more than doubled in 2016, to 17 million pounds, or $23 million.
A Trump Organization spokeswoman declined to comment.
Trump is not a beloved figure in the United Kingdom: Over the summer, a Pew Research Center poll found that only 22 percent of Britons had confidence that he would do the right thing.
But in the corporate filings, the Trump Organization did not blame politics for the declining revenue at its golf courses in Scotland. For the Aberdeen course losses, the Trump Organization instead blamed falling oil prices. The North Sea oil fields are an economic lifeline for the Aberdeen region, and the Trump Organization said locals spent less as prices fell.
At Trump Turnberry, the company said, the losses were caused partly by renovations that kept part of the resort closed for six months. The resort has since reopened, and the club opened a second golf course this year named after Scottish icon Robert the Bruce.
“The directors believe that the resort will return to profitability in the short to medium term,” wrote Eric Trump, the president’s son, in the Turnberry filing.
These figures are the latest evidence that Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his business — even while serving as president — has unleashed forces that are pulling his properties in opposite directions.
For some properties — the ones that can offer guests and members a hope of direct access to the president or his aides — the presidency seems to have been a boon. The Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, where Trump spends his weekends in the winter, doubled its initiation fee in January. Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington — frequented by trade groups and foreign leaders seeking to curry favor with the administration — has seen revenue soar.
But other properties, deprived of presidential visits, have faltered. His golf courses in Los Angeles and the Bronx have reported declining revenue. His hotel in Manhattan’s SoHo has reportedly contemplated layoffs.
The Scotland courses were clearly vulnerable to political backlash: To succeed in Scotland, he needs to attract wealthy foreign tourists to the Trump brand, even as his political brand is based on convincing Americans that foreigners are fleecing them.
The Scottish courses were a risky bet even before Trump got into politics. A Reuters investigation in 2016 found that Trump had invested hundreds of millions in each but had not come close to recouping his losses.
At the Aberdeen course, the Trump Organization’s plans seem to rely on a massive development at the property, including a new golf course and thousands of homes. But those plans have been held up by Scottish authorities, who worry about environmental damage.
Trump had also hoped to attract the Scottish Open to that course, seeking to establish it as a premier destination for golf tourists. But this summer, the Scottish Open’s corporate sponsor seemed to quash that idea.
“Trump, I don’t need to tell you, is a great golf course, but there are issues if we went there,” Martin Gilbert, chief executive of sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management, said in an interview with the Scotsman newspaper. “The worst thing would be if he came!”
At Turnberry, a visiting Washington Post reporter earlier this year spotted one sign that Trump’s political persona seemed to be turning some customers off. The Post reporter was there to look for a fake Time magazine cover — with fake headlines celebrating Trump’s success as a TV star — that had been hung up in a number of Trump golf clubs.
The cover had been hung in a bar at Turnberry. But by the time the reporter visited in June, it had been taken down and replaced by an old photo of the course.
Why had it come down? An employee said the reason wasn’t because it was fake.
The actual reason: because it was a photo of Trump.
“We certainly have been hearing more grumbling about all the stuff like that up on the walls since his election,” the employee said. “From Americans, mostly, funny enough. That’s why we all assumed they started taking some of his photos off the walls.”