Coronavirus Costing Trump Properties Over $1 Million Daily in Lost Revenue

Crisis is also complicating Trump Organization’s effort to sell long-term lease on Washington hotel at a record price

The coronavirus outbreak is costing Trump Organization properties more than a million dollars in lost revenue daily and may have hurt the firm’s chances of earning a record price on the sale of its Washington hotel, according to an analysis of industry data and people familiar with the deal talks.

The majority of revenues for President Trump’s family business comes from travel and leisure, which have been hit hard by the forced closures and economic downturn caused by the pandemic. The situation could worsen because golf accounts for about half of the roughly $440 million of income Mr. Trump reported in his latest government financial disclosure.

More than 500 staff at Trump properties in New York, Washington, Las Vegas and Florida have been laid off or furloughed, say people familiar with the matter and federal disclosures. Several Trump hotels have been closed, and those still running have experienced dwindling occupancies. One day in March, the family’s flagship Trump International Hotel in Washington had just 11 guests in its 263 rooms, according to an employee.

The outbreak also has derailed the organization’s effort to sell its long-term lease on the Washington hotel, which is in the former Old Post Office building. With extensions, the lease from the federal government runs close to 100 years. The organization was negotiating a deal with two potential buyers for between $320 million and $350 million, but those talks have stalled. At least one of the potential buyers was a consortium and both were hotel investors.

The family had hoped to raise as much as $500 million in a sale, according to people familiar with their thinking. But at $350 million, the deal still would have been the most-expensive hotel sale in Washington on a per room basis. People familiar with the sale process say a deal is unlikely until the impact of the pandemic becomes clearer.

“As we have done from day one, we are weighing all of our options,” Eric Trump, who runs the organization with his brother Donald Trump Jr., said in a statement. “Our main focus right now is to keep our amazing teams healthy and safe.”

The Trumps’ failure to close a deal could prove costly in other ways. The property, a short walk down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, is a hub of social activity among Republicans. If Mr. Trump isn’t re-elected this fall, much of that business could dry up quickly, and the Trump name on the hotel could keep other potential customers away.

Trump properties in Florida, including Mar-a-Lago and the Trump National Doral Miami, as well as in Las Vegas are closed.

“It’s like a ghost town here,” said Whitney Schneider, a Palm Beach, Fla., resident and member of Mar-a-Lago, which closed last week following an order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for all bars and restaurants in the state to shut.

The Trump Organization isn’t alone among hotel and golf course operators confronting a crisis with little precedent. Mr. Trump’s businesses are explicitly barred from taking any part in the roughly $2 trillion rescue package signed into law in March.

“The impact to our industry is already more severe than anything we’ve seen before,” Chip Rogers, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, a trade group, told President Trump in a meeting at the White House last month.

The Journal’s estimates of Trump hotel revenues are based on federal disclosures, interviews with former and current employees and travel-industry data from analytics firm STR. The estimates use average occupancy rates and pricing data for the luxury hotel category by city for March 2019.

Recent total revenues of the Trump Organization couldn’t be determined, though even before the pandemic hit, the firm’s reported performance had been sluggish, federal disclosures show. Its prime office properties may help to partly temper the revenue declines from hotel and golf assets.

The Doral is likely losing more than $200,000 each day the resort is closed, according to the estimates. Besides golf, former employees of the resort said big profits come from golf tournaments, conventions and other events that attract hundreds of visitors who also book hotel rooms at the Doral.

Even the hotels that remain open, such as in Washington and New York, appear to be taking big losses, with those two properties together forgoing around $300,000 or more in revenues each day, according to the estimates.

“Like virtually every other hospitality company, we are anxiously awaiting the day when our world-class properties can fully reopen their doors,” Eric Trump said in a written response to questions, without commenting on the properties’ revenues. “We have an unbelievably strong company and we continue to pray for the health and safety of all Americans.”

There is seasonality in many of the organization’s businesses. The Florida properties were closed near peak season, while business would normally pick up in hotels and golf courses in the north as summer approaches. In New York and New Jersey—the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S.—Trump golf courses reported annual revenues of around $45 million in the president’s latest financial disclosure.

As a result, some Trump-owned courses and their employees, through their participation in several industry groups, have supported efforts to lobby state and local officials to keep golf courses open during the pandemic or to win government relief if they are closed, lobbying disclosures show.

Jay Karen, chief executive of the National Golf Course Owners Association, a trade group, says golf courses should be allowed to stay open even with social-distancing guidelines in place, since players can remain 6 feet apart from one another and courses can limit the number of people playing at the same time.

Mr. Karen’s organization is part of an umbrella group called We Are Golf that lobbies federal, state and local officials. Trump courses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are members of the group’s local chapters.

Another group representing managers of Trump courses is the Club Management Association of America. That group in turn is a member of the World Golf Foundation, the parent of We Are Golf.

Jeff Morgan, the CMAA president, said his members are hoping that facilities like golf courses will be eligible for federal assistance programs that excluded them in the past.

The pandemic is another setback to the Trump Organization’s thwarted ambitions to build a world-wide luxury hotel empire. Even before the coronavirus struck, the Trumps were forced to abandon plans to work with Middle Eastern, Asian and other foreign partners on luxury hotels because of conflict-of-interest concerns after Mr. Trump won the White House.

“We walked away from billions of dollars’ worth of deals and ceased virtually all expansion,” Eric Trump previously has said.

Some Trump hotel owners have removed the name and terminated the company’s management, including the 70-story Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama City, which is shaped like a ship’s sail and is now a JW Marriott. A Trump hotel in Toronto went into receivership in 2016 and today operates as a St. Regis.

The Trumps’ effort to launch more lifestyle-oriented brands in the U.S. aimed at younger travelers and with a lower price point never went anywhere and has been shut down.

The War on Coronavirus Comes to Trump Properties

Health restrictions have led to cutbacks at hotels and golf courses. But the swimming pool remains open at a Florida resort, and a New York golf course offers “fresh air” without caddies.

Reeling from the global fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump’s family business has cut back hotel operations, closed some golf courses and restaurants and shed dozens of workers — all while pushing to keep other properties open and promote them on social media.

In recent days, the Trump Organization cut staff from hotels in New York and Washington, halted new reservations at a hotel overlooking the Las Vegas Strip and closed golf courses in Los Angeles and the Miami area, according to people with knowledge of the matter. It also closed the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, which normally would be at a peak right now, with regular seasonal visits by Mr. Trump himself.

The cutbacks, expected to continue in coming days, were a last resort, a company executive said, as the priority had been keeping thousands of employees and contract workers on the job. The company has a portfolio of more than a dozen golf clubs and at least partially owns or operates five-star hotels in Chicago, Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York, Vancouver and Washington, as well as Ireland and Scotland.

Generally, the company has folded the tent only when local authorities mandated it, despite a growing national urgency to limit social gatherings and close nonessential businesses. In an interview, Eric Trump, the president’s son who manages the family business, said the company was trying to limit shutdowns.

“As an organization we are following federal, state and local direction and guidance very carefully,” he said.

For those properties that remain open, the company has continued promotional campaigns on social media and through direct email.

On Friday morning, Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, a public course in the Bronx, invited guests on Twitter to play a round: “Looking to get some #freshair? The golf course is a great place to relieve stress and exercise social distancing #openingday.”

Similarly, the president’s golf club in Hudson Valley, N.Y., was closed for the winter season but opened its course to members on Wednesday as a sort of cure for cabin fever, according to an email reviewed by The New York Times.

“Governor Cuomo has recommended that we use public spaces and parks for exercise and relaxation,” the club said in the email to members. “With this in mind, we are opening the golf course to give you an opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy the great outdoors!”

The Trump Organization will undoubtedly take a major hit from the coronavirus crisis, though it is relatively well positioned, in part because it has a small overall share of debt compared with other major real estate companies, and because it has increasingly relied on rental revenue from office buildings in New York and San Francisco.

So far, the company has avoided the widespread shutdowns some larger hotel chains have taken on, such as the Hilton Worldwide Holdings, which is closing the bulk of its properties in major cities.

Chip Rogers, president and chief executive of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, a trade group, said this was the more common approach right now in the industry.

“The vast majority of hotels that are dependent on business or leisure travel don’t have the occupancy to stay open right now,” he said.

In the interview, Eric Trump explained that, unlike large hotel chains, the Trump Organization had the flexibility to make case-by-case decisions.

“All of the associates in our company are family, and we are all awaiting the moment this pandemic is defeated so we can reopen and get back to work, running the best assets in the world,” Mr. Trump said.

For now, the president’s company has continued to accept new reservations at its hotels in Chicago and on Central Park West in New York. But the New York hotel is shedding staff, laying off 40 employees so far, and reducing the hours of others, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In a letter to owners of hotel units in the building on Thursday, Matthew Vandegrift, general manager of the property, called it an “unprecedented event” and warned of a “significant shortfall in revenues.”

“While we recognize that hope is not a strategy, I can assure you we are thoroughly analyzing expenses,” Mr. Vandegrift wrote, in the letter obtained by The Times. “Strategies have been deployed to mitigate the expected financial losses as a result of COVID-19.”

Also this week, the Trump Organization shuttered most amenities inside its Washington hotel — the restaurant, bar and spa — to comply with a local order. Ordinarily a magnet for Republican officials and lobbyists, the property was turning away anyone without a room key or a reservation on Wednesday.

Mickael Damelincourt, the managing director, posted a message on Twitter showing the hotel’s empty lobby. “A sleepy America’s Living Room … Ready to rebound bigger than ever … Be safe everyone!!!” he wrote.

The hotel has roughly 5 percent occupancy, and 95 percent of the staff is not working at the moment, according to John Boardman, the executive secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 25, a union with 174 workers at the hotel. He called it a “real skeleton staff” in the same predicament as other nearby hotels. The union is negotiating benefits for displaced workers with the Trump hotel and others.

The industry is devastated,” Mr. Boardman said. “It is devastated in the near term, and what we are starting to see is a round of longer-term cancellations as the uncertainty increases. We are not expecting people to be called back to work any time soon.”

Over the past week, several Trump businesses, on their various social media accounts, gave little sense that something was amiss. The Doral resort near Miami suggested a Friday the 13th game of golf and a round of drinks at the bar. On Monday, the Westchester, N.Y., golf club showed off its 101-foot waterfall. And on Sunday, the Washington hotel invited guests to join in for “Dessert Night” on Fridays.

But by Wednesday morning, many of the accounts posted an American flag and a variation of a message sending well wishes to patrons during “these uncertain times.”

As recently as last Saturday morning, the Trump golf club in Bedminster, N.J., e notified members of plans to “remain open,” adding, “We hope that you and your families will continue to see it as a place where you can relax and enjoy the terrific weather we’re having before spring has even started,” an email reviewed by The Times said.

That night, the club hosted a private party, a person with knowledge of the gathering said.

But after Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey instituted various restrictions on recreational businesses, the club notified its members on Tuesday that although they could still play golf, there would be no caddies, or pretty much any other services. “Wash your hands!” the email exhorted.

The president’s Mar-a-Lago club was the site of events earlier in March that included several people who have since been confirmed to have coronavirus, including two Brazilian officials who accompanied President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil to a dinner with Mr. Trump at the resort on March 7.

Last week, The Trump Organization sent out a notice to Mar-a-Lago members notifying them that the club would be cleaned on Monday but remain open the rest of the week.

Now, the club has closed, at least temporarily, based on calls for social distancing.

Not far away, at the golf resort in Doral, another of Mr. Trump’s highest-profile properties, the company was still accepting new reservations on Friday, though it had shut down its courses and restaurants. Still, according to a hotel employee, the family pool remained open.