The Trump Organization is putting the lease for the Trump International Hotel up for sale again, according to the Washington Post. The former President’s company has hired brokerage firm Newmark Group to market the lease as the DC property comes up as a potential point of interest in Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s investigation of Trump and his namesake company.
Trump has held the Old Post Office property on Pennsylvania Avenue since he won the lease from the General Services Administration in 2012. A pet project of daughter Ivanka Trump (who was then in a leading role in establishing and growing the Trump Hotel brand), the company beat out hotel giants like Hyatt and Marriott possibly due to the sheer size of its bid—$3 million a year for the ground lease, and a promise to invest $200 million in the building’s renovation. To pay for the project, Trump took out a $170 million loan from Deutsche Bank that comes due in 2024.
The company first put the property lease up for sale in October 2019, presumably in an attempt to capitalize off the red-hot real estate market and avoid dealing with more headache-inducing lawsuits against the company—it’s unconstitutional for a sitting President to receive items of value, or “emoluments,” beyond their salary, and there were concerns of ethics violations should Trump be profiting from the hotel stays of foreign governments.
Investors described the 2019 asking price of $500 million as “ridiculously high,” as by one industry-standard measure, its valuation would exceed that of the Waldorf Astoria New York by roughly 90 percent. Additionally, DC developer Brian Friedman indicated the Trump Organization was unwilling to part with management rights (ie, removing the giant “Trump” name from the building), unless that ballpark price was met. The result: few potential investors, with no bids coming close to $500 million, and many south of $250 million, according to CNBC.
The arrival of the pandemic put the sale on pause in early March 2020, then on indefinite hold in November after the hotel experienced a 63 percent drop in revenue, a layoff of 230 employees by April, and occupancy rates as low as 5 percent. January 6, 2021, brought another significant blow to the potential sale. Joining a wave of companies looking to distance themselves from the radioactive commander in chief, the original brokerage firm for the sale, JLL, announced it would no longer represent the hotel in any future sales ventures.