INTERNATIONAL - From the 300-plus crystal chandeliers to the gold-plated taps in the bathrooms, Donald Trump has transformed a hotel overlooking one of the world’s most legendary golf courses into an eponymous glittering palace.
Members gathering for their tee times on a recent cloudy Wednesday say they love many of the changes at the Trump Turnberry resort in
“It’s a personal investment in aggrandizement,” says Mervyn Caplan, a member for the past 17 years, sipping tea in the clubhouse. “He’ll never get a return on the capital he’s invested.”
So far, that looks like a sound prediction. Financial reports made public in the
Beyond last year’s losses, however, the latest disclosures show Trump has now poured a combined 152 million pounds, or nearly $200 million, into the ventures without either one turning a profit under his ownership. The results, among the few made public anywhere in the world for Trump’s private businesses, may add to questions about whether his brand of divisive politics is starting to take some of the luster off of his businesses.
Turnberry offers a test. Perched on the windswept west coast of
Turnberry’s 103-room hotel is a building from a grander era, erected as part of the British Railway’s extension into rural
Directors for the company that runs Trump Turnberry attributed the loss primarily to the resort’s closing for just under six months during renovations, although it was reopened in time to catch most of the 2016 golf season.
While Turnberry’s flagship Ailsa golf course was busy during a recent mid-week visit, and fully booked for weekends in September, hotel occupancy is down, according to a person familiar with the business. The prices -- a deluxe ocean view room in October was listed on the website for 569 pounds a night, or about $744 -- may play a role.
Eric Trump, who has taken over Scottish operations for his father since he took office, declined to comment through a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, Amanda Miller. Although Miller invited questions by email, she did not reply to emails or return phone calls.
In addition to the prices, Trump’s divisiveness does appear to be keeping some visitors away. Sam Baker, founder of Cincinnati, Ohio-based Haversham & Baker, which organizes tours for Americans to play golf in
Even among those who play, Trump-branded gear looks to be a tough sell. Fiona Hunter, a long-time Turnberry member, said the pro-shop tried to get rid of the Trump gear by offering two-for-one deals, because visitors weren’t buying. “They started selling more things with just ‘Turnberry,’” she said.
Still, politics can cut two ways. On a recent evening, two visitors from
“I played Doral in June but this is much more exclusive,” said Ben Dehart, a dentist who voted for Trump and says he’s doing a good job. “They have towel warmers in the bathroom!”
Perhaps the greatest short-term threat to Turnberry is the possibility that Trump’s ownership could delay consideration of the British Open’s return; it is golf’s oldest and most prestigious tournament. Even without political controversy, a course owned by any US president would bring security risks and potential protests.
“We are in uncharted territory here with the president’s family owning golf courses,” Martin Slumbers, the chief of The Royal and Ancient, which runs the tournament, told reporters in February.
The earliest Turnberry would be considered is 2022, he said, when Trump may, or may not, be out of office. Slumbers told Bloomberg News: “Turnberry remains one of the Open venues and will be considered in future years.”
Trump’s other Scottish course, although less costly, has been more politically troublesome, long before the campaign. Set on 1,400 acres just north of
It has never made a profit. Trump was forced to loan an additional 1.2 million pounds to the resort last year, bringing his total loans there to 40.6 million pounds. The directors blamed last year’s losses on weather and declining oil prices; the local economy is dependent on the
Hopes to bring big events into
The resorts’ debts, among the few that public records show are personally shouldered by Trump for any of his business interests, raised questions, even before the latest results showed they were growing.
Earlier this year, golf writer James Dodson, co-author of Arnold Palmer’s autobiography, said Eric Trump told him in 2014 that the family had “all the funding we need out of
“We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs.” Eric Trump later tweeted a denial, calling the author’s comments “completely fabricated.”