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Thursday 19 October 2017

Trump financial disclosures show Mar-a-Lago business boom

Donald Trump has visited his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, seven times since becoming president (AP)
Donald Trump has visited his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, seven times since becoming president (AP)

Donald Trump's Washington hotel saw nearly 20 million dollars (£15.7m) in revenue during its first few months of operation, which coincided with his election and inauguration as US president, it has emerged.

And Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, which he has visited seven times as president, pulled in millions more than previously.

The new details were included in a financial disclosure Mr Trump submitted voluntarily on Friday to the Office of Government Ethics - the first snapshot of the Trump Organisation's finances since its long-time leader became president.

When he took office in January, Mr Trump turned over the reins of his global estate, property management and marketing empire to his two adult sons and a senior executive.

But he did not divest, instead placing his enormous portfolio of financial assets in a trust controlled by the executive and Donald Trump Jr.

He can take back control of the trust at any time, and is free to withdraw cash from it as he pleases.

On paper, at least, the billionaire president's finances do not appear to have been upended by the time-consuming campaign and transition to power.

He has at least 1.4 billion dollars (£1.1bn) in assets and reported at least 594 million (£468m) in income from January 2016 through this spring.

Those top-line numbers were largely the same as he had reported in his previous filing, which included all of 2015 and part of 2016.

Mr Trump's financial disclosures have added importance because he is not following the long tradition of presidential candidates and office-holders making public their tax returns.

Those returns provide more precise financial information than the disclosure forms that have broad ranges for income, assets and debts.

The latest report shows Mr Trump resigned from more than 500 positions, stepping down from many on the day before his inauguration.

He listed at least 315 million dollars in liabilities, about the same as in the previous report.

The president still owes more than 100 million dollars to Deutsche Bank and a similar amount to Ladder Capital Finance, a New York-based property investment trust.

What is unclear from the disclosure is whether he added to his debt in any significant way to help pay for his presidential campaign.

Because the ranges required for disclosure under government ethics laws are so wide - Mr Trump's documents list five separate liabilities each at "over 50,000,000 dollars" - it is impossible to tell whether his debt load has changed appreciably.

Some of Mr Trump's ventures appear to be making more money than they had a year earlier.

His book, The Art Of The Deal, is having a comeback of its own, with royalties from the 1987 autobiography ranged between 100,000 and one million dollars, according to the new report.

The 2016 report listed royalties as being between 50,000 and 100,000 dollars, and the 2015 report put them at 15,000 to 50,000 dollars.

Mr Trump's management fees from Indonesian companies tied to two planned resorts there more than doubled.

The latest disclosure puts the fees at 380,000 dollars, up from 167,000 he reported in 2016.

Mr Trump is partnering with a billionaire Indonesian, Hary Tanoesoedibjo, on the two ventures. One is planned for the tourist island of Bali, the other near Jakarta.

Mar-a-Lago, where Mr Trump played host to several foreign dignitaries during his seven weekends there this winter, has improved its finances.

He listed the resort's income as about 37 million dollars (£29m), up from about 30 million it had taken in before his 2016 financial report.

His golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on the other hand, produced almost 20 million dollars in revenue, about what it had during the previous reporting period. Mr Trump recently began decamping to that property some weekends.

The documentation of revenue from each of those properties does not account for expenses, meaning those figures are not pure profit.

The Trump International Hotel, housed in the Old Post Office building down the street from the White House, has seen a burst of activity since opening its doors last autumn.

In addition to serving as a hub during inauguration festivities, it has hosted numerous events for foreign diplomatic and business interests.

The hotel is cited in three separate lawsuits arguing that Mr Trump is violating the US Constitution's "emoluments" clause, a ban on foreign gifts and payments.

Mr Trump and the Justice Department have called those claims baseless.

AP

Press Association

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