A new investigative report by The New Yorker is raising questions about the financial activity of President Donald Trump and his associates, and what it reveals will is truly extraordinary.
This weekend, President Donald Trump will visit a property that offers a tantalizing and maddeningly incomplete glimpse into the ways that he makes and spends money
Before meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Trump will spend this weekend at Turnberry, the golf course he bought in 2014 and rechristened Trump Turnberry.
As noted by The New Yorker is, by far, the biggest investment the Trump Organization has made in years. Yet, this property has not received the media attention it deserves.
The property is so much bigger than his other recent projects that it would not be unreasonable to describe the Trump Organization as, at its core, a manager of a money-losing Scottish golf course that is kept afloat with funds from licensing fees and decades-old real-estate projects.
From The New Yorker:
“After buying the property for more than sixty million dollars, he then spent a reported hundred and fifty million pounds—about two hundred million dollars total—remaking the site, adding a new course, rehabbing an old one, and fixing up the lodgings. It is possible, though, that he will have some harsh words for his staff. The Turnberry has been losing an astonishing amount of money, including twenty-three million dollars in 2016.
The Trump Organization argued that these losses were the result of being closed for several months for repair. However, revenue for the months it was open were so low that it is hard to understand how the property will ever become profitable, let alone so successful that it will pay back nearly three hundred million dollars in investment and losses.”
We know, of course, that the Trump Organization has worked with some truly questionable business associates, that it has run afoul of anti-money-laundering laws, and that its most high-profile business expansion—a line of three- and four-star hotels—has all but collapsed. But, for all the coverage of Trump’s finances, there is so much we just don’t know. And Trump Turnberry offers a tantalizing and maddeningly incomplete glimpse into the ways in which our President makes and spends money.
Trump has proclaimed himself the “king of debt,” a proud master of “doing things with other people’s money.” So it was quite surprising when The Washington Post revealed that Trump had abruptly shifted strategies and begun spending hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to fund projects.
According to The Post, the Trump Organization spent more than four hundred million dollars in cash on new properties—including fourteen transactions paid in full. In the spending spree, he bought twelve golf courses (ten in the U.S., one in Ireland, and a smaller one in Scotland), several homes, and a winery and estate in Virginia, and he paid for his forty-million-dollar share of the cost of building the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.—a property leased to Trump by the U.S. government. But his largest cash purchase was the Turnberry, followed by tens of millions of dollars in additional cash outlays for rehabbing the property.
Using cash to purchase all those properties makes no obvious sense for any business person, but especially for Donald Trump. It is a bizarre, confounding move that raises questions about the central nature of his business during the years in which he prepared for and then executed his Presidential campaign.
Trump is seen by lenders as a high-risk bet because he had so many bankruptcies and so few successful projects, the New Yorker notes. So, putting all of his available cash in an old, underperforming course in a remote corner of Scotland has many experts scratching their heads.
Because he refuses to release his tax returns, we know so little about the internal finances of the Trump Organization’s activities elsewhere, so it is hard to understand where all of the money spent on Turnberry came from.
According to a comprehensive analysis by the Wall Street Journal, Trump brings in about a hundred and sixty million dollars in income a year —“The income number is wrong by a lot,” Trump said, though he provided no details. With that money, Trump had to pay for his business, his taxes (if he paid any), his personal lifestyle, and that of his family. His Boeing 757 alone cost more than ten thousand dollars per hour of use, not to mention the dozens of staffers at his various properties, the clothes and food and jewelry of a status-conscious family, and countless other expenses that could easily eat up all of that income. There simply isn’t enough money coming into Trump’s known business to cover the massive outlay he spent on Turnberry.
So, where did Trump get all that cash to buy so many properties?!