The 65-story Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto has all the glitz and ambition of the luxury-brand businessman with his name in giant letters near its spire. It’s the tallest residential skyscraper in Canada, and probably the fanciest. The hotel’s sleek cream-and-black interiors were inspired by Champagne and caviar. Every room features Italian Bellino linens and Nespresso coffeemakers. Guests can book a Trump Experience outing through the Trump Attache concierge service. Their furry friends are eligible for the Trump Pets program, which “will fill your best Fido’s tummy with gourmet treats, and see them off to sleep on a plush dog bed.”Will Toronto be able to escape the curse of Trump? The organization says "no".
This Trump-branded and Trump-managed jewel is also, as a business venture, a bust.
On Tuesday, a Canadian bankruptcy judge placed the glass-and-granite building into receivership, just four years after Trump and his children cut the ribbon at its grand opening. Once it’s auctioned off, whether or not Trump is the leader of the free world by then, his name may well vanish from its marquee.
Trump is not the project’s developer or even an investor; one of his partners, a Russian-born billionaire who got rich in Ukraine’s steel industry, controls the firm that’s in default. The Trump Toronto is still a posh hotel, and even though nearly two thirds of the tower’s condo units remain unsold, they’re still upscale residences. Still, the saga of the property’s glittering rise and rapid fall is classic Trump, featuring a tsunami of litigation and bitterness, money with a Russian accent, and a financial wreck that probably won’t hit its namesake particularly hard.
Trump has vowed to run the country the way he runs his businesses, and Trump Toronto is yet another reminder that his businesses do not always run smoothly. Even before the bankruptcy, the Trump Organization was already mired in litigation over management issues with the project’s owner, Talon International—led by Alex Shnaider, the steel magnate who is perhaps better known for buying a Formula One racing team and hiring Justin Bieber to sing at his daughter’s Sweet Sixteen. The project also faced lawsuits filed by middle-class investors who claim they were suckered into buying time-share-style units in the hotel with wildly overstated projections of Trump Toronto’s performance. Now it’s in receivership, which will produce new ownership and, quite possibly, a new brand.
Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller noted that the company still has a long-term deal to manage the Toronto property, no matter who controls it after the auction.But folks in Toronto say otherwise:
But it’s not clear that Trump Toronto will keep its name, much less its management team. Toronto is one of the world’s most multicultural cities, and Trump’s run for the presidency, especially his provocations against immigrants and Muslims, have made his hotel a target for protests. And one insider familiar with the bankruptcy proceedings said that local rivals in the luxury condo and hotel market, notably the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton, have dramatically outcompeted the Trump property. Court documents show that even though investors in the hotel units were told the “worst case scenario” for occupancy rates would be 55%, they’ve ranged between 15% and 45%. The average room rate, despite the snazzy crystal sconces and in-mirror bathroom TVs and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Ontario, has been nearly $100 below the initial projections.Of course, Trump promises to run the USA the way he runs his businesses, so we can draw our own inferences.
“The whole business model has been overpromise and underdeliver, and it’s Trump’s name on the thing,” the insider said. “You can’t put all the blame on him and his people. But if they did a terrific job, do you think it would be in bankruptcy?”[my bolding]