Various investigations and exclusives about Donald Trump and the Trump Organisation published in The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday. Copyright belongs to the respective publications. Click the blue links where applicable to read the original web version of the stories.
Donald Trump’s failed attempts to buy landmark St Andrews hotel – from Scotland on Sunday – An investigation into how Donald Trump was refused £38m in financing from the Bank of Scotland as he attempted to create his inaugural international hotel resort.
DONALD TRUMP SPENT more than three years trying to establish a “landmark” hotel at the world-famous home of golf, making at least four failed offers for one of Scotland’s showpiece properties, a Scotland on Sunday investigation can reveal.
The US president and his children held high-level talks with senior Scottish banking executives to try and take over Hamilton Hall in St Andrews, one of the most prized venues in world golf, which is now home to some of Scotland’s most expensive properties.
However, Trump was repeatedly rebuffed in his attempts to secure financing for what would have been his first international hotel venture.
The 71-year-old offered to pay as much as £23m to secure the grand 19th century building overlooking the Old Course’s 18th green. But he insisted on receiving a mortgage and loan totalling £38m, a deal financiers deemed “too risky.”
One Bank of Scotland executive who met the property magnate at Trump Tower claimed he and his executive vice-president asked the bank to foreclose on Hamilton Hall’s owners, and instead deal directly with the Trump Organisation.
The bank executive described such suggestions as “worrying” and “inappropriate,” and expressed concern Trump would hold them to “future ransom.”
The unsuccessful deal raises questions about the notoriously opaque finances of Trump and his network of companies. Three weeks after trying in vain to secure the Bank of Scotland’s backing, Trump claimed his firm was in a “very, very strong” cash position, while his right-hand man said the company had £1bn in cash.
Until now, the president’s thwarted attempts to add the prestigious property to his portfolio of resorts have been known only to the Trump Organisation and a coterie of corporate bankers and lawyers.
But forensic details of Trump’s dalliance with the home of golf are laid bare in court documents filed with the US district court in Rhode Island. It is there, in the city of Providence, that the Bank of Scotland filed a civil lawsuit against the Wasserman family, Hamilton Hall’s previous owners, who held extensive talks with Trump about a sale.
The bank went to court seeking millions of pounds it was owed after the Wassmermans’ plans to transform the St Andrews property into a luxury timeshare scheme came undone. The subsequent slew of correspondence, contracts, and depositions provide a blow by blow account of Trump’s hardline negotiating tactics.
The documentation, obtained by Scotland on Sunday, reveals for the first time the drawn out battle waged by Trump against some of the richest men in the world – including Dermot Desmond, the biggest single shareholder in Celtic Football Club – to secure the title deeds to one of Scotland’s most coveted buildings.
On 28 April 2006, the then 59-year-old made a typically high-profile stop-off at the Old Course in St Andrews as part of a whirlwind tour designed to drum up publicity for his embryonic Trump International Golf Links resort in Aberdeenshire, the plans for which had been made public only weeks before.
Having visited Menie Estate, where his inaugural Scottish development would take shape, he travelled by helicopter to Fife. At the time, Trump was best known as the protagonist of The Apprentice, the US television show, and he readily indulged in his celebrity status.
Wearing a dark suit, black and white striped tie, and a three quarter length black overcoat, he posed for pictures straddling the Old Course’s famous Swilken bridge, delivered his “You’re fired!” catchphrase on demand, and even autographed one reporter’s notebook. The reporter had not asked for his signature.
The purpose of Trump’s visit to was to attend a press conference arranged by tartan-clad VisitScotland officials in the shadow of the Old Course’s 18th green, and hold talks with Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient (R&A), the joint governing body of golf worldwide, and Michael Tate, an R&A director.
But during his brief stopover in the auld grey toun, Trump, who had played the Old Course years previously, cannot have helped but notice the imposing structure of the B-listed Hamilton Hall.
In its heyday, the building, designed by Glasgow architect, James Milne Monro, served as The Grand Hotel, an elegant bolthole which welcomed famous guests such as Edward VIII, Rudyard Kipling, and Bing Crosby. Though it would later become a hall of residence for the University of St Andrews, and suffer a damaging fire started by a careless painter’s blowtorch in 1976, the property’s distinguished shone through. Evidently, it appealed to Trump.
ON 11 AUGUST, just 15 weeks after his St Andrews visit, the Trump Organisation entered into a confidentiality agreement with a firm called St Andrews Grand Ventures LLC. It was run by the Wassermans, a New England family with a modest track record in developing shopping centres and office blocks in their native US.
Brothers David and Richard Wasserman, together with their father, Bernie, had bought Hamilton Hall from the University of St Andrews the previous year, having been alerted to the property by Mike DiCarlo, an investment manager from Boston, Massachusetts. DiCarlo was a regular visitor to the Old Course, and even owned a holiday home in St Andrews.
The Wassermans paid £20m to the University of St Andrews, renamed Hamilton Hall as St Andrews Grand. They set about reconfiguring it into dozens of luxury apartments which would be sold to around 115 wealthy golf aficionados via a “fractionalised ownership” model, allowing them to stay at their apartments for several weeks at a time.
The membership costs betrayed the exclusivity of the Old Course. Prices started at £1m, with annual dues costing as much as £105,000. Phil Mickelson, the five-time major championship winner, was an early backer.
Internal Bank of Scotland documentation, obtained by this newspaper, shows the Wassermans secured a potential loan from the institution for as much as £84.3m, which was to be released in four instalments. The first tranche, worth £27.5m, allowed them to purchase Hamilton Hall and carry out initial planning work.
The release of the second tranche, worth up to £49m, was dependent on the Wassermams securing at least £10m in deposits by 31 October 2006, with a further £4m due by the year’s end.
According to David Wasserman, the principal in the development, he approached Trump directly with a view to getting him on board. A source party to the initial talks told Scotland on Sunday the two men had known each other socially for several years previously. “They were part of the same scene in New York,” the source said. “They moved in a certain crowd.”
In a series of depositions given as part of his court case against Bank of Scotland, Wasserman said the Trump Organisation had expressed an interest in becoming a partner, or potentially buying control of the St Andrews Grand venture. Yet the 58-year-old’s initial contact and early talks with Trump’s business did not propose an outright sale.
Instead, they envisioned leveraging Trump’s global profile to bolster the project’s equity and marketing potential. “We determined that Donald was willing to join the project as a limited guarantor, putting his signature behind the project, which is, I would say, equity unto itself,” reasoned Wasserman, a former law firm associate with a penchant for modern art.
OVER THE NEXT several months, the talks between Wasserman and Trump intensified, with the two men finding common ground. The need for outside help was evident in the St Andrews Grand accounts – by 3 January 2007, the Wassermans had just £4m in initial reservation deposits, some £10m less than the Bank of Scotland required.
A few months later, on 23 March 2007, the bank notified them that it reserved its rights due to their failure to meet the deposit threshold. It refused to refinance the deal, but gave the Wassermans until the following April to work on other potential deals. There was one already cooking.
That very day, the Trump Organisation and Wasserman signed a letter of intent proposing a confidential venture agreement. The document, ostensibly a draft licensing arrangement, proposed the creation of a Delaware limited liability company giving Trump’s property empire a 25 per cent stake in St Andrews Grand, with Wasserman holding on to the remaining interest.
The nine-page letter outlining the terms of the agreement stated that the iconic six storey building, constructed in 1896 out of Dumfries red sandstone, would be rechristened once more.
This time, the letter specified, it would “be known by a name to be determined by the parties which shall include the name ‘Trump’.” While Trump and Wasserman would serve as “co-managers” of the property, billed as a “super luxury membership club” with 23 residences, the agreement stated that Trump would license the use of his name to the joint venture for a nominal sum of £1.
It added: “The venture agreement will make clear that Trump shall not be required to make any capital contribution to the joint venture and shall not be subject to any ‘cram down’ of its equity interest or other remedy or adjustment of Trump’s equity interest in the joint venture for not making such contribution.”
The letter of intent further proposed that wealthy parties interested in buying membership of an apartment at Hamilton Hall would be granted a 30 year-long bond, with Trump and Wasserman entitled to a share of profits – plus a 10 per cent ‘transfer fee’ – if the bond was sold on before its expiry.
Trump was to be given responsibility for all design and architectural plans at the property, and would be tasked with marketing and managing it. In return, he would receive various sales, marketing and management fees. The letter of intent also specified that Trump personally had to buy his own membership bond of a Hamilton Hall apartment.
The document, written in dry, lifeless legalese and signed on the Trump Organisation’s behalf by Donald Trump Jr, Trump’s eldest son, seemed to leave no stone unturned with regards how the two US property developers would manage – and, in theory, profit from – one of golf’s most lauded addresses. In reality, the negotiations had yet to begin in earnest.
THE NEXT MONTH, shortly after he appeared before millions of television viewers at WrestleMania 23, a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) pay-per-view event in which he repeatedly punched Vince McMahon, WWE’s CEO, before shaving his head with a pair of electric clippers, Trump got down to more subdued business.
At his executive office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower in New York’s Fifth Avenue, a space where sporting memorabilia vies for wall space alongside portraits and framed magazine covers, he welcomed a visiting party. It included David and Bernie Wasserman and their legal representatives, as well as two Bank of Scotland executives, Charles Wighton and Donald Kerr. The former was an area manager with the bank, while the latter headed up its powerful corporate and commercial division.
Present for the Trump Organisation was Trump, the firm’s chairman and president, his daughter, Ivanka, and his second son, Eric. Donald Jr could not make the meeting in person, but was on speakerphone.
The “open discussion,” Wighton said in his deposition, had one aim. “Donald Trump wanted to meet with us to have an open discussion about whether there was a transaction, there was potential for a transaction to be worked in with his involvement.”
There was no presentation, nor any mention of figures, but according to Wighton, Trump made clear he did not want to simply own a slither of the Fife landmark. “He disagreed with the concept of [the] fractionalised basis of the Hamilton Hall transaction,” Wighton said.
Charles ‘Chip’ Rogers Jr, managing director and legal counsel for the Wassermans, said the meeting in New York with the extended Trump clan ran on for nearly three hours. The parties first met with Trump himself for between a half hour and 45 minutes, Rogers said, during which time, the billionaire played up to his reputation.
“If you’ve ever watched TV, you know what to expect from Mr Trump, so we got a lot of that, ‘I’m the greatest’ sort of stuff,” he recalled in his deposition. Rogers added that the meeting was followed by further discussions with Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr, which lasted around two hours.
Wasserman said that the only people who walked away with something from the meeting were Wighton and Kerr. Both men, he alleged, requested souvenirs of their transatlantic trip, and were indulged by their larger than life host.
“They walked away with autographed Donald Trump pictures, they were so elated to be there,” he said in his deposition. “Two or three people from the bank, Charles Wighton and his boss, Donald something, they were very excited about their World Wrestling Federation 8 x 10″ glossies signed by Trump.”
Another source told Scotland on Sunday the bankers did not request the photographs, but accepted by them after Trump offered them as a gift. Lloyds Banking Group, owners of the Bank of Scotland, said it would not comment on the claims in Wasserman’s deposition. A spokesman said: “Whilst litigation in relation to this matter has concluded to the satisfaction of both parties it is subject to a confidential settlement agreement so it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
HOWEVER THE MEMENTOES changed hands, no contracts followed suit. But the deal was very much alive. Over the next year or so, Wighton said he held several telephone conversations with Trump. “They were chiefly one way in terms of Trump saying, you know, for him to get involved in the transaction, he needed the bank’s support to do so,” he recalled.
At the time, Trump’s contentious plans for his inaugural Scottish golf resort were ensnared in the public inquiry process. But for all his bombast in public, behind the scenes Trump was quietly setting about turning his ambitions for Hamilton Hall into a reality.
Companies House records show that Trump incorporated a new firm on 23 May 2008. Registered at offices in Edinburgh’s Castle Terrace, it went by the name of Trump Hotel St Andrews Limited. Its directors included Trump, Donald Jr, Eric, Ivanka, and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organisation’s chief financial officer. George Sorial, the firm”s executive vice president and counsel, was named as the secretary.
By then, the once venerable Hamilton Hall was in dire need of care and attention. The building had found its way onto the Scottish Civic Trust’s inglorious buildings at risk register. Trump wanted to be the building’s sole saviour, and he prepared his first bid proper.
This time, he did not propose going into a partnership with the Wassermans. Instead, he looked to take the property off their hands lock, stock, and barrel. The offer was not made through a legal firm or a property agent, but in a two-page letter signed personally by Trump.
The document, sent on 15 October 2008 to Wighton at the bank’s corporate headquarters in Edinburgh, detailed Trump’s intention to pay £23m for the property and “immediately commence construction on what will be known as the Trump St Andrews Hotel.”
He added: “It is our hope to have the hotel completed prior to the 2010 Open Championship.”
The deal, however, was not as straightforward as Trump’s rhetoric suggested. The letter saw him ask the Bank of Scotland to take back the purchase price in the form of a 15 year mortgage for £23m, with the loan incurring no interest for the first two years. After that, he proposed the interest rate be set at five per cent for five years, rising a further percentage point for the duration of the term.
Trump was not finished. He also made it a condition of his offer that the bank provide him with a construction loan for £15m, attracting identical rates of interest and terms to the mortgage. Such sums, the tycoon insisted, were necessary to bring Hamilton Hall up to scratch. Not unreasonably, he declared the building to be in a “very bad state of decay,” citing its broken windows, unsound roofs, and other problems which, unless rectified, would “rapidly lead to its total disintegration.”
However, if the bank agreed to his requests, Trump promised it – and the homeland of his mother – a gilded transformation. “You will have a secure first mortgage on a beautiful and completed luxury hotel that will be a great source of pride for Scotland,” he told Wighton.
The second last paragraph of his letter contained one final sweetener. “We would be honoured to use the Bank of Scotland as our primary bank for all of our United Kingdom enterprises, in particular, the Aberdeen development,” it stated.
IN HINDSIGHT, THAT particular inducement seems unusual, given Trump’s recent track record in eschewing lenders when it comes to acquisitions. Out of every deal he has struck in Scotland and Ireland over the past 12 years, not once has he borrowed from the banks, a trend which has sparked debate in the US Congress and further afield about where the money is coming from.
The disparate parcels of land in Menie Estate which formed his inaugural Scottish golf course were purchased for £9.5m in cash, and Trump bought the South Ayrshire jewel of Turnberry in a £35.7m cash deal. The use of money instead of mortgages is also true of his worldwide business affairs over the same period.
A recent Washington Post investigation detailed how, in the nine years before Trump ran for the presidency, the Trump Organisation spent upwards of £400m in cash to acquire various properties. For the bellicose developer who once described himself as the “king of debt,” the Hamilton Hall deal bucked a trend, almost signalling a return to this formative years in New York.
The question of why that was the case may be answered in part by a legal dispute at the time between Trump and Deutsche Bank, his lender of choice. On 7 November 2008, Trump had been due to pay the German firm £30m he had personally guaranteed on a £481m construction loan given to him for his Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.
With the recession biting, Trump made a bold move. He filed a lawsuit and, citing a “force majeure” clause, demanded the bank pay him £2.26bn for undermining the project and damaging his reputation. Deutsche Bank, in turn, sued Trump, and the two parties were locked in dispute before eventually reaching an out of court settlement in 2010, with the loan extended for five years.
Did that episode impact on the Trump Organisation’s ability to raise finance? Not according to Trump and Mr Sorial, both of whom claimed at the time that the firm had no problems with finding money. On 3 November, the day the Scottish Government granted outline planning permission for his Aberdeenshire course, and less than three weeks after he asked the Bank of Scotland for the mortgage and construction loan to bankroll his purchase of Hamilton Hall, Trump painted a rosy picture of his company’s finances in an interview with The Scotsman.
Even as the world economy endured a torrid time, he insisted the Trump Organisation was immune to the woes. “The world has changed financially and the banks are all in such trouble, but the good news is that we are doing very well as a company and we are in a very, very strong cash position,” he said.
Some 13 days later, Sorial also gave an interview to The Scotsman. In it, he stressed that Trump had £1bn in cash “sitting in the bank and ready to go” to finance his Aberdeenshire course, pointing out that Trump had “recently increased his cash position,” meaning there was “no need for a bank loan.”
“The money is there, ready to be wired at any time,” Sorial explained. “I am not discussing where it is, whether it is in a Scottish bank or what, but it is earmarked for this project. “If we needed to put the development up tomorrow, we have the cash to do that. It is sitting there in the bank and is ready to go. “I don’t think anyone in Scotland has anything to worry about.”
IF THAT WAS true, no one told the Bank of Scotland. For his part, Wighton expressed misgivings over Trump’s proposal for Hamilton Hall and emailed the Trump Organisation asking it to clarify its plans for the hotel in greater detail, above and beyond a basic cash flow.
His request heralded another letter from Trump. This time, the tone was altogether less convivial. “I am surprised by your email,” Trump replied on 22 October. “First of all, you are asking us to provide detailed plans ‘for the entire project’ when in fact we haven’t even hired a development team and are offering a deal with minimal due diligence that can be closed within the next 24 hours.”
Trump told Wighton that “I don’t see what our proposed transaction has to do with David Wasserman,” stating that Wighton told him the real estate developer has “already defaulted” on his mortgage and had “no chance of getting this job done.”
Trump added: “I must reiterate that were asking to move forward with a fast and fair deal or we have no interest in pursuing this any further. We have already offered far more than the property is worth. “Once again, we will quickly restore this beautiful building and create a landmark that will be enjoyed by many future generations who visit the birthplace of golf.”
Five days later, Trump’s mixture of promises and threats had failed to offer the bank’s executives the reassurances they were seeking. Wighton wrote in private to his colleagues, Glenn Alexander, an associate director at the bank, and Bill Campbell, part of its risk management division, explaining that he felt the deal was “too risky.”
Wighton took the view that the £25m debt owed to the bank meant that, if Trump’s deal went through, it stood to take a £2m hit on Hamilton Hall. He also had concerns over the interest arrangements requested by Trump, which were, he reasoned, tantamount to a “free loan.”
He warned that the bank, should it go with Trump’s offer, would be in danger of being “held to future ransom.” Indeed, in his deposition, Wighton made clear that Trump would have preferred any deal to have been struck directly between the Trump Organisation and the Bank of Scotland, even though the latter maintained it was the Wassermans who actually owned Hamilton Hall.
He said: “With regard to the default, Donald would regularly say to me, make a statement of fact that the Wassermans had defaulted on the transaction and I would never, I would never agree or I would never comment, sorry, that that was the case.” He added that Trump wanted “to do the deal cleanly with the bank which we were not in a position to do.”
In another email to colleagues, Wighton wrote: “Slightly worrying is that he (George Sorial) mentioned to David Wasserman that we could foreclose but do a deal with Trump which apparently David is okay with.” The email later adds: “Told George that this was inappropriate and BoS had not made any suggestion to him that this is something that we would do.”
In his deposition, Wighton returned to the theme, stating: “Trump was looking at us to just foreclose as it suggests – ‘demand your debt and then we’ll do a deal with you separately’.”
According to Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the MSP for North East Fife, such conduct was underhand. “This bully boy behaviour is typical of how Donald Trump behaved in business across the globe,” he said.
THE TRUMP ORGANISATION was not discouraged. At the year’s end, Wighton and a colleague met up with Sorial, around which time the basis of the transaction “changed on several occasions,” according to the banker. Wighton went on to receive a “preliminary projection” drawn up by Sorial, detailing yet another offer from Trump’s camp.
It proposed a licensing-style arrangement whereby Trump would provide his name, and the bank would stump up the cash. Sorial sold it as “a 50/50 joint venture or partnership between Trump Hotel St Andrews Limited and HBOS, with HBOS providing the financing for all related construction costs in exchange for use of the Trump brand name, Trump management of the hotel refurbishment and the eventual oversight of all hotel operations and marketing.”
Sorial, now the Trump Organisation’s chief compliance counsel, suggested the average room rate at Trump Hotel St Andrews would be around £400 per night, but stressed that estimate was “extremely conservative.”
He added: “Based upon our performance in numerous global markets and the current strength of the Trump brand name in Scotland and worldwide, we are confident that the realised numbers will be significantly higher. There are no other developers who can achieve these values.”
He went on: “We have been negotiating with you directly for several weeks and have presented numerous offers without any hard response or reasonable counter-offer.”
The correspondence went in vain. Wighton even drafted an email to Sorial, offering a breakdown of the bank’s concerns. “If you look at Bank of Scotland’s position if this deal was acceptable to all parties, you will be in possession of an iconic site, have an interest free loan for a period, have funding in place at exceptional rates for development etc,” he advised.
“The difficulty is that there is no cash investment from the purchaser. The name and expertise are fully acknowledged, however even with our top tier investors, with who we operate very closely with, the 100% fully funded and therefore all risk held with the bank is not the format of our lending criteria.”
Wighton added: “Your involvement in this project and the fact that such a once in a lifetime build would be in your possession I am sure would be a great addition to the Trump portfolio. We do though need to get the deal right from our side.” It is not known whether Wighton ever sent the draft email to Sorial.
AS THE WASSERMANS’ hopes of clinging onto Hamilton Hall faded, the Bank of Scotland lost patience. A condition report of Hamilton Hall carried out by Savills at the bank’s behest depicted a grim picture of its worsening condition. It identified water damage, pest infestation, and parts of the property that were “open to the elements.” The repair bill simply to render the structure wind and watertight was put at £25,247.
By 2 February 2009, long after the Wassermans had defaulted on the terms of their loan, the bank issued a calling up notice, asking them to repay £25,337,318 within two months. Otherwise, it said, Hamilton Hall may be sold.
Around that time, other parties intrigued by the property’s profile and potential came to the table. The Wassermans held talks with Vikare St Andrews – an investment vehicle formed by Scots Steven Carmichael, a property agent, and Neil McAllister, a financial advisor.
Vikare claimed that informal talks had identified several prospective buyers for residences, including Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, who has been accused of serial human rights abuses during his long authoritarian rule.
The deal never came off, but the Wassermans had other irons in the fire.
Some 18 months previously, Dermot Desmond, one of Ireland’s richest men and the financial powerhouse behind Celtic FC, wrote to David Wasserman to discuss the potential purchase of a £5m flat.
The letter, sent on 29 August 2007, saw, Desmond express doubts over the arrangement. He pointed out that if he bought the flat, then later sold it for £7m, the Wassermans would be entitled of around £960,000 of the profit. “It seems inequitable that a purchaser would benefit so little in the uplift in value of the original investment,” Desmond observed.
Come the end of October, the Wassermans sent the billionaire a term sheet, proposing he pay £17.5m for a 50 per cent stake in the project, which would see Hamilton Hall developed into 11 to 13 units.
Two months later, Maria O’Sullivan, Desmond’s legal assistant, returned a revised term sheet. It too stated that Desmond would take a 50 per cent share in Hamilton Hall, but for just £6.75m, with his International Investment and Underwriting (IIU) private equity firm assuming half the debt.
Another term sheet drawn up on 26 August that year proposed that IIU would pay £23.5m for Hamilton Hall, a deal which involved sharing the profits from future sales with the Wassermans. It too never went the distance.
Instead, during the first half of 2009, the conservation area property was marketed as part of the calling-up and foreclosure process, with interested parties eventually asked to make offers as part of an open auction. Once again, Trump discreetly re-entered the fray, even though his son said otherwise.
On 8 August, Donald Trump Jr, who was in Scotland to check up on the progress of Trump International Golf Links, “categorically” denied his family had entered the bidding war for Hamilton Hall. “Once the Trump name is linked to a property then suddenly there is a lot of interest in the sale,” he told reporters.
It is unclear if Donald Jr was being coy, or was whether he was simply unaware of his father’s intentions, but six days later, on the closing date for bids, Dundas & Wilson, a Glasgow firm of solicitors, sent an “urgent” offer for Hamilton Hall to the selling agents, Jones Lang LaSalle, on behalf of Trump Hotel St Andrews Limited.
It specified not one purchase price, but two. The first, for £10m, came with strings attached; namely, that Trump’s recently incorporated firm would, in turn, receive a £9m loan from Bank of Scotland, repayable over a decade at an interest rate a percentage point above LIBOR.
The second offer, a straight cash deal, was for just £4m, and insisted that Trump’s people should gain access to Hamilton Hall 14 days after the conclusion of missives.
Neither bid found favour with the Bank of Scotland. A list of the officers received by end of the day, compiled by bank staff and seen by Scotland on Sunday, shows that there were nine bids in all. The successful bidder, Herb Kohler, a US plumbing magnate who owned the nearby Old Course Hotel, triumphed with a £11m cash offer.
Others who tried – and failed – to buy Hamilton Hall included the Scots tycoon, John Boyle, a former Motherwell FC chairman and Direct Holidays founder turned investor, whose Hamilton Portfolio vehicle offered £10.1m, and the University of St Andrews, which offered £4.1m. Although Desmond did not lodge an offer, David Wasserman’s deposition claims the Irishman was prepared to beat Kohler’s bid by £2m.
WITH THAT, TRUMP’S efforts to wrest control of one of golf’s most sacred sites were over. Kohler was officially announced as Hamilton Hall’s new owner in December 2009. Two months later, Trump, Donald Jr, and Ivanka applied to have Trump Hotel St Andrews Limited voluntarily struck off. Companies House records show it was formally dissolved on 18 June 2010.
After an extensive refurbishment, the building, renamed Hamilton Grand, was officially reopened in May 2013, since which time Kohler has enjoyed widespread praise for his renovation of the St Andrews icon.
Under his stewardship, the building has been turned into 26 luxury flats, with prices ranging from £1.05m for a two-bedroom apartment to £4.1m for a four-bedroom unit. Within a month of opening, nearly half the properties had been bought or reserved. Last December, it emerged that demand at the development has become so intense that it set a new Scottish property sales record of £2,490 per square foot, with the well-heeled owners hailing from as far afield as the US, Japan, Sweden, Hong Kong, and Switzerland.
On a fine summer afternoon last week, tourists from US on a pilgrimage to the Old Course were surprised to learn that Trump had tried to buy a prime slice of St Andrews real estate. Many, irrespective of their politics, thought the Trump St Andrews hotel would have been a hit.
“I wouldn’t have anything against that,” reflected Donal O’Shea from North Carolina. “I’m not a fan of his – I think a lot of people are not fans of his – but I’ve played his courses, and I would kind of hope he’d stick to golf courses and hotels.”
Others, however, believe the timeless charm of St Andrews would have been compromised by their president. “Well, first of all I guess he should have gone to his Russian pals and got a loan, I’m surprised he didn’t get that,” said Melinda McRae from California. “I certainly would have taken a long route around [it] if that was the Trump hotel. It would have left a really terrible taste in my mouth.”
Both Willie Rennie and Stephen Gethins, the SNP MP for North East Fife, believe their constituents got off lucky. “I am glad that he didn’t get away with it at this iconic location at the home of golf,” said Rennie. “St Andrews may be a very different place today if he had strong armed and bounced the bank and the owners of Hamilton Hall.
“Everyone in St Andrews works hard to protect what is great and special about the town. Donald Trump could have wrecked that.”
Gethins, his party’s foreign affairs spokesman, said: “It is worrying but not surprising that Mr Trump wanted to buy property here and Hamilton Hall, as it was called then, is a prestigious building in a prime location. I’m sure many will feel St Andrews has had a lucky escape from someone who simply thinks he can buy influence.”
He added: “St Andrews’ golf courses are publicly owned and public involvement in golf is very important. Everyone is welcome, including the wealthy and not so wealthy but first and foremost, St Andrews is somewhere open to everyone and it’s important it does not become exclusive.”
Amanda Miller, senior vice-president of marketing and corporate communications at the Trump Organisation, did not respond to a series of questions put to her by Scotland on Sunday.
But even years after all those fraught negotiations came to nothing, David Wasserman said the man who would ultimately rise to the most powerful office in the world never quite ceded hope of owning the most famous property in the world of golf.
“They have never to this day said that they didn’t want to enter into an agreement with us or with the Bank of Scotland,” he said of the Trump Organisation in his 2011 deposition. “They continue to this day to wish that they could have been part of this transaction, or even today would like to be part of the transaction, even though we no longer own the property. Their interest has never waned.”
Trump’s already extraordinary career has moved on since then, and with the prestigious Turnberry resort under his ownership, it remains to be seen whether he will ever consider making another offer for Hamilton Hall, although the fact The Open is set to return to St Andrews in 2021 may be a factor. So too, might the note in the latest annual report of Kohler’s company, which points out that Brexit poses a “risk” to its ongoing ability to sell apartments.
In a September 2015 interview with Golf Magazine, Trump named the Old Course as among his favourite five courses anywhere in the world. There was one caveat in that the courses he chose had to be owned by someone else. Even so, Trump was uncharacteristically generous in praising a competitor, describing the famous links as “very special.”
Whatever the future holds, the 45th president of the United States is not the first golf enthusiast to be defeated by the blasted heaths and blessed greens of the Old Lady. Nor will he be the last.
As the great golf writer, Pat Ward-Thomas, once observed of the cradle of golf: “She can be as tantalising as a beautiful woman, whose smile at once is a temptation and a snare, concealing heartbreak and frustration for some, joy and fulfilment for others, but possession only for the very fortunate few.”
Donald Trump’s Turnberry firm paid £50,000 by US Government for UK visit – from The Scotsman – An investigation into how Trump Turnberry, US President Donald Trump’s flagship resort in Scotland, received direct payments from his own administration to foot the accommodation bill for his UK trip.
Donald Trump’s Turnberry firm was paid more than £50,000 by his own government to cover the accommodation bill for his weekend stay at his loss-making resort, The Scotsman can reveal.
US federal government spending records seen by this newspaper show a series of payments worth a total of £52,477 were made by the State Department to SLC Turnberry Limited, the company behind the South Ayrshire hotel and golf course.
The five-figure windfall, which represents the first example of how Mr Trump’s firm was paid for his contentious working visit to the UK, has been condemned by ethics watchdogs, with one group accusing the 72-year-old of “using the power and authority of his office to profit personally.”
The US taxpayers’ money went towards hotel rooms used by Mr Trump and his staff during his two-night stay at Turnberry, which the president said would be dominated by meetings and calls. He ended up playing two rounds of golf at the historic course.
Along with his son, Eric, Mr Trump was joined at Turnberry by several high-ranking officials, including John Kelly, his White House chief of staff, Sarah Sanders, his press secretary, and Dan Scavino, his director of social media.
Documentation of the transactions show that the payments were made in two tranches. The first, for $30,074 (£22,653), was made on 11 July. A purchase order, part of US federal government spending logs, shows the money was for “hotel rooms” for a “VIP visit” and was paid to a “foreign-owned business not incorporated in the US.”
The paperwork goes on to the identify the direct recipient as SLC Turnberry, which is registered in the UK with Companies House. Its directors include Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
The second tranche, worth up to $39,602 (£29,824), was approved on 10 July. It too was for hotel accommodation at Turnberry.
There is no breakdown of the costs, but room rates at Turnberry range from £132 a night for a basic suite through to around £7,000 for the luxury two-bedroom lighthouse suite. Two sources at Turnberry told The Scotsman Eric Trump stayed at the lighthouse suite over the weekend.
The direct payment of federal funds to Mr Trump’s flagship Scottish company has reignited the row over his refusal to divest ownership of his businesses.
Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Centre, a Washington DC-based non-partisan political watchdog, said: “This is another example of President Trump using the power and authority of his office to profit personally. President Trump not only used the occasion of a state visit to promote his Trump-branded golf course, but told US taxpayers to foot the bill.”
In the aftermath of his election win, Mr Trump vowed to hand control of his businesses to his children. Along with his daughter, Ivanka, now a senior White House adviser, he resigned his directorship of SLC Turnberry on 19 January 2017.
However, its parent company, Golf Recreation Scotland, remains wholly owned by Mr Trump via an entity known as the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust, a New York-based state grantor trust.
It is not the first time that Turnberry – which ran up £17.6m in losses in 2016 – has received money from Mr Trump’s government.
In May, The Scotsman revealed how the State Department paid SLC Turnberry more than £5,600 for hotel rooms for another “VIP visit.” Purchase orders showed that an initial payment of $10,113 (£7,447) was transferred to SLC Turnberry on 5 April. Some $2,444 (£1,799) was returned by the State Department on 26 April.
It is unclear whether the latest £52,477 payments cover the entirety of the US government’s bill for Mr Trump’s Turnberry stay, which saw a sizeable Secret Service contingent accompany the president’s party.
Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organisation in Washington DC, said that based on past presidential foreign trips, Turnberry was in line to receive around $200,000 (£152,000).
Stephen Gethins MP, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, said: “Not for the first time Donald Trump has serious questions to answer over the conflation of his business interests with his role as president. More worryingly for people in Scotland is the huge multi-million pound cost of Donald Trump’s unwelcome visit, which will be covered at the expense of UK taxpayers.
“President Trump’s visit was not only hugely embarrassing for Theresa May, but it also underlines exactly why so many people object to his abhorrent policies and are deeply concerned about the damage of a Tory-Trump Brexit trade deal.”
A spokeswoman for the State Department said it frequently assists other US agencies in making hotel bookings overseas. It said the costs are borne by the other agencies.
George Sorial, executive vice president and chief compliance counsel for the Trump Organisation, said: “For United States government patronage, our hotels charge room rates only at cost and we do not profit from these stays.”
Wealthy Russian clients fail to save Trump’s luxury helicopter charter – from The Scotsman – An investigation into how the Trump Organisation exported Donald Trump’s Sikorsky helicopter back to the US from Scotland after its luxury charter business endured waning demand and “anger” at the Trump brand.
It was billed by Donald Trump as an “incredible” way to tour his golf resorts in the UK and Ireland, with well-heeled guests being whizzed back and forth across the Irish Sea and all around Scotland while revelling in the kind of opulence to which the US president has long been accustomed.
But Mr Trump’s bold vision of bolstering business at three of his loss making courses by exporting one of his luxury helicopters across the Atlantic to woo wealthy golfers has failed to take off.
The Scotsman can reveal that a little known subsidiary of the Trump Organisation tasked with overseeing a high-end helicopter charter service has quietly shipped back a multimillion pound Sikorsky helicopter to the US amid falling demand and “anger” at the Trump brand.
According to multiple clients who booked the Sikorsky S-76B, the charges were “eye watering” even in the high-end world of luxury helicopter charters, with fees reaching as much as £15,000 for a “couple of hours.”
Despite that, the Trump family firm, DT Connect Europe Limited, which is overseen by Mr Trump’s adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr, shows profit and loss reserves of nearly minus £1m.
The director of a charter company which operated the helicopter on the Trump Organisation’s behalf told The Scotsman that custom suffered after Mr Trump became president.
Richard Stubbs, a pilot and co-owner of Cardinal Helicopter Services, which had a contract with Mr Trump’s firm to fly the Sikorsky, said a decision was subsequently taken to offer wealthy clients – including US and Russian nationals – the option of flying without the ‘TRUMP’ insignia that had been prominently emblazoned on the aircraft’s tail boom.
“In America, Trump is a brand,” he explained. “Obviously over here, it’s the focus of people’s anger, sometimes, so we operated with or without the name.”
The decision to export the S-76B back to the US – where the rest of Mr Trump’s ageing air fleet is based – followed a short-lived stint during which the aircraft was primarily rented for use by an array of private clients who were not necessarily golfers. They included upmarket tourism firms who cater to rich clients from the US, Russia, and further afield.
The director of such company said he never flew with the ‘TRUMP’ name visible, reasoning that it would have turned off potential customers.
The Sikorsky, one of the world’s most sought after helicopters, is favoured by air forces around the world as well as celebrities who covet its executive travel credentials. Mr Trump owns three..
One was shipped to Scotland via Liverpool’s Seaforth Docks in June 2014, just two months after Mr Trump’s purchase of Turnberry, the historic hotel and golf course.
At the time, he promised the “incredible helicopter” would “connect the three dots” between his new flagship Scottish business in South Ayrshire, his inaugural resort in Scotland, Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire, and Trump Doonbeg in Co Clare, which he purchased that February.
Together, Mr Trump referred to the three businesses as the ‘Trump Triangle’, a term employed to this day by the Trump Organisation in its marketing material, and said the twin-engine Sikorsky craft would bring in a “tremendous amount of business.”
But records compiled by the Civil Aviation Authority, the UK’s independent aviation regulator, show that the helicopter has been deregistered from its database.
Under the note sections of the entry, it states: “Transferred to another country or authority. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” Mr Stubbs confirmed the helicopter had been exported to the US.
The helicopter’s transfer is also referenced in Mr Trump’s latest filings to the US Office of Government Ethics (OGE), which provides a breakdown of his assets.
The financial disclosure forms also show that DT Connect Europe Limited generated income of as little as $50,000 (£40,000) last year.
Companies House records show its most recent profit and loss reserves stood at a negative of £967,000. The figures in the 2016 and 2015 filings state negative values of £706,000 and £448,000 respectively.
A sequence of Mr Trump’s filings to the OGE also confirm the falling value and income of DT Connect Europe Limited.
In his 2017 disclosure, the company is listed as having a value of between $1m and $5m (£800,000 to £4m), with “rent” income in the region of $100,000 to $1m (£80,000 to £800,000). The filing notes that it was fully owned by Golf Recreation Scotland Limited, the UK-registered parent company of Trump Turnberry.
The details remained unchanged in Mr Trump’s OGE disclosure in 2018. However, in his most recent filing, made on 15 May this year, DT Connect Europe’s value dropped dramatically, listed at a mere $1,000 to $15,000 (£800 to £12,000), with a rental income of between $50,000 and $100,000 (£40,000 to £80,000).
Whereas previous filing described the company’s underlying assets as “aircraft,” the latest iteration confirms the helicopter has since been transferred, and that the firm’s value reflects its “bank account holding only.”
Mr Trump purchased the Sikorsky helicopter in question in March 2012, after which it was “out with the old, and in with the gold,” as one source at one of Mr Trump’s businesses put it to The Scotsman.
Prior to being shipped from the US to Scotland, the helicopter was painted in Trump style by a Philadelphia-based firm, Sureflight, and fitted with expensive upholstery and gadgets, with identical specifications to his other S-76B helicopters in the US.
The source said that before Mr Trump struck an “official partnership” with Glasgow Prestwick Airport in November 2014, he wanted to build a dedicated heliport at Trump Turnberry in order to transfer guests to and from Prestwick, Aberdeen Airport, and Shannon Airport, near his Doonbeg resort.
However, the demand was never there to make such a proposal feasible, the source added. In October 2017, The Scotsman revealed how the helicopter charter service was envisioned by Trump Turnberry as a way of countering its geographical constraints and attracting US tourists to a relatively rural corner of southwest Scotland. However, the uptake then was described as “muted,” with one staff member noting that “it is not significant enough to really drive revenue.”
That prompted staff at Trump Turnberry to place greater emphasis on attracting domestic customers in Scotland and the rest of the UK, with the resort becoming a merchant on popular voucher sites such as Itison.
The day to day running of the aircraft was the responsibility of Blackpool-based Cardinal Helicopter Services, which has a track record in operating Sikorsky craft for other VIP clients.
Mr Stubbs countered suggestions that falling demand was solely to blame, but said that “the timing of [Mr Trump] becoming the president probably did more to that than anything else.”
Asked what the typical customer base was for the service, he replied: “All sorts. American tourists, Russian tourists, you name it. Whoever wanted to charter it.”
Mr Stubbs also explained why the helicopter’s appearance had been changed after The Scotsman referenced a series of images posted to social media and aviation websites which showed the large ‘TRUMP’ insignia had been removed, echoing a trend seen in the US, where the Trump name has been taken off several buildings.
“Sometimes it’s sensitive,” Mr Stubbs said of the ‘TRUMP’ branding. “Some people do want it, some people don’t want it. In America, Trump is a brand. Obviously over here, it’s the focus of people’s anger, sometimes, so we operated with or without the name on the back.
“We always offered the client the option of whether they wanted the Trump name or not. It was pretty straightforward to cover it up or put it back on.”
Regardless of which option customers plumped for, the aircraft’s UK registration number, ‘G-TRMP’ remained visible in smaller letters, just below its rotor mast.
Mr Stubbs said that the passengers who made use of the helicopter did not include members of the US armed forces, amid ongoing scrutiny of US Air Force patronage of Prestwick Airport and Trump Turnberry.
The House Oversight Committee revealed this evening that the Pentagon has spent more than £140,000 at the resort between August 2017 and July this year, the equivalent of more than 650 rooms, or “more than one room every night for more than one and a half years” as Democrats Elijah Cummings and Jamie Raskin put it.
Uploads to social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter show the clientele who chartered the S-76B attended an array of exclusive functions, including horse racing meetings at Royal Ascot and York, during its time in Britain.
It was also pictured at Prestwick Airport, Aberdeen Airport, and Shannon Airport, as well as hubs in Perth and Belfast.
Mr Trump personally used the helicopter during visits to Trump Turnberry in July 2015, June 2016 and again during his weekend-long visit to the resort last July, but around the same time, the aircraft was rented by other parties for uses that were altogether more esoteric than straightforward airport transfers.
They included Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions Limited, an Auchterarder-based firm which arranges bespoke travel experiences for some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, with the costs for its trips coming in at as much as £25,000 per person.
The firm’s website features a photograph of Mr Trump’s Sikorsky helicopter. Beneath the ‘G-TRMP’ registration, a logo for the Sandgrouse company is visible in the image. The company is owned by Jonny Stage, who previously ran a tourism business in Africa. His Linkedin page notes that Sandgrouse’s clients hail predominantly from the US, Russia, India, and France
His firm last chartered the helicopter last autumn, and Mr Stage told The Scotsman that the majority of his clients were not interested in playing Mr Trump’s golf courses, and would not have been aware they were flying in his aircraft, given he covered up the Trump branding.
He said: “I always took the TRUMP name off, we always blanked it out. We didn’t want to be flying around with that on the side of the helicopter.
“To be honest with you, if some of my clients had known it was his helicopter, they probably would have chosen another chopper.
“Most of my clients wouldn’t have known it was anything to do with Mr Trump – it was typical people with that kind of budget who wanted to fly around Scotland.”
Mr Stage added: “In terms of the chopper, it was magnificent and second to none, really – it’s the civilian equivalent of a Black Hawk.
“The feedback from clients was that it was fantastic, and the service we received from Cardinal was awesome. I haven’t got anything negative to say about that, it was a very professional outfit who were very well run.”
It is not clear how much the helicopter, manufactured in 1990, is worth. DT Connect Europe’s most recent accounts specify its tangible fixed assets are worth more than £1.2m. Its latest accounts, covering the 12 months to 31 December 2018, are due at the end of this month.
Neither is it clear where the helicopter is now based. The Trump Organisation’s website still states that the S-76B in question is based in Scotland, while the two others Sikorsky crafts are based in New York and Florida respectively.
It adds: “The helicopters serve as an exclusive amenity for our executives, members and VIP guests. Each helicopter is outfitted with high end comfortable interiors, refreshment centres and live map displays.
“The helicopter can easily be spotted in the sky as its buzzing off with its signature black, white and red design, complemented by the TRUMP aviation logo on the exterior of all three aircrafts.”
An aircraft registration inquiry database maintained by the CAA’s US counterpart, the Federation Aviation Administration (FAA), shows that a Sikorsky S-76B with the exact same serial number – 760362 – as the one based in Scotland has had a reserved US registration number since August 2017, indicating that plans to return it to the US have been in place for more than two years.
The fee for the reserved registration was paid by a firm called DT Connect II LLC, the address of which is given as Oxford, Connecticut. A firm of the same name, based in Palm Beach, Florida, owns another of Mr Trump’s Sikorsky helicopters, based at his Mar-a-Lago resort. It has reported the same value to the OGE for three years’ running, suggesting that the helicopter from Scotland has not been transferred to its ownership. A member of staff at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort said the S-76B that had been used at Trump Turnberry had not been seen in Florida.
In a sign of the dense and complex corporate structure set up to accommodate Mr Trump’s various business interests, DT Connect II LLC is in turn part owned by an entity known as DT Connect Member Corp, which itself is fully owned by a New York-based revocable trust with just two trustees – Mr Trump and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organisation’s veteran chief financial officer.
A spokeswoman for the Trump Organisation told The Scotsman: “Given that the travel of the first family has changed substantially in the past three years, the Trump Organisation moved the helicopter back to the US, knowing that it will receive more use.”
Trump Turnberry – from The Scotsman – A investigation into how Trump Turnberry, US President Donald Trump’s flagship resort in Scotland, received thousands in pounds in federal funding from the US Department of State to host a VIP trip.
Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish resort received thousands of pounds in US taxpayers’ money to host VIP visits by officials from his administration, an investigation by The Scotsman can reveal.
The US president’s resort at Turnberry received more than £5,600 in federal funds to provide accommodation for the trip earlier this year.
According to a source at the South Ayrshire hotel and golf course, the stay was in connection with Mr Trump’s official visit to the UK scheduled for this July, which is expected to include Scotland in the itinerary.
The payment, sanctioned last month by the US State Department, represents the first time one of Mr Trump’s Scottish businesses has received direct federal funding from his own government.
It adds further fuel to the debate surrounding the ethics of the president’s ability to enrich himself through US taxpayers’ money while remaining in office.
A leading political watchdog in Washington DC said the payments indicated Mr Trump was putting his “personal financial interests” before his presidency.
The payments to Turnberry, which was last month named Hotel of the Year at the Scottish Hotel Awards, were authorised by the State Department’s bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, which is responsible for developing and implementing US foreign policy.
The money was subsequently awarded to Mr Trump’s firm via the American Embassy in London.
Purchase orders obtained by The Scotsman detail the payment as being for “hotel rooms for VIP visit.” They show that an initial payment of $10,113 (£7,447) was transferred to SLC Turnberry Limited on 5 April. Some $2,444 (£1,799) was returned to the State Department a few weeks later on 26 April.
The identity of the VIP or VIPs who stayed at Turnberry – which recorded losses of £17.6m in 2016 – has not been disclosed, although Mr Trump’s son, Eric, who has been tasked with running the Trump Organisation’s global network of prestigious golf resorts in his father’s absence, is a regular visitor to South Ayrshire.
A source at Trump Turnberry said the State Department co-ordinated visit was in connection with Mr Trump’s scheduled official visit to the UK in July. The trip was confirmed on 25 April, and the itinerary is expected to take in Scotland.
The source explained: “The hotel regularly welcomes people who are connected with Mr Trump, especially his son, Eric, who’s here several times a year.
“The visit this time was part of the plans for Mr Trump coming to the UK, although we haven’t been told if he’s visiting Turnberry on the trip.” The source was unable to confirm whether the US officials were members of the Secret Service, but is understood the money spent included accommodation costs for a security detail accompanying the unnamed party visiting Turnberry.
The US federal records describe the direct recipient of the money, SLC Turnberry Limited, as a “US owned business,” even though it is registered in the UK.
SLC Turnberry and Mr Trump’s other Scottish assets, such as Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire, form part of a parent company, Golf Recreation Scotland Limited. Although Mr Trump resigned as a director of SLC Turnberry and Golf Recreation Scotland last January, he remains their ultimate owner.
Accounts filed with Companies House show that Golf Recreation Scotland is in turn controlled by The Donald J Trump Revocable Trust, a state grantor trust based in New York, which is managed by Eric and his brother, Donald Jr. However, the Companies House records show Mr Trump is the trust’s ultimate owner.
Before the 71-year-old was swept into power in Washington DC, his Scottish firms were owned by Turnberry Scotland Managing Member Corp, based in the US state of Delaware.
Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Centre, a Washington DC-based non-partisan political watchdog, said: “It is very difficult to see how it is in the US public’s interest for President Trump to spend taxpayer funds visiting his golf course on an official trip – although it is certainly in the president’s personal financial interest.”
Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens co-convener and a vocal critic of the US president, said Mr Trump would not be perturbed by the fact he is profiting from his own government.
He said: “Trump’s self-serving behaviour is par for the course, and every bit as abhorrent as his disrespect for women, migrants, gun victims, the climate crisis or world peace.
“He’ll see nothing wrong in his businesses being enriched due to his presidency, when any decent person would make a clean break to show their priority is serving the public, not building up their bank balance.”
Mr Harvie added: “As US agencies prepare for his visit, Greens are ready to stand with anyone who shares our long-held view that this bigot and charlatan is not welcome in Scotland.
It comes amid growing unrest in the US about the intersection between Mr Trump’s businesses and his work in government. His portfolio of properties in the US has received upwards of £150,000 in taxpayers’ money since he launched his bid for the White House.
Last month, a report by Public Citizen, a Washington-based nonprofit group, concluded that Mr Trump’s US businesses have received around $15.1m (£11.1m) in revenue from federal agencies and political organisations since he announced his candidacy for the presidency.
The report, which analysed records of taxpayers’ money spent at the 71-year-old’s property empire found that the US Defence Department has made payments of $138,093 (£101,701), while the US Secret Service has paid Trump’s firms $64,090 (£47,201). A further $4,364 (£3,214) in federal spending came from agencies such as the White House National Security Council and the General Services Administration.
According to the Public Citizen report, entitled ‘The Art of the (Self) Deal’, the only other foreign business owned by Mr Trump to have received US federal money is his Trump Ocean Club hotel in Panama, which was paid $632 (£465) by the local US embassy.
The conflict of interest surrounding Mr Trump’s inability – or unwillingness – to separate his businesses from his presidency has been a constant source of controversy over the course of his administration. Last July, Walter Shaub, head of the independent Office of Government Ethics, resigned his position.
Mr Shaub had criticised Mr Trump for not divesting from his holdings, and said that be was “extremely troubled” by how he had simply turned over his various investments to his two oldest sons. Mr Shaub is now senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Centre.
Mr Trump is exempt from the ethics statutes which prohibit federal employees from taking action on issues where they have a personal financial interest in the decision. But the US constitution prevents the president from taking emoluments – or gifts – from foreign governments or individual US states.
Speaking in January, Mr Trump expressed regret at how he had been unable to visit Scotland since he became US president, describing the country as a “very special place” with “very special people.”
When asked who stayed at Turnberry, the purpose of their visit, and why the hotel was chosen, a spokeswoman for the US State Department said: “We refer you to the US Secret Service.”
The Secret Service did not respond to The Scotsman’s enquiry.
UK Government accused of ‘sweetheart deal’ with Donald Trump over Turnberry lighthouse – from The Scotsman – An investigation into how how the US president’s firm is paying just £1,200 to rent lighthouse buildings at the historic resort, while charging guests £1,400 for an overnight stay at its luxury lighthouse suite.
Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish business is paying just £100 a month to a UK government public body to lease buildings at the world-famous Turnberrry lighthouse, The Scotsman can reveal.
The 19th century lighthouse, the centrepiece of the US president’s loss making Trump Turnberry hotel and golf resort, houses what is billed as “one of the world’s finest suites,” the interiors of which are bedecked in marble, gold, and mahogany.
While the Stevenson-designed lighthouse tower forms part of Trump Turnberry’s corporate insignia, and features prominently in a range of Trump-branded golfing apparel, it is owned not by Mr Trump, but the Edinburgh-based Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB), an executive non-departmental public body.
In what has been described as a “sweetheart deal” which binds Scotland to the “toxic Trump brand,” The Scotsman has learned that the NLB, which is responsible to the Department of Transport, has struck a lengthy lease deal with Mr Trump’s company.
It sees Trump Turnberry pay the NLB just £1,200 a year to rent a cluster of buildings at the B-listed lighthouse, rising to £1,440 a year once VAT is included.
Trump Turnberry charges £1,400 for an overnight stay at the suite – housed in an accommodation block owned by Mr Trump – with a three-course dinner and breakfast available for a further £50, meaning its annual outlay on the lease can be footed by just a single paying guest.
Amid mounting questions surrounding the cost to the public purse of Mr Trump’s upcoming state visit to the UK – which is expected to run comfortably into eight figures, given the policing costs of his three day trip last summer exceeded £21m – the NLB has been accused of allowing Mr Trump to line his pockets using public assets.
However, the NLB said the lease represents “good value for money,” pointing out that it has already achieved a “significant cost saving,” given Mr Trump’s company is now responsible for repainting and maintaining buildings that would otherwise have lain empty.
The lease between SLC Turnberry Limited and the NLB is believed to be the first reported instance of a business deal between one of Mr Trump’s companies and a UK public body.
The agreement was ratified by the two parties in August 2015, some 16 months after Mr Trump acquired Turnberry. The document was signed by Mr Trump’s son, Eric, executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organisation.
The deal covers a former utility and services building at the lighthouse, as well as a bothy used to provide welfare facilities for NLB staff. The lighthouse tower itself, designed by David and Thomas Stevenson and built aside the fragmentary ruins of Turnberry Castle, the reputed birthplace of Robert the Bruce, remains part of the NLB’s property portfolio and is not included in the lease.
The accommodation building was sold by the NLB in 1992 to the Japanese firm, Nitto Kogyo, the then owners of Turnberry, and passed to Mr Trump’s firm after he bought Turnberry from Dubai-based Leisurecorp.
A copy of the agreement, lodged with Registers of Scotland, shows the deal lasts until 2035, with Mr Trump’s company able to apply for a further five year extension to the term.
It also compels Mr Trump’s firm to paint the exterior of the lighthouse to a colour specified by the NLB, and ensure the upkeep and insurance of buildings under its care.
The lighthouse suite, the most exclusive and expensive accommodation available at Trump Turnberry, opened in May 2016, two years after Mr Trump acquired the resort.
Trump Turnberry’s website describes it as “one of the world’s finest suites,” featuring a private terrace and “breathtaking” views across the Irish Sea.
It notes the two -bedroom suite is “furnished to the highest of standards,” and includes a hand-carved walnut burl mahogany bed, a canopy inspired by “Turnberry’s indigenous tartan,” and mimic silk wallpaper.
The site adds: “Marble and gold is abound in the en-suite bathroom with separate shower and freestanding bathtub.”
When the suite opened for business, the top end package, known as the ‘King of Scots Experience’ cost £7,000 a night, with a more modest ‘Stevenson Experience’ available for £3,000 a night.
However, the price has since dropped sharply. When The Scotsman enquired about booking the suite for a Saturday in mid-August, it was quoted a price of £1,400, with an offer of a three-course dinner and bed and breakfast available for a further £50.
The lighthouse complex, situated on the Firth of Clyde coastline next to the ninth green of Turnberry’s famous Ailsa championship course – a four-time host of The Open – also hosts a halfway house, introduced by Mr Trump’s firm to sate parched and peckish patrons of his course.
Its menu includes “luxury fish and chips” for £30, a £15 roast beef toasted panini, and a £7 sausage roll. The converted utilities building is now used for toilets as part of the halfway house.
Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said: “The Trump Organisation has shown itself to be a self-interested, arrogant, and bullying neighbour-from-hell. The last thing we should be using public assets for is helping them to line their own pockets by catering to the ultra-rich.
“Rather than sweetheart deals tying Scotland to the toxic Trump brand, we should be making it clear that we want nothing to do with the dangerous and delusional far-right president himself, or with his company.”
The NLB is funded by light dues paid by ship owners entering UK ports to cover the cost of lighthouses, beacons and other navigational aids.
It has a board of commissioners, some of whom are appointed by the Scottish Government. Its current members include Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, and Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo QC.
The details of NLB’s lease with Mr Trump’s firm is not disclosed in any of its annual reports or accounts dating back to 2014.
Asked if the arrangement represented value for money, Mike Bullock, the NLB’s chief executive, told The Scotsman: “At the outset NLB’s intention was to set a fair and equitable agreement for the property which protected NLB’s buildings in the long term and reduced costs attributed to payers of light dues and when setting the rent took into account all factors, not least the burden taken on by the resort for the care and maintenance of the lighthouse tower and buildings.
“A lighthouse of this type is repainted at an interval of eight to 10 years and on each occasion costs around £120,000. This saving has already been realised once as programmed painting was undertaken by the resort as part of the work to create the halfway house. In addition, responsibility for routine general maintenance of the tower, buildings and the care of the dome access system lies with the resort.”
Mr Bullock said the UK Government Valuation Office Agency advised of a “ball park” rental valuation of between £600 and £1,500 per annum. The NLB decided £1,200 was a “reasonable sum” in light of SLC Turnberry’s maintenance commitments.
He added: “NLB has achieved good value for money with this lease. Two otherwise redundant buildings have been rented out to the sole potential tenant along with responsibility for their maintenance. The operational lighthouse remains in NLB’s control but its fabric is maintained at no cost to NLB. In summary, this arrangement offers a significant saving to the ship-owners who pay light dues.”
The Department of Transport declined to comment on the lease, describing it as a “private matter.”
Trump Turnberry did not respond to requests for comment.
The Scotsman has also obtained various correspondence between NLB officials and executives at the Trump Organisation, including Eric Trump.
In August 2014, Mr Bullock, thanked Turnberry’s general manager for arranging a conference call with Eric to discuss the deal, adding that “in my former life I spent three years working in the Pentagon and came to very much admire the American way of using enthusiasm and openness to get things done.”
But in another email, sent just four months before the lease was agreed, saw Mr Bullock, a former commodore in the Royal Navy, express misgivings over how Mr Trump’s firm was presenting its stake in the lighthouse.
The email, sent to George Sorial, an executive vice-president at the Trump Organisation, in March 2015, stated: “George, when we last spoke I raised my concern about the language used to describe the development at the lighthouse. You undertook to speak to your press people to make sure it was clear that the development is the property surrounding the lighthouse which is already in the hotel’s ownership and not the lighthouse itself.”
Mr Sorial, who is also chief compliance counsel at the Trump Organisation, replied: “Understood – I will call you when I return to my office on Tuesday to discuss how we can put out a joint release that manages this.”
Another redacted email, obtained via Freedom of Information legislation, notes how, during the negotiations, Mr Trump’s firm proposed making“structural changes” to the lighthouse tower and “many other things that were never discussed.”
Trump Org’s plans for major Turberry expansion rejected – from The Scotsman – An investigation into the Trump Organisation’s failed attempts, spearheaded by Eric Trump, to rezone swaths of land at its most prestigious overseas property to make way for private housing and luxury villas.
The Trump Organisation’s plans for a major expansion of its flagship Scottish resort by building swaths of housing and luxury villas have been thwarted, further jeopardising efforts by the US president’s company to stem multimillion pound losses at its most prestigious overseas property.
Donald Trump’s firm wanted to significantly increase the footprint of its Trump Turnberry resort, with his son, Eric, personally overseeing blueprints for a new housing development on landholdings surrounding the historic golf venue.
The Trump Organisation enlisted architects in an attempt to rezone agricultural land for development, pointing to the firm’s “excellent track record of investment” in the region and describing the proposals as “very positive for the area.”
However, The Scotsman has learned that planners at a Scottish local authority have rejected the Trump Organisation’s request to reclassify the vast tracts of farmland along the rugged Firth of Clyde coastline for housing.
The US president has previously boasted he has the right to build as many as one thousand homes around Turnberry, but in a significant blow to any such bold ambitions, the council’s proposed new local development plan (LDP2) also specifies a policy restricting development at Turnberry on account of its status as a significant tourist attraction and sometime host of golf’s prestigious Open Championship.
The Scotsman revealed last November how Mr Trump’s firm had enlisted Covell Matthews, an Aberdeen-based architectural practice, in the hope of convincing South Ayrshire Council to allow land it owns to be used for what it called a “logical extension” to Turnberry.
It earmarked part of Mr Trump’s landholdings on the site for a housing development of 87 units and an unspecified number of villas.
Covell Matthews promised that if the adjoining sites were included in LDP2, the Trump Organisation would seek full planning permission right away to commence building work.
It is not known how much the Trump Organisation earmarked to spend on the expansion at Turnberry, or the price range of the houses it hoped to build. Based on the average house value in South Ayrshire, the scale of the development suggests it would have been worth in excess of £15m.
The sale of private housing was seen as a key avenue to generate revenue at a world-renowned resort that has been struggling under Mr Trump’s ownership.
Since he acquired it in 2014, Turnberry’s parent firm has run up four consecutive years of losses, amounting to nearly £33m. It is also reliant on £107m in interest free loans provided by the 73-year-old.
Correspondence obtained by The Scotsman via the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004, show that the Trump Organisation envisaged the properties reflecting “a continuation of the town’s quaint spirit.” The houses would vary in size and type, and feature “large private gardens.”
Another letter sent by Covell Matthews to planners stated: “The vision for the site is to develop more villas to support the operations of the hotel and provide customers with alternative accommodation options.”
The firm pointed to the Trump Organisation’s “excellent track record of investment in the area,” and claimed that the luxury villas would “create an obvious requirement for Trump Turnberry to employ more staff, which would be very positive for the area.”
At the time, Ralph Porciani, Turnberry’s general manager, told The Scotsman that previous owners of the resort had tried to develop the land in question, but that he expected the Trump Organisation would prevail where others had failed.
He explained: “What Eric [Trump] has done in the last year is zone the land out that he thinks is the best fit for it and basically notify the council that it’s our plan to do it.”
Mr Porciani added: “Does Turnberry want to do it? 100 per cent yes. The Trump Organisation have it in their radar and are quite excited.
“It’s land that’s used for the odd bit of cattle grazing. We rent the land out to a farmer so he maintains it, it just sits there ticking over. I’d hope it would be welcomed and we would be able to do it, because I think it’d bring a lot to the area.”
However, a newly published draft plan of the LDP2, now subject to a consultation, confirms that the proposed sites will remain zoned as prime agricultural land, deemed unsuitable for housing.
The LDP2 includes a proposed new policy designed to safeguard key tourism sites in the region, which makes explicitly clear that any proposed development surrounding Turnberry will face an uphill battle..
“We will protect existing golf courses and will encourage the development and improvement of golf facilities,” it states. “We will not generally allow development which we consider may negatively affect the status of Turnberry and Royal Troon as venues for the Open Championship.”
A spokeswoman for South Ayrshire Council confirmed the sites put forward by the Trump Organisation for development would remain as prime agricultural land.
She said: “Our planning department have advised that the sites were assessed against a range of environmental and planning criteria, alongside other alternative site submissions made in response to the main issues report consultation. It was concluded that they should not be recommended for release through LDP2.”
The proposed plan’s publication comes as the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the US Congress is investigating US military payments at Turnberry and nearby Glasgow Prestwick Airport.
In a June 2016 interview with Reuters, Mr Trump boasted that he had the right to create a major housing development at Turnberry, but said his focus at the time was on his fledgling political career.
He described his portfolio golf courses as “not really golf investments,” but “development deals,” explaining: “I have the right to build thousands of homes on the various properties I own, and I haven’t wanted to build them because frankly I’ve been busy doing other things, like running for president.
“It’s pretty simple. My golf holdings are really investments in thousands, many thousands of housing units and hotels. At some point the company will do them. Hopefully, I won’t because I will be president, but we’re in no rush to do them.”
In the interview, which coincided with the reopening of Turnberry after an extensive refurbishment, Mr Trump added: “I would have the right to build at least a thousand houses on Turnberry, if I wanted to, again, if I wanted to. Right now I am doing something far more important than building houses.”
While his purchase of Turnberry attracted international media coverage, less well known is the fact he simultaneously acquired a sprawling expanse of land to the north and east of the historic links course.
The sites it hoped to use for housing are part of around 200 acres of land, which encompasses a disused runway which formed part of RAF Turnberry during both World Wars, and a cluster of outbuildings
The Scotsman asked Trump Turnberry and the Trump Organisation if the decision would impact on its plans for future investment at Turnberry, and if it planned to appeal the exclusion of the sites in the LDP2.
Neither company has responded.
US government spends £1m at Qatari-backed hotels for Donald Trump’s state visit – from The Scotsman – An investigation into the spending that supported Mr Trump’s state visit to the UK in June 2019.
Donald Trump’s trip to the UK and Ireland has cost US taxpayers more than £2.7m to date, with more than £1m going towards rooms at five-star London hotels tied to the ruling family of the oil and gas-rich Gulf state of Qatar.
An analysis by The Scotsman of dozens of purchase and delivery orders placed by the US government in recent weeks shows that some of the most exclusive accommodation in London has been snapped up for the vast entourage accompanying the US president on his three-day state visit.
In all, as much as $3,512,288 (£2,777,657) has been set aside for accommodation and transport for both legs, the records indicate.
However, that does not include the policing and security bill for Mr Trump’s controversial visit, which is expected to cost British taxpayers an eight-figure sum.
The extensive list of payments shows a funeral directors on the east coast of Ireland is among those companies in line for a sizeable payday, with authorities in the US committing nearly £740,000 towards chauffeur services and luxury car rentals from the firm ahead of the Irish leg of Mr Trump’s visit.
But the data shows it is some of London’s most salubrious hotels – and their wealthy middle Eastern owners – that are in line for the biggest payments, with the spending records revealing as much about the fragmented international ownership of prime real estate in the capital as they do the enormous scale of the visiting US party. The US State Department has placed a delivery order worth $1,223,230 (£967,379) for rooms at the Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane. The order, lodged on 20 May, specifies the payment is for “hotel rooms for VIP visit.”
A further $122,059 (£95,529) was spent on 15 May for “hotel rooms for visit” at the Intercontinental. Eight days later, $13,299 (£10,517) went towards a “generator in support of a VIP of visit,” with $10,438 (£8,254) allocated for voice and data cabling at the hotel on 20 May.
All the payments were made to Constellation Hotel (Opco) UK SA, the operating company which runs the luxury five-star hotel in Mayfair.
Companies House records show Constellation is in turn owned by Luxembourg-based Regis Hotel (Opco) UK SA. Its directors include Sheikha Lulwah Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the 34-year-old daughter of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family and Qatar’s ruling emir from 1995 to 2013.
Three other members of the powerful Al Thani family dynasty were directors of the firm, but stepped down last December, filings show.
The Luxembourg firm is understood to be part of the Qatar Holding Investment vehicle, itself a unit of the Qatar Investment Authority, the emirate’s sovereign wealth fund.
The State Department also paid $47,311 (£37,415) on 25 May to Churchill Group Limited for accommodation at the Hyatt Regency London. The purchase order specifies that the money is for “hotel rooms in support of a VIP visit.”
Churchill Group’s latest annual accounts show its ultimate parent company is a firm called Prime Capital, registered in Luxembourg. The accounts state that the beneficial owner of the company is Sheikh Hamad bin Jassam bin Jaber Al Thani, the former Qatari prime minister.
The payments are likely to be of interest to observers of the Trump administration’s relationship with Qatar, which has been defined by tension followed by a period of rapprochement.
In June 2017, Mr Trump has claimed credit for the pressure being placed on Qatar by its Gulf neighbours, who accuse it of supporting terrorism in the region.
Last April, however, he welcomed Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Qatari emir, to the White House. Mr Trump praised him for becoming a “big advocate” of combating terrorist financing, adding that he was a “great gentleman” and a “friend.”
Other procurement records – detailed in an official US government database of federal spending – show two payments worth a total of $242,212 (£191.550) were made between 1 and 20 May to GH Hotel Operating Company Limited to host VIPs at Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane. It is part of the Marriott hotel group.
A total of $128,662 (£101,751) paid to Cumberland Hotel (London) Limited for rooms at the newly rebranded Hard Rock Hotel London on Great Cumberland Place.
Again, the purchase order payments, made between 21 and 28 May, are for “hotel rooms to support a VIP visit.”
The hotel is ultimately owned by the Hong Leong company, a private corporation based in Malaysia.
An additional three payments worth a total of $364,115 (£287,956) were made by the State Department to unspecified “miscellaneous foreign awardees” in the UK between 22 and 29 May. All were for hotel rooms in connection with the “VIP visit.”
It is not known what members of the presidential entourage will be staying at the booked hotels, which are closely clustered around the east side of Hyde Park.
Mr Trump and his wife, Melania, are reported to be staying at Winfield House, a mansion in Regent’s Park which serves as the official residence of Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK.
Despite reports that the president’s adult children and their partners are staying at the Corinthia Hotel, there is no record of payments to the firm.
Since 24 May, the department has also paid Verizon UK $79,001 (£62,477) for the installation of data lines and data circuits in connection with the visit. The purchase order does not make clear where they are being installed.
The slew of spending records also break down the beneficiaries of Mr Trump’s visit to Ireland later this week.
The largest, by some considerable expense, is JP Ward & Sons Limited, a funeral directors based in the coastal town of Bray in Co Wicklow, which stands to receive as much as $935,033 (£739.461).
According to the delivery orders, which are marked, ‘POTUS’, all the payments are for vehicles and chauffeur services.
The firm’s website notes that, as well as hearses, its fleet includes “luxurious” Mercedes E class limousines.
Three delivery orders, worth $166,514 (£131,685) are marked ‘‘POTUS’ and Radisson Blu Hotel’; another, for $39,174 (£30,980) read ‘POTUS WH Radisson Hotel.
A further four purchase orders channel $105,626 (£83,533) to an unspecified recipient. The orders are marked ‘POTUS USSS – University OF Limerick’. Another which does not disclose the recipient appears to be for hotel accommodation, given the description reads: ‘POTUS self pays park inn Radisson Shannon Airport’. It is worth $12,087 (£9,558).
Mr Trump is expected to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the airport, before moving on to his golf resort in Doonbeg, Co Clare.
Other miscellaneous payments include $10,886 (£8,609) to install temporary telephone lines at an undisclosed location for the president’s visit, and $12,632 (£9,989) to install an antenna.
All the Irish payments have gone through the US embassy in Dublin, with those earmarked for London hotels made via the London embassy.
A US State Department spokesman referred The Scotsman’s enquiry to the White House, which did not respond to requests for comment.
Crackdown on US State Department payments to Donald Trump’s firms – from The Scotsman – An investigation into how Donald Trump was refused £38m in financing from the Bank of Scotland as he attempted to create his inaugural international hotel resort.
Donald Trump’s loss making hotel and golf resorts in Scotland will no longer be allowed to receive payments from the US federal government, under a strict new law being brought forward in the US Congress.
Politicians in a little-known House of Representatives sub-committee have voted to adopt an amendment that prevents the US State Department from spending taxpayers’ money at the US president’s properties, which remain in his ultimate ownership via a New York-based revocable trust.
As revealed by The Scotsman last year, Mr Trump’s flagship Scottish resort at Turnberry in South Ayrshire has received tens of thousands of pounds in payments from the State Department in the first two and a half years of his administration.
The series of payments to Turnberry include more than £52,000 spent on rooms at the historic resort last July, when Mr Trump and key members of his administration enjoyed a two night stay at the hotel and played rounds of golf during his UK visit.
The payments, which were made to Turnberry’s parent company, SLC Turnberry Limited, via the US embassy in London, prompted widespread criticism from ethics groups.
Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Centre, a Washington DC-based political watchdog, accused Mr Trump of “using the power and authority of his office to profit personally.”
The amendment to the Stare and Foreign Operations Bill – a labyrinthine piece of legislation which oversees the State Department’s vast budget – has been approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programmes.
The amendment, which covers payments to both Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire as well as other Trump properties, was approved by 231 votes to 187. It will have to be ratified by the Senate before it becomes enshrined in law.
However, given the same proposal has been defeated twice before since Mr Trump took office, its pending approval is a victory for the 73-year-old’s opponents, and reflects the shift in power in Congress.
The amendment was brought forward by Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, who said Mr Trump should not be able to profit from his presidency.
“President Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his many businesses raises serious questions about compliance with the domestic emoluments clause, which protects against presidential corruption,” he said.
“By prohibiting the use of federal funds at businesses owned, in whole or in part, by President Trump, we will be sending a strong message to the American people that we will not allow this or any other president to use his high office for personal enrichment.”
Mr Cohen said the prohibition would also apply to government officials staying at Trump properties, as well as the president himself and his family, adding: “The fact is, when we stay at his hotels, he makes money. Nobody’s supposed to make money from the presidency, either directly or indirectly.”
But the amendment has been criticised by Republicans, all but two of whom voted against the changes.
Hal Rogers from Kentucky warned that the blanket ban on government spending would have security implications for Mr Trump’s overseas visits and those by other senior government officials.
He described the amendment as a “partisan stunt” that would “jeopardise the safety and security of State Department personnel and foreign dignitaries.”
He said: “The mission of diplomatic security is to protect the people, places, and vital information that allow the US to be a leader in world events.7
“That includes protecting the personal security of the secretary of state when he is tasked by the president with attending summits at one of the properties listed in the amendment. The president, not the secretary of state, selects travel locations.”
The Trump Organisation did not respond to a request for comment. It has previously told The Scotsman that Trump properties charged room rates only for US government patronage, and that it does not profit from the stays.
House committee calls for Turnberry inquiry – from The Scotsman – A story detailing how the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has demanded the full disclosure of US State Department payments at Trump Turnberry following The Scotsman’s coverage.
The chairman of one of the most powerful committees in the US Congress has seized on an investigation by The Scotsman into US federal government spending at Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish property to demand the full disclosure of the “questionable” payments amid concern they fall foul of the law.
Eliot Engel, who helms the House Foreign Affairs Committee, suggested the tens of thousands of pounds spent by the US State Department at the Trump Turnberry hotel and golf resort may simply be supporting the US president’s loss making business, rather than facilitating official business by his administration.
The high ranking Democrat warned that by “personally enriching” Mr Trump, the payments appeared to violate the domestic emoluments clause of the US constitution, which prohibits the president from profiting from his own government.
Mr Engel cited a report by The Scotsman from earlier this month which revealed the State Department has spent more than £11,000 on rooms at the South Ayrshire resort this summer.
The veteran politician said he was left “concerned” by the story, and has asked officials at the department for a comprehensive breakdown of its expenditure at Turnberry, ranging from hotel rooms and meals to minibar expenses and room service costs, as well as any discounts struck by US government employees at the resort.
As revealed by The Scotsman, the payment worth $13,835 (£11,097), was made on 3 July for “hotel accommodation” at Turnberry throughout the course of the month. It marked the fourth such payment made by the department to Mr Trump’s resort since he took office, with the total spend to date exceeding £75,000.
All the payments were approved via the US Embassy in London and routed via the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, the body charged with implementing US. foreign policy and promoting US interests in Europe.
In a letter to Brian Bulatao, undersecretary of state for management at the State Department, Mr Engel wrote: “The most recent payment was reportedly an advance for hotel rooms to be used during July.
“While the specific purpose for securing these rooms is unclear, reporting indicates that President Trump’s son, Eric, is a regular at the resort – raising questions about whether any of the questionable payments may in fact be supporting the president’s family business, as opposed to official administration travel.”
Despite fielding numerous enquiries from The Scotsman regarding the tranche of payments made to SLC Turnberry Limited – the resort’s parent firm, which is overseen by Mr Trump’s adult sons – the State Department and the White House have not disclosed further details about them.
The Trump Organisation has said that US government custom at its properties is billed ‘at cost’, and that it does not profit from the payments.
However, there is growing disquiet over the close ties between Mr Trump’s public office and his private businesses, with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a progressive watchdog group, warning that the lines between the two “have all but evaporated.”
Mr Engel, who pointed to the “opaque web of shell companies” surrounding Mr Trump’s golf and hotel resort’s, echoed such concerns in his letter to Mr Bulatao.
“The department’s decision to use the president’s commercial properties as lodging or event venues for official travel creates unnecessary additional burdens for the department and its employees, while personally enriching the president, seemingly in violation of the constitution,” he added.
He has asked the State Department to provide “complete and unredacted” records of its spending by no later than 2 August.
Mr Engel, who also flagged a report by the US investigative journalism site, ProPublica, which detailed State Department spending at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida, is not the first member of his party to reference The Scotsman‘s reporting of Mr Trump’s businesses and their links to his administration.
Last year, other leading Democrats including Elijah Cummings, now the chair of the influential House Oversight Committee, and Elizabeth Warren, who hopes to secure her party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential race, cited the newspaper’s reports about the first batch of payments to SLC Turnberry Limited when calling for a wide ranging investigation and audit of State Department and Department of Homeland Security spending.
Last month, meanwhile, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programmes ratified an amendment to legislation which controls the State Department’s budget which, in theory, prevents federal spending at Mr Trump’s firms.
However, the amendment is unlikely to become enshrined in law, given it requires the approval of the Republican-controlled Senate.
Turnberry has racked up millions of pounds of losses since Mr Trump bought the resort in 2014. According to Companies House filings, its parent firm was in the red by almost £3.4m in 2017. The latest accounts are due to be published this autumn.
Mr Trump himself stood down as a director of SLC Turnberry Limited in January 2017, but the way the business is structured ensures he remains its ultimate owner via a New York-based state grantor trust. It in turn has just two trustees – Mr Trump and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organisation’s chief financial officer.
Donald Trump’s Turnberry firm paid £11,000 by US State Department – from The Scotsman – Details of the fourth US State Department payment to Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort in the space of 15 months.
Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish hotel and golf course has received another five-figure windfall from his own government to cover accommodation costs at the loss making resort, The Scotsman can reveal.
The US State Department authorised the payment, worth more than £11,000, for rooms at Trump Turnberry over the next three weeks.
It is the first such payment made by the US federal government to Mr Trump’s struggling property in nearly a year, and comes amid growing unrest in the US Congress over the spending of US taxpayers’ money at the president’s companies.
Since Mr Trump entered office, the State Department has made at least four separate payments to Turnberry’s corporate entity. The latest brings the total spend to more than £75,000.
Ethics watchdogs warned the American public was “effectively subsidising” Mr Trump’s company, which has yet to turn a profit under his ownership, and said the 73-year-old was becoming “more and more brazen about using the presidency to advance his businesses.”
However, the Trump Organisation told The Scotsman that it did not profit from US government custom at its properties.
The latest payment was made to SLC Turnberry Limited, which has just two directors – Mr Trump’s sons, Eric, and Donald Jr.
Mr Trump himself stood down as a director of the firm in January 2017, but the way the business is structured ensures he remains its ultimate owner via a New York-based state grantor trust. It in turn has just two trustees – Mr Trump and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organisation’s chief financial officer.
Turnberry has racked up millions of pounds of losses across each of the four years since Mr Trump bought the resort in 2014.
According to Companies House filings, its parent firm was in the red by almost £3.4m in 2017. The latest accounts are due to be published this autumn.
Federal procurement records seen by The Scotsman specify the new payment, worth $13,835 (£11,097), is for “hotel accommodation” at Trump Turnberry over the period of 3 July to 1 August.
As with previous payments made to SLC Turnberry Limited, the purchase order – described as a “simplified acquisition” – was sanctioned by the State Department, and approved via the US Embassy in London.
The money was routed on 3 July from the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, the body charged with implementing US. foreign policy and promoting US interests in Europe.
While Mr Trump is not expected to make a visit to the property this summer, the president’s second son, Eric, is a regular at the South Ayrshire resort in his capacity as executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organisation.
The 35-year-old has effectively assumed responsibility for overseeing the company’s global portfolio of golf resorts since his father became president.
The Trump administration is facing a growing backlash stateside over US government payments made to properties ultimately owned by the president.
Last month, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programmes ratified an amendment to legislation which controls the State Department’s budget which, in theory, bans federal spending at Mr Trump’s firms.
Democrats on the House of Representatives sub-committee approved the measure by 231 votes to 187. The amendment also prevents payments to Mr Trump’s inaugural Scottish resort, Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire.
The amendment was brought forward by Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, who said Mr Trump should not be able to profit from his presidency and warned that his refusal to divest himself of his businesses raised “serious questions” about his compliance with the domestic emoluments clause.
However, the tweak to the State and Foreign Operations Bill will have to be approved by the Senate before it comes into law, a prospect regarded as unlikely given the upper chamber of Congress remains under the control of Republicans.
Last year, other leading Democrats, including senator Elizabeth Warren, who hopes to secure her party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential race, cited The Scotsman’s revelations about the first tranche of Turnberry payments when calling for a wide ranging investigation and audit of State Department and Department of Homeland Security spending at Trump properties.
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a progressive watchdog group based in the US capital, told The Scotsman: “President Trump has become more and more brazen about using the presidency to advance his businesses, and the lines between his official position, his family, and his businesses have all but evaporated.
“Whether it’s using official travel and statements to promote his businesses, making his properties a part of international diplomacy, or the government directly paying his properties, the president, his administration, and his family have continued to show that they have no concerns about the ethical and constitutional issues created by mixing his businesses with the presidency.”
Brendan Fischer, federal reform director at the Campaign Legal Centre, a Washington DC-based non-partisan political watchdog, said: “This appears to be a reminder of how the American people are effectively subsidizing the president’s family business, which creates the appearance of public resources being used for private gain.”
Last summer, The Scotsman, detailed a series of payments made by the State Department to SLC Turnberry Limited.
The first, for $10,113 (£8,112), was approved on 5 April 2018, followed by $39,602 (£31,768) and $30,074 (£24,125) on 10 and 11 July respectively.
The latter two payments were for hotel accommodation for Mr Trump and key members of his administration. The president was photographed playing two rounds of golf during his two night stay at Turnberry, part of his visit to the UK.
It is understood the April payment related to a visit to Turnberry by Eric Trump. the executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organisation.
A spokeswoman for the Trump Organisation said: “The Trump Organisation does not profit on government business and bills all services at cost.”
It not clarify the ‘at cost’ rate, the details of the State Department booking, or the identity of the visiting party when asked by The Scotsman.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump Turnberry paying women employees less than men – from The Scotsman – A investigation into how Trump Turnberry, US President Donald Trump’s flagship resort in Scotland, is paying women less in wages and bonuses, with men outnumbered women by 4:1 in senior executive roles.
Women employed by Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish golfing resort are being paid bonuses worth less than half of those received by their male colleagues, The Scotsman can reveal.
There are four times as many men as women occupying executive positions at the US president’s Trump Turnberry company.
Management at Turnberry, one of Mr Trump’s most prestigious overseas properties, blamed the “male dominated functions” associated with golf clubs for the shortfall in female leaders and the wide bonus gap, which means women receive nearly £1,400 less than their male counterparts.
But Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said the size of the company’s bonus gap “cannot be justified” or “explained away.”The internally compiled report at Turnberry – owned by the president since April 2014 and now run by his sons, Eric and Donald Jr – is believed to be the first time the gender pay gap has been disclosed at any of the Trump Organisation’s global network of firms.
The figures also sit uneasy with claims by Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s embattled personal attorney, who said the president’s business empire employed more women executives than men.
The report, drawn up in March, shows that the mean gender pay gap for female employees is 13.69 per cent lower than the male equivalent, meaning they earn 86 pence for every £1 that their male colleagues earn. While that is below the average UK mean gender pay gap of 17.4 per cent, it is higher than the average of 8.2 per cent in the accommodation and food services sector.
There was no difference in the median gender pay gap between Turnberry’s male and female employees, which reflects the fact the majority of the highest-paid roles are filled by men.
The widest gender gap was to be found in the bonus culture at the 800 acre resort. The average median bonus paid to men is £2,506, but the sum drops to just £1,116 among women, a shortfall of 53.5 per cent. The average mean bonus paid to men is £3,317, which drops 48.9 per cent for female employees, who receive £1,695.
While seven women received bonus in the 12 months to April 2017, the number jumped to 11 for men.
Turnberry’s management said the bonus gap was “due to the number of senior leadership roles undertaken by males,” with eight men in executive committee leadership positions compared to just two women. They said such an imbalance was “reflective of the male-dominated functions present in a golf resort.”
They added: “We our confident that all our human resources processes and practices ensure that men and women are paid equally for doing equivalent jobs.”
While some 46.8 per cent of the lowest paid jobs at Turnberry are occupied by women, the percentage drops to just 31.2 per cent for the highest paid quintile.
Ms Smethers said. “Trump Turnberry is similar to many other UK workplaces. Men dominate the top and women are undervalued and underpaid. Bonus gaps of over 50 per cent simply cannot be justified and explained away.”
Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of Close the Gap, also dismissed Trump Turnberry’s explanations for the pay inequalities.
She said: “We’re increasingly seeing employers cite the causes of their pay gap, such having more men in senior roles, as a justification for the gap.
“This feeds the misconception that having men in high-paid jobs and women in low-paid jobs is an inevitable outcome.”
She added: “Identifying why you’ve got a pay gap should just be the first step. Addressing pay discrimination is critical, but companies also have to look at the types of jobs men and women are doing.
“They have to examine how workplace culture impacts on men and women differently, and then change their practice to ensure that women are not disadvantaged.”
Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said: “Trump is a sexist bully, so the fact that equal pay doesn’t seem to matter at his golf courses will surprise no one.”
In a November 2015 interview, Mr Trump, then running for the presidency, defended his recruitment policies over the years and claimed he was a longstanding champion of women’s rights in the workplace. “I have been very, very good for women,” he said. “I was way ahead of the curve.”
In the same Washington Post interview, Mr Cohen described Mr Trump as a “performance-based individual” who did not care if an employee’s name was “Mary or Joe.”
He added: “There are more female executives at the Trump Organisation than there are male. And women who are similarly situated in positions similar to that of their male counterparts, are actually paid more.”
Since taking up office in the White House, Mr Trump has been roundly criticised for failing to address pay inequalities in the US. Last year, his administration rolled back an Obama-era policy aimed at eliminating the gender pay gap.
The ruling, which would have compelled large firms to report breakdowns to the US government of what they pay employees by race and gender, was denounced by the Trump administration as “enormously burdensome.”
An analysis of Mr Trump’s hiring policies by The Atlantic magazine in March claimed his White House has named twice as many men as women to appointed positions. It stated that just 33 per cent of Mr Trump’s appointees are women, compared to 47 per cent of the US national workforce.
The current incarnation of Mr Trump’s 16-strong cabinet includes only three women.
Turnberry’s six-page report into pay – a mandatory requirement under new equality legislation – also highlighted the difficulties Mr Trump’s firm has encountered in hiring staff, despite the fact it is one of the country’s most high profile golf resorts.
Trump Turnberry’s management concede that they have struggled to fulfil its recruitment goals due to the enclave’s “geographical isolation” on the South Ayrshire coastline, a problem that has led to it trying to hire staff directly from local schools and colleges.
The data in its gender pay report was based on payroll records from April last year. Neither Trump Turnberry nor the Trump Organisation responded to The Scotsman’s enquiries.
According to the most recent accounts filed with Companies House by Trump Turnberry’s parent company, SLC Turnberry, it employs 313 staff, with a total wage bill of £5.3m. It is currently advertising to fill 25 vacancies.
Mr Trump’s other Scottish resort, Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire, employs just 93 people, including Sarah Malone, the executive-vice president.
Under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017, employers with 250 or more employees must publish and report specific figures about their gender pay gap. Organisations with less than 250 employees can publish the data voluntarily but are not obliged to do so.
Donald Trump’s son linked to £10,000 US State Department payments to Turnberry resort – from The Scotsman – A exclusive into how the US government has bankrolled trips to Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort by his son, Eric Trump.
Donald Trump has been accused of overseeing a culture of “kleptocracy” at his flagship Scottish resort after federal receipts passed to The Scotsman show the US government is bankrolling trips connected to his son’s visits to the luxury property.
The US State Department has spent more than £10,000 in relation to trips by Eric Trump to Turnberry hotel and golf course, which is owned by his father.
The bill covers two visits made to the South Ayrshire property since Mr Trump secured victory in the 2016 US presidential election.
It is the latest example of the questionable ethical arrangements surrounding Mr Trump’s continued ownership of his property empire during his time in the highest public office.
The evidence comes just a fortnight before the US President is due back in the UK. In May, The Scotsman revealed how the State Department sanctioned payments worth more than £5,600 to Mr Trump’s company at the South Ayrshire enclave. The money was to pay for hotel rooms in connection with a “VIP visit.”
The latest tranche of payments, detailed in a series of federal government charge card documents, has emerged just a fortnight before Mr Trump is expected to visit Turnberry as his part of controversial three-day long visit to the UK.
Since his father became the 45th president of the US, Eric Trump has assumed responsibility for overseeing the Trump Organisation’s sprawling global portfolio of high-end golf resorts.
He has visited Turnberry several times since his father’s election, but the charge card documents, obtained by The Scotsman from Property of the People, a Washington-based organisation which campaigns for government transparency, marks the first time federal payments can be linked to his Scottish trips.
The records show that the State Department spent $7,724 (£5,878) of taxpayers’ money on 6 April last year for hotel accommodation at Turnberry.
The payment was made a few days in advance of Eric Trump’s visit to the resort in order to to check up on the progress of its King Robert the Bruce course, which opened that July.
The charge card documents do not offer a breakdown of the expenses or the duration of the trip, but at the time, Mr Trump’s second son made no secret of his April trip.
On 10 April, he gave an interview to the Daily Telegraph newspaper from the comforts of Turnberry’s clubhouse, where he defended his role and that of his siblings in the Trump Organisation. “Is that nepotism?” he said. “Absolutely. Is that also a beautiful thing? Absolutely. Family business is a beautiful thing.”
He also gave an interview to the local Ayrshire Post newspaper to promote the “truly incredible” King Robert the Bruce course.
It is understood Eric Trump’s visit at the time was part of a whistle-stop tour of Trump properties. The charge card documents show the State Department paid $10,386 (£7,903) on the same date as the Turnberry payment for “hotel accommodation” to “support E Trump visit” at the Trump Doonbeg resort in Co Clare, Ireland.
That month, the Irish Times newspaper ran an interview with the 34-year-old, which stated that he had flown in to Ireland from Turnberry on 11 April.
The documents obtained by Property of the People also show the State Department made a payment of $5,583 (£4,248) on 29 November 2016 – just three weeks after Mr Trump’s historic election victory – for accommodation at Turnberry.
At that time, Eric Trump did not publicise his visit to Scotland, but social media posts show he flew on a commercial airline from New York’s Newark Airport to Glasgow Airport around that date. An Instagram post shared by his fellow passenger, Mo Amer, a US stand-up comedian of Palestinian descent, showed the two men seated side by side on the flight.
The post was uploaded on 1 December. The two men, according to Mr Amer, chatted about the Trump administration’s policies, and he said Eric told him he was en-route to Turnberry. Mr Amer, whose stand-up performances are shown on Netflix, shared the photo with his followers, writing: “Sometimes God just sends you the material.”
A source at Turnberry said Eric Trump’s visit at the time lasted just 24 hours.
Sarahjane Blum, executive director and co-founder of Property of the People, a non-profit group whose members include prominent attorneys, activists, and scholars, said: “The Turnberry receipts are one more grievous example of how Donald Trump is normalising kleptocracy and the latest in a long line of examples of Trump profiting from the presidency.”
Although the charge card documents do not specify the recipients of the State Department spending at Turnberry, the same department’s £5,645 payment for the “VIP visit” to the resort earlier this year was made to SLC Turnberry.
The company remains under the ownership of Mr Trump. Its directors include Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr, the president’s eldest son.
That payment was authorised by the State Department’s bureau of European and Eurasian affairs – which is responsible for developing and implementing US foreign policy – and processed via the US Embassy in London.
A ProPublica report, published on Wednesday and based in part on the same government expenditure records obtained by The Scotsman, claims that since Mr Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2015, Trump Organisation-managed and branded properties have received at least $16.1m (£12.2m) from US government agencies, Mr Trump’s presidential campaign, and Republican organisations.
At least $400,000 (£304,000) of that total, the online news site claimed, has been spent by federal, state and local agencies.
The State Department and the Trump Organisation did not respond to The Scotsman’s enquiries.
Losses at Turnberry more than double to £10m – from The Scotsman – I broke the story of Trump Turnberry’s deepening losses in its latest annual accounts covering the 12 months to 31 December 2018, which were published in October 2019.
Losses at Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish golf resort have more than doubled to £10m, marking the fifth consecutive year under his ownership it has failed to turn a profit, newly published accounts show.
The US president’s Turnberry resort ran up losses of more than £10.7m last year, meaning that since he took over the historic property in 2014, it has lost nearly £43m.
It comes as Mr Trump’s most prestigious overseas resort is at the centre of a Congressional investigation into US Defence Department spending and patronage.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee is also looking into US military spending at the Scottish Government-owned Glasgow Prestwick Airport, and its ties with Mr Trump’s South Ayrshire hotel and golf course.
As revealed by The Scotsman last week, the Trump Organisation’s plans for a major expansion of Turnberry by rezoning swaths of prime agricultural land to make way for housing and luxury villas – a venture seen as crucial to returning the historic venue to profit – have been rejected.
The new filings with Companies House reveal that over the course of 2018, Turnberry’s parent firm, Golf Recreation Scotland Limited, lost £10.77m on a turnover of £18.41m.
In the previous 12 months, Turnberry lost £3.38m, with turnover standing at £15.2m. That represented a significant stemming of the record £17.6m losses posted in 2016, during which time the course was partially closed to allow for refurbishment works.
The accounts also show that the resort remains more reliant than ever on Mr Trump for its finances. It owes the 73-year-old £115m, money that he provided in the form of interest free loans. That is up from £107m in 2017.
The cost of sales rose from £9.7m to £11.5m over the same period. Administrative expenses were also up from £6.5m to £7.1m.
In his director’s report accompanying the accounts, the firm’s sole director, Eric Trump, executive vice president at the Trump Organisation, wrote: “Trump Turnberry achieved tremendous success in 2018 as the property recorded its highest annual revenue (turnover) in the resort’s stories 113 year history.
“Now in its fifth full operating year under Trump Hotels ownership. Trump Turnberry has established itself as Scotland’s premier destination for luxury travel, championship golf and special events.”
He added: “As part of an ongoing multimillion pound renovation, ownership continues to improve and modernise the property’s facilities including nearly upgraded villas, enhanced spa and wellness offerings and an outdoor guest activity centre which will be fully completed in 2020.”
The accounts also confirm that the firm’s subsidiary, DT Connect Europe Limited, has sold its “main asset” to a “company under common control for £600,000.
The firm was set up to oversee a luxury helicopter charter business and the asset in question is one of three Sikorsky S-76B helicopters owned by Mr Trump.
As revealed by The Scotsman last month, the helicopter has been shipped back to the US amid falling demand and a refusal by some customers to fly in the aircraft with its prominent TRUMP branding on display.
The accounts add that “no further revenue is expected to be generated” by DT Connect Europe, and that it has been “discontinued.”
Mr Trump visited Turnberry last July on a “working visit” to the UK, playing two rounds of golf at the historic property.
That month,The Scotsman revealed the US State Department paid SLC Turnberry Limited – a subsidiary of Golf Recreation Scotland – more than £50,000 towards accommodation costs in connection with the visit.
A series of further payments by the department has brought the total spend by the State Department to more than £75,000. The Scotsman’s reports on the expenditure have been cited by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has demanded the full disclosure of the “questionable” payments.
Although Mr Trump’s second son, Eric, is predominantly in charge of redeveloping Turnberry, it remains ultimately owned by the US president via a New York-based entity called the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust. It has just two trustees – Mr Trump, and Allen Weisselberg, the veteran chief financial officer of the Trump Organisation.
Accounts recently filed for Mr Trump’s inaugural Scottish resort in Aberdeenshire show it remains mired in the red after running up losses of more than £1m in 2018.
Trump International Golf Links posted annual losses of £1.07m in 2018, marking the seventh consecutive year it has failed to turn a profit, according to the filings with Companies House.
The company remains reliant on interest free loans provided by Mr Trump worth £40.6m. Its staff count also fell from 84 to 77.
When Mr Trump promised to build the “world’s greatest” golf course, he promised to create 6,000 jobs in the north east of Scotland.
The development has run up cumulative losses of more than £9.4m, but is set to expand with a new village-style development dubbed the Trump Estate.
The venture will see 500 homes and 50 holiday units built, with Mr Trump’s firm promising to spend £147.2m..
It was approved at a full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council despite thousands of objections and warnings from inside the local authority that the plans represented a “weak substitute” to what the Trump Organisation originally proposed for the area more than a decade ago.
A separate council committee has also approved plans for a second golf course at the site, which is expected to be named after Mr Trump’s Lewis-born mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump.
No profit in seven years for Trump’s inaugural Scottish resort – from Scotland on Sunday – I broke the story of Trump International Scotland’s deepening losses in its latest annual accounts covering the 12 months to 31 December 2018, which were published in October 2019.
Donald Trump’s inaugural Scottish golf resort remains mired in the red after running up losses of more than £1m, newly published accounts show.
The US president’s Trump International Golf Links firm in Aberdeenshire posted annual losses of £1.07m in 2018, marking the seventh consecutive year it has failed to turn a profit, according to documents lodged with Companies House.
The figures are based on an annual turnover of £2.76m. The company remains reliant on interest free loans provided by Mr Trump worth £40.6m. The latest filings mean that Mr Trump’s resort, which he promised would be the “world’s greatest,” has now run up cumulative losses of more than £9.4m.
In the previous accounts, covering the 12 months to the end of December 2017, its losses ran to £1.25m, with turnover standing at £2.54m. It employed 84 staff.
The latest accounts, signed off by the Trump Organisation’s auditors in Scotland, Johnston Carmichael, cover the 12 months to the end of December 2018. They show the employee headcount has since fallen to 77. When Mr Trump first unveiled his plans for the resort, he promised it would create 6,000 jobs.
Mr Trump’s presence in Aberdeenshire stretches back 13 years. The plans for the resort were first submitted by the Trump Organisation in 2006 and approved amid much controversy by the Scottish Government in 2008. The golf course opened four years later.
The company has three directors in the form of Mr Trump’s adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr, along with Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organisation’s long serving chief financial officer. It is ultimately controlled by an entity known as the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust, a New York-based grantor trust which has two trustees – Mr Trump and Mr Weisselberg.
In his director’s report which accompanies the latest filings, Eric Trump, executive vice-president of the Trump Organisation, stressed that Mr Trump’s resort in the north east of Scotland was a prestigious destination.
“Trump International’s reputation and status with tour operators and agents across Europe, America and further afield continues to expand as its services and products evolve,” he wrote.
“Looking forward to 2019, this trend will continue and further capital investments are planned.”
He added: “Trump International continues to soar in the world golf rankings and plays an important part in the global Trump portfolio.”
In a section detailing the principal risks and uncertainties facing the business, he goes on: “The industry is both competitive and challenging, factors that are heightened by the ongoing dip in the local economy, and adverse weather conditions.”
The latest financial report has been disclosed a week after the Trump Organisation claimed victory in its contentious plans for a luxury housing development adjoining the resort, dubbed the Trump Estate.
The venture will see 500 homes and 50 holiday units built, with Mr Trump’s firm promising to spend £147.2m on the venture.
It was approved at a full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council despite thousands of objections and warnings from inside the local authority that the plans represented a “weak substitute” to what the Trump Organisation originally proposed for the area more than a decade ago.
In his director’s report, Eric Trump notes that “early indications have shown a swell of interest from developers and the public for the plans proposed.”
A separate council committee has also approved plans for a second golf course at the site, which is expected to be named after Mr Trump’s Lewis-born mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump.
The latest accounts are due soon for Turnberry. Mr Trump’s flagship resort in Scotland.
Its parent company shows he has lost nearly £33m since he bought the historic venue in 2014. The most recent accounts point to annual losses of £3.38m. The firm is also reliant on interest free loans from Mr Trump totalling £107m.
SNP accused of double-dealing over links with Trump from Scotland on Sunday – An investigation into the commercial relationship between the Scottish Government-owned Prestwick Airport and Donald Trump, at the time of writing a Republican US presidential candidate
THE TROUBLED Prestwick Airport, owned by the Scottish Government, has been involved in negotiations with Donald Trump in an effort to return it to profit – at the same time as senior SNP figures have been calling for the US presidential candidate to be banned from the UK, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
The Scottish Government was last night accused of hypocrisy and urged to disclose the precise nature of its relationship with the controversial Republican frontrunner after a tranche of correspondence detailed Prestwick Airport’s extensive dealings with Trump.
Officials at the loss-making Glasgow Prestwick Airport and Trump’s executives have explored working together to “win” business and the “integration” of their operations.
The precise nature of Prestwick’s high-profile ties with the controversial US presidential candidate has long been unclear. It was described in a joint press release in November 2014 as an “official partnership” and a “strategic alliance.”
The airport now insists it has no “official partnership contract in place” with the magnate or his Turnberry resort and that he has merely offered a “show of support” for the beleaguered hub.
But a tranche of documents released to Scotland on Sunday show the airport has held unminuted discussions over “potential partnership opportunities” and disclosed business development targets with Trump Turnberry, which has not been required to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA).
The relationship was announced in grand style two years ago when Trump touched down at Prestwick in his Boeing 757 jet. The airport charges him undisclosed fees for fuelling, airside parking, landing charges and hangar space for the aircraft and his Sikorsky S-76 helicopter.
Although there have been no further public announcements, the correspondence – released under Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation – details extensive private discussions.
The airport said it “holds a presentation that was shared with Trump Turnberry in relation to business development targets.” However, it withheld it from the FoI release, claiming it would “prejudge our commercial interest”.
It added that “it has had dialogue from employees from Trump Turnberry resort to discuss potential partnership opportunities. There were no minutes taken of these discussions.”
In an email sent last March to Ralph Porciani, general manager at Trump Turnberry, Jules Matteoni, Prestwick’s manager of fire service, passenger services, transport and security, asked to meet Turnberry staff at “short notice” to “have a think about integration of your business and ours before the season starts”.
He referenced a meeting at Prestwick four days previously with Porciani, stating: “I trust you have confidence in the operation now.”
Last September, Matteoni wrote to Trump Turnberry’s sales director, Gillian McNeilly, concerning a commercial deal, details of which were redacted by Prestwick. He told her: “If we want to win this business then we should work together on pricing and have a package that is highly attractive.”
The airport was taken over by the government in 2003 for £1. It made losses of £4.1m last year, with loan financing from the government increasing from £4.5m in March 2014 to £10.8m 12 months later.
Former First Minister Alex Salmond and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP were among those SNP politicians to call on Trump to be banned from the UK over his contentious remarks about Muslims, while Nicola Sturgeon stripped him of his Global Scot status.
Alex Johnstone, infrastructure and transport spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “On the one hand SNP MPs want to ban Donald Trump from the UK, but on the other, the airport the Scottish Government owns appears to be going out its way to curry favour with him.
“It makes sense for an airport like Prestwick to work closely with local businesses like Turnberry. But the SNP has to stop being so hypocritical about the situation – it can’t have it both ways.”
He added: “People will find it very strange that Prestwick shares this information with Trump, while claiming there’s no official partnership in place. The Scottish Government should explain this arrangement as a matter of urgency.”
David Stewart, Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman, said: “The SNP clearly has some explaining to do here. Mr Trump has threatened to walk away from his businesses in Scotland yet Prestwick seems desperate to get together with Trump Turnberry. We need full disclosure of what is going on.”
Kirsten Sweeney, Prestwick’s communications manager, characterised the airport’s relationship with Turnberry as “long running” and one that would continue. Its link with Trump Turnberry, she said, was “mutually supportive”.
Asked why it had disclosed business development targets with Trump’s firm despite the fact there is “no legal contract between the two organisations,” she said: “When you enter into these discussions, there is an element of trust that has to be had between the organisations that are looking to build a partnership with each other. It’s the same process we have in many of our business development discussions with potential customers or partners.
“There would be a starting point where we’d share a certain level of information about how we’re looking to develop our business to find out if synergies are there, and if there are, then look at working together.”
“Trump Turnberry have not signed any NDA with us. We present some of our thoughts and analysis about potential customers as a matter of course when having these discussions, and we wouldn’t really get off on the best foot with an organisation if the first thing we did was ask them to sign an NDA before we had a conversation. They would come into play when we get down to actuals and figures.”
She added: “We have kept the Scottish Government across no more or no less any of these discussions than we would discussions with any other potential customer or partner, and no more or no less than any other organisation would do with its shareholders.”
George Sorial, executive vice president of the Trump Organisation, said its ties with Prestwick had “nothing to do with our relationship with the Scottish Government” and that it was “united” with Prestwick “in any efforts to restore the airport”.
Asked if an “official partnership” existed, as outlined in the joint press release, he explained: “I think people use the word partnership colloquially. It doesn’t necessarily connote a full-blown partnership in the sense of a legal business relationship, so I think as a matter of law, they are not our partner.”
On whether Trump’s companies would invest directly at Prestwick, he said although this wasn’t under consideration at present, “that’s not ruling out. If there was a proposal on the table that made sense, obviously we would evaluate it.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government agency, Transport Scotland, said: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport is being operated on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from the Scottish Government.
“The senior management team at the airport has been tasked with all aspects of taking the airport forward, including building on existing revenue streams and exploring new ones.”
WHEN the partnership was announced between Glasgow Prestwick Airport and the Trump Organisation, Trump vowed that it would help bolster the economic fortunes of the struggling airport with “hundreds” of private flights as well-heeled golfers jetted in to play the billionaire’s courses.
He said: “We are going to have planes coming in from New York and all over, high-level planes like Gulfstreams and Bombardiers.”
But an email from Iain Cochrane, Prestwick’s former CEO, indicates little has changed. In the message, sent last June to Gary Cox, head of aviation at Transport Scotland, about “recent Trump announcements”, he said: “We do not expect to see significant increases in associated corporate jet traffic until the hotel and course improvements are completed in spring 2016 when Trump will relaunch the resort with particular focus in the US.”
The emails, released under Freedom of Information legislation, also show that Cochrane and George Sorial, vice-president of the Trump Organisation, wrote separately to SNP MSP Chic Brodie, inviting him to support the relationship between the resort and the airport.
In his email to Brodie in August 2014, Cochrane said the airport was working with Trump’s team “to explore where their considerable influence may assist opportunities for mutual benefit” and suggested that he contribute to a press release announcing the tie-up.
He added: “It is important that we get as much good news and impact from the story even if at this stage the financial materiality is quite low.”
Other correspondence shows how executives at Prestwick have attended dinners as guests of Trump Turnberry, with airport officials requesting pictures of the course to “give some Turnberry flavour” to a meeting room named after Trump’s golf resort.
It also details how the airport and Trump’s firm have struck a deal for reduced accommodation rates at Trump Turnberry, despite the fact it is a 45-minute drive away.
In an email last June to Ralph Porciani, the resort’s general manager, and Gillian McNeilly, its sales director, Prestwick’s Jules Matteoni wrote: “Many thanks for taking the time to meet up yesterday to have a constructive discussion on pricing and secondly having the conviction to back up your proposal.
“As a list of hotels that we use for business, being honest, Turnberry was always last on the list based on price. Yesterday’s proposal places Turnberry in a favourable position and gives us food for thought in our placement of crews moving forward.”
Trump’s firm invited to ‘pitch’ for new airline at ailing Prestwick from The Scotsman – An investigation into how representatives from Trump Turnberry, owned by US president Donald Trump, were asked to pitch for new business at the state-owned Prestwick Airport.
Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish business was invited by Glasgow Prestwick Airport to lobby a prospective airline amid attempts to return to profit. Officials at Glasgow Prestwick Airport formed a “working party,” which included Trump Turnberry, tasked with visiting Scandinavia to bring in new business to the loss-making South Ayrshire hub.
Representatives from the golf course and hotel resort, which remains under the US president’s ultimate ownership, were asked to travel with airport and local authority staff to Denmark to “pitch” to the airline earlier this year. The Scottish Government was made aware of the collaboration.
The disclosure has sparked renewed criticism of the government over the hypocrisy surrounding Prestwick’s business relationship with Mr Trump.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been an avowed critic of the 71-year-old and his politics, stripping him of his Global Scot ambassador status after his contentious remarks about Muslims. As recently as August, she described the prospect of his coming to Britain on an official state as “unthinkable.”
In the meantime, officials at Prestwick, wholly owned by Scottish ministers, have sought out the help of Mr Trump’s most prestigious golf resort.
Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said the billionaire’s “toxic brand” was doing “real damage” to Scotland’s reputation and said the revelation proved the current set-up, which sees Prestwick operate at arms-length from the government, was not working.
It comes amid reports ministers are preparing to sell the beleaguered airport, which is running at an operating loss of £8.7m a year, with the amount of taxpayers’ money shoring up the hub increasing by £9.6m last year to £30.9m.
Attracting new airlines is seen as a crucial step to securing a sustainable future for Prestwick and ultimately, enticing a buyer from the private sector. The airport currently counts Ryanair as its sole scheduled services operator.
Representatives from Prestwick met in April with a prospective new airline at Routes Europe, an aviation industry event held in Belfast. The company, whose identity has not been disclosed, informed Prestwick it had a spare aircraft that could be put to use in a new route.
Directors at Prestwick Aviation Holdings Limited, the airport’s holding company, discussed in June how Prestwick had “formed a working party” which included Trump Turnberry and South Ayrshire Council.
Referring to the airline as X, an extract from the meeting – passed to The Scotsman by a source familiar with Prestwick’s operations – details how the airport arranged a visit “where each stakeholder will pitch to X to support this new route. We believe this will give X the confidence required to launch direct services.”
The meeting with the airline took place in Copenhagen in July. However, Trump Turnberry said it did not attend the formal pitch, and received no payment for its work. The only new route secured by Prestwick in the past year has been Ryanair’s reinstated service to the Polish city of Rzeszow.
The source said: “There has been tentative interest in new routes at Prestwick in recent years but it has been an uphill battle to compete. There were talks with Flybe but the business case was not strong enough.”
Mr Harvie said: “Given Mr Trump’s appalling behaviour, he was rightly stripped of his Global Scot ambassador status and Scottish ministers have been at pains to distance themselves from a bigoted bully they previously cosied up to. It’s disappointing that his business is influencing a government-owned asset.
“It suggests operating at arms-length isn’t enough and I would hope Prestwick realises that Trump’s toxic brand does real damage to Scotland’s reputation.”
Since it was taken over by the government for £1 in November 2013, Prestwick’s executives have struggled to formulate a strategy to get out of the red. Its passenger total in the 12 months to September was 671,860, a fraction of its 2007/8 peak of 2.78 million. Its senior executive team has also been subject to major upheaval. Ron Smith, the chief executive officer, left last month after 15 months in charge. Mike Stewart, its business development officer, quit soon afterwards.
In the airport’s most recent annual accounts, Mr Smith wrote that a range of bodies, including Transport Scotland, VisitScotland, and local authorities, had been involved in developing “an attractive route development package.” There is, however, no mention of Trump Turnberry, the Trump Organisation or its Scottish subsidiaries.
It is not the first time Mr Trump and his companies have been expressed a keen interest in Prestwick’s passenger services since he bought Turnberry in April 2014. Seven months after the acquisition, which has yet to turn a profit for Mr Trump, he spoke out after Ryanair transferred several routes to Glasgow Airport.
He said he had a “long telephone conversation” with Michael O’Leary, its chief executive, which left him convinced the firm would play a major role in Prestwick’s future. “He needs incentives – as anyone does,” Mr Trump told The Scotsman at the time. “It’s down to the politicians to make that deal now.”
That same month, the airport and the Trump Organisation issued a joint press release announcing they had formed an “official partnership” and “strategic alliance.” The nature of the relationship was unclear until correspondence released under Freedom of Information legislation to Scotland on Sunday showed airport officials had held unminuted discussions over “potential partnership opportunities” and disclosed business development targets with Trump Turnberry.
Following the release of the documents, Prestwick contradicted the information in the press release, stressing it had no “official partnership contract in place” with Mr Trump. It added that at no time had it asked Mr Trump “to act as an advocate for the airport.”
Last night, Trump Turnberry explained it “works closely” with stakeholders such as Prestwick to bolster tourism in Ayrshire. A spokeswoman added: “For a recent pitch, Turnberry provided information on the golfing and accommodation opportunities available within the resort to the Prestwick team, to help position Ayrshire as an attractive golfing destination.”
A spokesman for the airport said: “We work closely with various organisations to share knowledge and experience to promote and grow tourism in Ayrshire. “Glasgow Prestwick Airport is an important asset for Scotland. We are focused on identifying new opportunities to bring new business to the airport and local economy in line with our strategic plan.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “In compliance with European Union state aid rules, Prestwick is being operated on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from the government. “The senior management team at the airport has been tasked with all aspects of taking the airport forward, including building on existing revenue streams.”
Trump’s EU ambassador pick was head of non-existent Scots body – from The Scotsman – An exclusive showing how Ted Malloch, the then favourite to become the US ambassador to the EU under Donald Trump, claimed to helm a non-existent Scottish educational institution.
The frontrunner to become President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union claims to have served as the head of a Scottish educational institution, despite the fact there is no record of its existence.
Ted Malloch, a political scientist and author who has been widely tipped to secure the prestigious position in Brussels, wrote in his autobiography that his CV includes a period serving as “president of the Ancient Scottish Universities Trust.”
Mr Malloch, one of Mr Trump’s most prominent supporters in Britain, is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen and went on to helm its US development arm.
But in his book, he suggests his role in Scottish education was far more extensive, involving oversight of the accounts at not only Aberdeen, but Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrew’s universities.
He wrote that as part of the position, “my charge was to bring them into the twenty-first century financially.”
However, there is no record of an Ancient Scottish Universities Trust.
A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland, the representative body of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions, told The Scotsman it had no knowledge of an organisation by that name.
Mr Malloch has upset leaders this side of the Atlantic by comparing the European Union to the Soviet Union and has joked that the UK could become the 51st state of the US.
A professor of strategic leadership and governance at Henley Business School in Reading, he is a regular contributor to BBC programmes such as Radio 4’s Today and The World at One, and Newsnight.
But the publication of his latest book, documenting his whirlwind international career in economics and foreign relations, has raised a series of questions over the veracity of his claims.
Writing in ‘Davos, Aspen, & Yale: My Life Behind the Elite Curtain as a Global Sherpa’, Mr Malloch said he had been “made a laird” by the Court of the Lord Lyon – Scotland’s official heraldic authority – a gesture which included being “given a personal coat of arms with a fancy Latin inscription.”
However, the court said Mr Malloch’s claim could not be true as neither it nor any other authority have the power to confer a lairdship on an individual.
Elizabeth Roads, Lyon Clerk at the Court of the Lord Lyon, told The Scotsman: “This office is not involved in any way with lairds. Lairds are people who own large estates and are called laird by the locals on the estate. You can’t create or grant a lairdship, there is no such power.”
She added: “Mr Malloch did indeed petition for a Grant of Arms and received a coat of arms many years ago now, but he was not made a laird. I suspect he may have been confused. Perhaps someone said to him that had made him a laird, when it certainly did not.”
The Financial Times has also cast doubt over excerpts from Mr Malloch’s book, published last month. It includes his claims that former prime minister Margaret Thatcher described him as a “genius,” which is not corroborated by a video recording of the event in question.
The newspaper has also pointed out while Mr Malloch has said a documentary he presented had been nominated for an Emmy award, it was not shortlisted.
Mr Malloch, who said he has been interviewed at Trump Tower and vetted for the ambassadorial nomination, has yet to respond to The Scotsman.
The apparently misleading and erroneous claims have raised concerns over his suitability as an ambassador, according to the leader of the one of the largest political groups in the European Parliament.
Gianni Pittella MEP, president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, said: Mr Malloch’s “personal credibility has been heavily put into question.”
In his book, Mr Malloch writes extensively about his Scottish heritage, stating that he is active in the St Andrew’s Society, and proudly wears the tartan of Clan Gregor.
Reflecting on his days as a student in Scotland, he explained: “It was in Aberdeen that I developed a love of single-malt Scotch; a fondness for tweed suits and cashmere sweaters, haggis and mince and and tatties as well; and a feeling that somehow the ‘children of the mist’ were indeed my own people, as my grandfather had tried to tell me.”
Elsewhere, he lists his favourite single malts and golf courses in Scotland, including a special mention from Trump International Golf Links (“Maybe this is why America needs Trump in the Oval Office. He gets things done that other people cannot even imagine”).
Near £1m for Trump’s Scottish visit – from The Scotsman – An exclusive showing the mounting bill to US taxpayers of Donald Trump’s 2018 visit. The costs include tens of thousands of pounds to upgrade communications at the US president’s Turnberry resort.
A family-run luxury car rental and chauffeur business in Glasgow will one of the single biggest beneficiaries of Donald Trump’s visit to Scotland this weekend, with the US government paying it nearly £1m to help lay on VIP transport, The Scotsman has learned.
Little’s Chauffeur Drive, based in the city’s Bellahouston area, is in line to receive a six-figure sum as part of a deal to provide a fleet of luxury and executive saloon vehicles for the US president’s entourage.
The US State Department has placed no less than nine purchase and delivery orders with the Paisley Road West firm. Cumulatively, the cost for renting the firm’s cars to cover Mr Trump’s visit runs to a staggering $1,260,139 (£959,904), a bill which will ultimately be footed by US taxpayers.
It is just one of the eyewatering expenses of the controversial trip, the details of which have been obtained by The Scotsman via US federal government orders.
Little’s, which was established in 1966, has previously provided vehicle hire for UK politicians and is accustomed to transporting VIPs and celebrities around Scotland. But its contact with the Trump administration represents one of its biggest paydays.
The single most expensive order, placed by the State Department on 2 July, is worth $709,930 (£539.951). The order cites the payment as being for “passenger car rental.”
It and the other payments were made via the US Embassy in London, and authorised by the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, which is responsible for developing and implementing US foreign policy.
The exact number of vehicles being hired via Little’s is not clear, but is understood the orders will cover airport transfers from Prestwick Airport to Turnberry, as well as transportation for the visiting US businessmen who joined Eric Trump at Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire.
A source familiar with the contract said: “Although there have been motorcades flown in from the US to both Stansted and Prestwick for the presidential visit, the logistics required other vehicles to be hired on the ground in the UK.
“It’s not an uncommon arrangement for a foreign visit but it is certainly costly, that would be fair to say.”
Little’s fleet of vehicles includes the Jaguar XF, Mercedes E Class, and six door Mercedes limousines. On its website, the company describes itself as “a proud family business headquartered in Scotland” which provides an “award-winning chauffeur service worldwide.”
A section of the site dedicated to its ‘VIP transport’ service states that the company offers “the most reliable and discreet chauffeur drive service available.”
It adds: “High profile clients can trust Little’s with their travel plans, their safety and the security of any confidential arrangements or information.
“We have many years experience of discreetly managing transport for prominent guests from business, entertainment, sport and politics.”
Other federal government purchase orders seen by The Scotsman show that Mr Trump’s loss-making Turnberry resort, where he will spend the weekend playing golf with business associates, is also benefiting directly from the highly-charged UK visit.
Only last week the State Department paid BT nearly £20,000 for engineers to install direct exchange lines at Turnberry, allowing Mr Trump and his advisers to hold secure telephone conversations.
It paid a further £15,000 to an undisclosed firm to set up what federal receipts describe as a “data connection” at the South Ayrshire hotel and golf course.
Another hefty sum paid by the State Department covers hotel accommodation for the visiting White House press corps. The accommodation bill alone for US media is $112,589 (£85,631). It is understood the majority of the journalists are being up at a hotel in Glasgow city centre during their time in Scotland.
A further four payments worth of $329,105 (£250,307) has been made to undisclosed companies for “hotel rooms” to cover the “VIP visit”, but neither the identity nor location of the hotel is disclosed in the documentation.
The Hilton hotel group has also been paid $148,200 (£112,617) for accommodation. It is understand that bill is for the London leg of Mr Trump’s UK visit.
Last month, The Scotsman revealed the State Department spent more than £10,000 in relation to trips by Eric Trump to his father’s resort at Turnberry.
In May, meanwhile, The Scotsman published details of payments worth £5,600 made directly to SLC Turnberry, which remains fully owned by the US president via a New York-based revocable trust.
Little’s Chauffeur Drive declined to comment when contacted by The Scotsman.
A spokeswoman for the US State Department said it does not comment on the specifics of current or future travel plans of Mr Trump.
Trump’s golf links vulnerable to terror attacks and protests from Scotland on Sunday – An analysis of the security arrangements threats surrounding Donald Trump’s Scottish resorts.
President Donald Trump’s golf resorts in Scotland could be viewed as “soft targets” by terror groups intent on striking against his administration, counter-terrorism experts have told Scotland on Sunday.
The protection of Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links will require substantial security upgrades and the pooling of resources by UK and US agencies to safeguard against potential threats, according to seasoned diplomatic security officials.
With a new course due to open later this year at Trump’s flagship resort in South Ayrshire, a vast security operation is already being planned, one which could intensify if the White House insists on including Scotland in the itinerary for Trump’s state visit.
Authorities here face the added difficulty of policing demonstrations at Trump’s venues over the coming months and years.
With global opposition to the Trump administration’s policies growing, organisers of peaceful protests in Scotland described the billionaire’s properties as a “gift” which would be used as a “platform for opposition”.
While protests against Trump have been an irregular occurrence ever since he purchased the Menie estate in 2005, his accession to the presidency looks set to intensify the scale and scope of the security arrangements at Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links.
The first major test will come this summer, when the former resort unveils its new King Robert the Bruce course. Three of Trump’s children – Eric, Donald Jr, and Ivanka – are directors of SLC Turnberry Ltd, the company behind the resort, and visited it last year alongside their father.
Under US statutes and longstanding protocols, the trio will be safeguarded by the Secret Service’s presidential protective division if they return for the ribbon-cutting ceremony; as executive vice-president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organisation, and the figure responsible for overseeing the changes at Turnberry, Eric at least is all but certain to attend.
Leading counter-terrorism experts in the UK and the US said they expected security to be significantly upgraded at Trump’s Scottish concerns, with agencies on both sides of the Atlantic working together to assess threats.
Chris Phillips, former head of the UK’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office, said: “The Trump businesses are clearly at a higher risk and some extra security measures will be put into place. There are quite simple improvements that can be made, especially in the response to an incident and extra physical security measures.”
Phillips believes Trump’s Scottish golf courses constitute a “lower threat” compared with those businesses owned by the president in significant geopolitical locations, such as Trump Towers in Istanbul.
Others, however, believe their modest profile could make them more appealing to terror groups intent on sending a message to the Trump administration.
“The Trump branded empire spans the globe and most sites are soft targets, like hotels,” explained Fred Burton, a former deputy chief of counter-terrorism at the US Diplomatic Security Service. “Threat wise, it would be much easier to go after a soft target, in an area without robust security and intelligence.”
Chris Hagon, who served as the personal protection officer to both the Queen and Prince Philip during 11 years’ service with Scotland Yard’s Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Command, said: “Given that [Trump’s] name is on these buildings, they would be considered at a higher risk for target selection by terror groups opposed to the US and its policies.
“The likelihood of an attack is more complicated to calculate and would have to include a review of the deterrent value of security controls in place at these buildings as well as the capabilities of the terrorist actors themselves. But there would be motivation to attack his properties.”
Authorities in Scotland declined to discuss the planning in detail. Police Scotland said it does not discuss the detail of individual security arrangements for such visits, but Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said: “Should President Trump or his immediate family visit Scotland we would liaise with UK and US officials to ensure the appropriate security arrangements are put in place.”
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said it “would not have any involvement” in any operation, but it is understood that planning will draw on previous high-profile events at Turnberry, such as the 1990 Nato summit which involved 700 officers from the former Strathclyde Police force as well as Ministry of Defence launches patrolling the Firth of Clyde.
In the event Trump himself visited, the Secret Service would take the lead and secure either Turnberry or Trump International Golf Links for the duration of his stay.
Opinion is divided on who will foot the bill for security upgrades to Trump’s properties in Scotland; Phillips, now managing director of the International Protect and Prepare Security Office, a counter-terrorism consultancy, believes it is one of many questions being asked in “unprecedented times”.
“Who pays and how it will be done will be interesting to say the least,” he said. “I personally think that the US will fund extra security, but don’t know for sure.”
Burton, however, believes the Trump Organisation and its Scottish subsidiaries will foot the bill, a view shared by Hagon, now managing partner of Incident Management Group, a Florida-based security consultancy.
“The responsibility for upgrading the security of these buildings will fall on the building owner, who may see it as essential to calm nervous guests,” he explained. “Most such properties were probably not designed or built with the idea of withstanding a terrorist attack in mind.”
Whatever the outlay, it is expected the Trump Organisation will enjoy a windfall at the expense of the US security services tasked with protecting the president and his children. During the election campaign, the Secret Service paid £2.17 million for its officers to fly on private aircraft owned by Trump’s corporation.
Although Trump himself now travels exclusively on Air Force One, the likes of Eric and Donald Jr will fly on Trump’s Boeing 757 and therefore will be able to levy similar charges whenever their security detail accompanies them abroad, further smudging the line between Trump’s politics and his business interests.
As well as potential terror threats, Trump’s Scottish properties also look set to be targeted by demonstrators opposed to his administration.
The next protest, planned for Saturday, is set to convene at the Scottish Conservatives’ central office in Edinburgh before marching on the US Consulate, but others are already planning to target Trump where he is most visible in Scotland.
Philip Larkin, a writer who helped arrange last week’s protest in Glasgow’s George Square against Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May, said the president’s golf resorts were an obvious focal point for those opposed to Trump and the “outdated system” he represents.
“Public opposition to Trump was already in motion and now with his anti-immigrant, racist policies, which quite frankly are a human rights violation, you can only expect to see more protests against Trump, and where better to make a stand than his Scottish-based businesses?” said Larkin.
“Having both Turnberry and the Aberdeenshire course on our doorstep is quite frankly a gift to the people of Scotland, giving us a valuable opportunity to use these venues as a platform for opposition and hit Trump where it hurts – his ego.”
He added: “When you look at how heavily Trump was irritated by the visual impact of the wind farms on his prized Scottish resorts, imagine how he’d feel about the visual impact of thousands of protesters.”
There are questions about the long-term impact of hostility to Trump on his courses, in particular Turnberry, one of world golf’s most prestigious locations and a four-time host of the Open Championship.
Contrary to recent reports, Turnberry remains on the R&A’s rota as a potential venue for the tournament, although it would not be eligible until 2022 at the earliest. Any decision is at least a few years away.
According to the veteran golf journalist, Bill Elliott, the R&A is “smart enough to play the long game” regarding Trump’s stewardship of Turnberry, especially given the furore surrounding men-only clubs. “The last thing they will want is another Open week of negative media scrutiny,” suggested Elliott, editor-at-large of Golf World magazine.
Like many in the game, Elliott feels Turnberry’s Ailsa course is “first class”. While that is thanks in large part to Trump’s investment, Elliott believes the resort is such an “iconic historic venue for golfers that most, if not all, will see Trump merely as the current leaseholder and someone whose influence will pass sooner rather than later.” In any case, he points out that the “overwhelming majority” of top professional golfers are “solidly in favour of right-of-centre politics”.
Much will depend, however, on Trump’s conduct as commander-in-chief. “The problem is that he embroiders his name all over everything and if the Trump brand is diminished or tarnished as a result of his presidency then there may well be a serious and negative effect,” he added. “For now, we just don’t know, although it is tempting to suspect the worst.”
Trump’s Scottish golf resorts faace US inquiry over suspect finances from Scotland on Sunday
A US political ethics watchdog has demanded the Department of Justice investigate the books of Donald Trump’s Scottish golfing resorts after flagging up “suspect” financial disclosures.
The American Democracy Legal Fund (ADLF) has highlighted “significant and widespread discrepancies” in the reported income of the Republican presidential candidate’s resorts at Trump Turnberry in South Ayrshire and Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire.
The organisation has now written to Raymond Hulser, chief of the public integrity section at the Department of Justice, as well as Walter Shaub, director of the US Office of Government Ethics, calling for an inquiry.
As reported by The Scotsman in January, there is a gulf between the figures reported by Trump to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) – an independent regulatory agency which oversees the financing of elections – and those reported to Companies House in the UK.
The Washington DC-based ADLF claims Trump has broken the Ethics in Government Act, a federal law introduced in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Under the legislation, presidential candidates are required to disclose their financial holdings and transactions.
Documents filed by Trump with the FEC last July claim his resort in Balmedie generated income of $4.4m (£3.3m), but accounts filed with Companies House show it made losses of £1.1m in the year to December 2014.
The liberal accountability group said “the numbers still do not add up”, adding that the “same discrepancies hold true” for Turnberry. Trump told the FEC its income was $20.4m (£15.5m), yet accounts for its parent company show a £3.6m loss.
In a four-page letter to investigators, the ADLF’s co-founder, Brad Woodhouse, said there were “significant, widespread discrepancies” in the income figures reported by Trump, describing it as a “violation” of the 1978 act. Woodhouse said: “The Department of Justice should investigate these discrepancies to ensure that the public is granted full disclosure of Mr Trump’s finances as a candidate for president of the US.”
Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, said: “It’s welcome that questions are being raised in the States about discrepancies in Trump’s Scottish affairs, and I’d encourage the relevant authorities here to co-operate with any inquiry.
“Scottish communities have been dumped on by Trump, with governments and public bodies taken for a ride. The more scrutiny he receives the better, as this deluded individual’s bid for power continues to falter.”
George Sorial, executive vice president of the Trump Organisation, referred Scotland on Sunday’s inquiry to the Trump campaign, but no-one responded.