Don't Cry for the Trump Brand
Judging by discounts on Donald Trump-labeled mattresses on Amazon.com, the billionaire’s brand is hurting. But his overseas business partners don’t seem to have noticed.
Trump's Macy’s deal, and others, are gone after his incendiary remarks about Mexican immigrants. Still, selling shirts and ties was “a small business in terms of dollar volume,” the real-estate mogul, reality TV star and Republican presidential contender said in a press release last week. His partners in international property licensing deals, a more lucrative business line, haven’t joined in on the dog pile.
“So far as the Trump-Panchshil association is concerned, this stands unaffected and we will continue our association with the Trump Organization,” Surbhi Gupta, a spokeswoman for Panchshil Realty, Trump’s development partner in two condominium towers in Pune, India, said in an e-mail. The company declined to comment on Trump’s remarks, “since we are unaware of the ground situation there, from a social and political context,” the e-mail said.
Developers in the Philippines, Turkey, Panama, Canada, India, and Uruguay pay Trump millions in licensing fees to put his name on buildings he neither built nor owns, with an aim to sell condominiums and hotel rooms at higher prices. These deals provide nearly risk-less revenue streams for Trump, which, along with income from properties he owns, helps pay down existing debts and fund new projects.
“Mr. Trump is successful and wealthy and one of the great things about the empire he’s built is that it’s diverse—both geographically and across numerous business lines,” said Alan Garten, general counsel for Trump. “It can withstand situations like this.”
In the United States, Trump's presidential campaign has so far prompted a stampede of disassociation: ESPN, NBCUniversal, NASCAR, Univision Holdings Inc. and Serta Inc. have cut ties with Trump after he described Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. A television company controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the world’s second richest man, announced Monday it would cancel a project with Trump. Chef José Andrés said Wednesday that he’d be backing out of a deal to open the flagship restaurant at an upcoming Trump hotel in Washington. And even the Federal Aviation Administration got in on the act, announcing Thursday that its renaming three aerial navigation posts that had Trump-related monickers.
That Trump’s remarks aren’t registering outside of North America doesn’t surprise Nick Andrews, a London-based senior partner and crisis management expert at public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard Inc.
“He’s better-known as a celebrity than as a businessman outside of the U.S.,” Andrews said. “And outrageous things are exactly what celebrities often say. Most people don’t follow U.S. politics that closely anyway.”
The billionaire told Bloomberg his net worth was $10 billion on June 3. A document disclosed to reporters on June 16 put the number at $8.7 billion. The biggest line item, in his own estimation, is $3.3 billion for “real estate licensing deals, brand and branded developments.”
A Bloomberg assessment found Trump’s largest assets, including the commercial spaces at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, the leaseholds to 40 Wall Street and Manhattan’s Niketown, a partnership with Vornado Realty Trust in two office buildings, and his collection of golf courses and resorts, to be worth at least $2.4 billion.
The Trump fallout closely resembles one experienced by cooking personality Paula Deen, said Melissa Agnes, cofounder and crisis management consultant at Agnes & Day. Deen’s contract with The Food Network wasn’t renewed in 2013 after revelations that she’d used racial slurs.
“She’ll never be back to the same degree, but she did come back in some form,” Day said. “Donald Trump has proven to be extremely resilient over the years.”
(Contributing: Alan Levin)