Apprentices no more, Eric and Donald Trump Jr are now at the helm of the Trump Organization and adjusting to the reality presented by their father’s presidency. They’re eyeing ways to use the new lease on the family fame by expanding the brand into parts of the United States that embrace him. Some business has slowed as a result of the pledge to stall international dealmaking while Trump is president. But a US push is planned, and two new hotel chains are being considered a four-star brand and a less luxurious line possibly in states where Trump triumphed over Democrat Hillary Clinton last November.
“I think it makes it naturally easier if you’re going into a place that’s not adversarial to you,” Donald Trump Jr. said in a recent interview. The Trump Organization is a private, family-run business that owns billions of dollars’ worth of hotels, office buildings, golf courses and management and licensing agreements.
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Although foreign deals are on hold, the company will complete existing projects, including ones in India, the United Arab Emirates and the Dominican Republic. Because overseas markets have been hotter for the Trump brand, the company could lose some new revenue, the president’s sons suggested.
Last fall, the company announced the creation of a four- star hotel chain called Scion, which is meant to offer upscale service in US cities that could not support a full-fledged Trump luxury property. More than two dozen letters of intent have been signed, though no ground has been broken yet.
Among the possible locations being considered: Texas, parts of the South, and perhaps the nation’s capital, where the hotel would exist with the Trump luxury property in the former home of the Old Post Office not far from the White House. The company is also in the very early stages of considering a three-star hotel chain.
Experts said the plan would not seem to run afoul of any ethics standards, even if the hotels ended up in some of the economically depressed regions whose voters rallied for Trump and may not be able to afford a luxury brand. It would be no different from cashing in on the name of a nonpolitical celebrity, they said.
Similarly, daughter Ivanka Trump has made a pitch for Trump’s blue-collar supporters by replacing her high-end jewelry line with a mass-market brand. “It would not seem to blur any lines with the presidency,” said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University.
She said that while “questions can be raised” about some of some of company’s behavior, a pitch into Trump-friendly states seems like “a reasonable business strategy.” Any new investment, particularly if it involves foreign funds, will face additional scrutiny, including a review by an in-house and outside ethics counsel, Donald Trump Jr said.
“It’s a complicated procedure that changes the dynamic. There are plenty of deals that two years ago or eight years from now, ‘Oh, yeah, you can do this,'” he said. “Today, we have to take that much more seriously. There is an optical component that has to be taken into account.”
He bristled at the idea that his father ran for president to enrich himself or his family, as some critics contended during the campaign.