By Patrick Clark
Trump Hotels is looking to expand beyond its regular business to managing lodging properties under brands other than its own. The first step in that direction may be running a hotel linked to the president’s son-in-law.
The company founded by Donald Trump is in talks to manage a planned hotel in Long Branch, New Jersey, that is under development by Kushner Cos. That firm was led by Jared Kushner before he joined the White House as a senior adviser to President Trump, his father-in-law, and transferred some assets to family members to avoid conflicts of interest.
Historically, Trump Hotels has focused on developing luxury lodgings and licensing its brand to outside owners. The licensing business has come under pressure since Donald Trump’s political ascension, with some owners of Trump properties rebranding their hotels to distance themselves from the president’s divisive rhetoric. Expanding was always part of the plan for Trump Hotels, its chief executive officer said.
“I came to help grow this business from a single brand to a multibrand hotel company that licenses, franchises and manages hotels — exactly the way most major hotel companies work,” CEO Eric Danziger said in an email. “This includes management of properties that are not branded by us.”
Danziger, who joined Trump Hotels in 2015, has said the firm could eventually expand into every major U.S. metropolitan area. In addition to getting into the hotel-management business, Trump Hotels has launched two new brands, Scion and American Idea.
The company is currently embroiled in a legal dispute over management of a hotel in Panama City, whose owners recently removed Trump Hotels signage and are trying to permanently oust the company as the manager. The case is before an arbitrator. Previously, the owners of Trump hotels in New York and Toronto have rebranded their properties.
A spokeswoman for Kushner Cos., Chris Taylor, emphasized in an email that no deal has been struck to manage the New Jersey hotel and that Trump Hotels has “zero equity of any type in our properties or businesses. We are contemplating a third-party operator agreement with their hotel management division at market rate.”
The New York Times over the weekend reported that Kushner Cos. has a letter of intent for Trump Hotels to manage the Long Branch property, at a development called Pier Village, and that the companies have already teamed up on another property, the Westminster Hotel in Livingston, New Jersey. Representatives for the firms declined to comment on that property.
A partnership of Trump Hotels and Kushner Cos. could create an opportunity for politically connected customers of the hotel to curry favor with not just one, but two, government officials, said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group.
“There’s not a rule violation,” he said. “It’s more of a concern.”