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Trump golf business resilient during coronavirus pandemic

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The Trump Organization’s golf empire has thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic as Tiger Woods wannabes and weekend hackers flocked to the nation’s fairways.

The socially distant nature of golf drove a 12% annual increase to more than 50 million rounds played in the United States last year, the second-highest total on record behind only 1997, when Tiger Woods took the sport by storm.

The renewed interest in golf was a boon to Trump properties, which also saw a surge in new members. A membership at a Trump club can cost $250,000 before annual dues.

“The golf business was incredible in 2020,” said Eric Trump, executive vice president at the Trump Organization, during an interview with FOX Business, while also recognizing other industries still remain decimated by the pandemic. “People found solace during a pandemic in being outdoors and socially distant.”

While golf was a bright spot for the Trump Organization, and former President Donald Trump, the revenue from the company’s 15 golf clubs fell 30% year-over-year in 2020 to $164.9 million, according to FOX Business’ calculations, as stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 eliminated nonessential travel and resulted in many resorts having to close their doors.

Golf club revenue also includes outings such as tournaments, weddings and charity events which were curtailed because of the pandemic.

Thirteen of the Trump Organization’s 15 golf clubs saw revenue decline last year, but that doesn’t mean the company lost money. A drop in sales can be buffeted by cost-cutting measures.

Florida’s Trump National Doral, the top revenue generator among golf properties, saw sales fall 43% to $44 million. The sharp decline came after Miami Mayor Francis Suarez in March ordered all hotels to close their doors through May. Hotel ballrooms and banquet halls weren’t allowed to reopen until the middle of September and then were only allowed to do so at 50% capacity.

DORAL, FLORIDA/Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images (Getty Images)
DORAL, FLORIDA/Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images (Getty Images)

The Trump administration initially chose Doral as the host for the 2020 G-7 meeting, but later moved its location to Camp David. The summit was eventually canceled due to the pandemic.

Overall, business fared better in so-called red states under Republican leadership as opposed to blue states governed by Democrats.

Trump National Golf Club, Charlotte, and Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., both saw a 5% increase in revenue while sales slid 5% at Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter.

Trump National Golf Club Jupiter/Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Trump National Golf Club Jupiter/Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, revenue was down 25% at Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles, 20% at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx, N.Y., and 17% at Trump National Golf Club, Bedminister, all located in Democratic-led states where government “did a lot of nonsensical things to kill businesses,” Eric Trump said.

Some of those “things” included shuttering public and private courses. According to the National Golf Foundation, in April, only 44% of the nation’s courses were open due to the coronavirus, seasonality or a combination of the two. However, as of August, 98% of the courses had opened or re-opened.

Trump golf properties overseas saw a sharper revenue decline due to harsher government-imposed restrictions.

In Scotland, Trump Turnberry and Trump International Scotland, experienced revenue declines of 62% and 67%, respectively, as all hospitality was forced to close. Lockdowns in the country were so strict that citizens who traveled too far from their homes received a ticket for the first offense and jail time for a second misdeed. Likewise, Trump International Doonbeg in Ireland saw sales slide 67%.

TURNBERRY, SCOTLAND/Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
TURNBERRY, SCOTLAND/Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Donald Trump reported an income of between $273 million and $308 million in the government financial disclosure, which covered 2020 and the first 20 days of 2021.

While amateur golfers are flocking to Trump courses in droves, the brand took a hit earlier this month when the Professional Golfers’ Association of America terminated its agreement to host the 2022 PGA Championship at Bedminster.

A PGA Tour spokesperson told FOX Business that golf tournaments take years of planning and that there are “no plans to host an event at a Trump Organization golf property at this time.”

The PGAA’s decision was made in the wake of the riots at the U.S. Capitol that resulted in the former president’s second impeachment, this time for “willful incitement of insurrection.” The vote passed by a tally of 232 to 197 with 10 Republicans joining the Democratic majority. The Senate has not said if, or when, a trial would begin.

The PGA of America’s decision to sever ties with the Trump Organization was followed by similar actions from others, including New York City and Deutsche Bank.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Jan. 13 that the city would terminate three contracts with the Trump Organization regarding the carousel in Central Park, two skating rinks and a golf course. New York would owe the Trump Organization $30 million if it were to proceed with canceling the deals, according to a company spokesperson.

The same day, German lender Deutsche Bank moved to end its relationship with the Trump Organization, saying it would no longer do business with the company. The Trump Organization has more than $130 million in outstanding loans with the bank, according to Wednesday’s financial disclosure.

In total, the Trump Organization has about $400 million of debt, resulting in a debt-to-asset value in the single digits for a company that was valued at between $4 billion and $9 billion by Forbes. That would be similar to someone taking out a $100,000 mortgage on a $1 million apartment.

While questions swirl around the fate of the Trump brand, the former president still has the support of the majority of the nearly 75 million Americans who voted for him in the November election. Donald Trump’s approval rating among Republicans stood at 87% when he left the White House, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, down two points from October.

Regardless of how the impeachment drama plays out, the Trumps aren’t going away anytime soon. There has already been talk of the family starting their own social media company to compete with the likes of Twitter, which banned the former president for “risk of further incitement of violence.”

There has also been speculation about the creation of a Trump media company, in addition to books and speeches as other ways to generate income. Some estimates say Donald Trump could collect up to $2 million for giving a speech overseas.

As for politics, the former president may not be done yet, telling supporters during his farewell address that he will “be back in some form.” There have been reports he is considering forming a third political party called the Patriot Party.

“The opportunities for my father and the opportunities for our company are limitless,” Eric Trump said. “We’ve always been really good at writing the next chapter, and I really do believe the best is yet to come.”

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