Trump strikes new overseas deal and raises old ethics issue

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-lago on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Andrew Harnik, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

NEW YORK – Donald Trump's company is licensing its name for a golf resort in Oman in the first of what the company hopes will be several overseas deals, raising conflict-of-interest issues as the former president announced a third run for the White House.

The Trump Organization said the licensing deal — the first since Trump left office — is with Saudi developer Dar Al Arakan and will include a golf course, hotel and thousands of residential units in the Oman capital of Muscat.

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Trump's son Eric, who oversees the company's global real estate interests, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the company is no longer bound by a self-imposed restriction not to make foreign deals while his father was president.

“You can expect more hotel and golf deals overseas in the future,” Eric Trump said in a text exchange.

Trump announced Tuesday that he is running again for the presidency in a speech from his Palm Beach, Florida, club.

Trump's company struck many real estate licensing deals overseas before he entered the White House, including for hotels and residential towers in Canada, Dubai, Mexico, India and Turkey. Some branding experts had expected him to put his name on more buildings after he left office, with the added brand appeal of a former U.S. president.

With Trump possibly running again, the company may feel pressure to move fast to add to the Oman deal. Asked if the company would halt such deals if his father was elected, Eric Trump responded, “Why would we do anything differently?”

The New York Times, which first reported the deal with the Saudi developer, said the $1.6 billion Oman resort will have an estimated 400 hotel rooms and 3,500 residential units.

Trump's close ties to Saudi Arabia' ruling crown prince drew heavy criticism following its blockade of U.S. ally Qatar during his administration and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the regime.

Since leaving office, Trump has hosted two tournaments at his properties for the upstart Saudi-funded LIV Golf series that critics say should not be given a venue in the U.S. given the regime's human-rights record. Trump's son-in-law and former senior aide, Jared Kushner, has also drawn scrutiny from Democrats for a reported $2 billion investment from a Saudi sovereign wealth fund for his investment fund started after he left the White House.

Unlike Trump's build-and-own ventures earlier in his career, licensing offers a relatively easy and risk-free way to generate cash assuming his brand remains strong. Before his 2016 election, Trump’s real estate licensing deals generated as much as $30 million in revenue in 17 months through May of that year, according to financial documents he had to file as a candidate. Much of that revenue was profit since it was Trump’s partners who owned the businesses and bore the costs, not him.

Just how much is profit is unclear, but Trump’s longtime finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, told Businessweek in a 2015 interview that the company overall made about 50 cents on every $1 in revenue, thanks partly to licensing. Since the Trump Organization is private it is nearly impossible to confirm those figures.

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