The new owners of the Trump International Hotel Panama are at war with the Trump Organization and matters came to a head this weekend as they try to evict the President’s managers from the property where he earns $4 million annually.
The troubled Trump Panama-branded hotel made international headlines last November after the President’s association with international drug traffickers and money launderers came to light. But the majority of the tower’s condominium units and the entire hotel were purchased by a Miami-based investment fund last August, and the new owners’ efforts to kick out Trump’s overpriced managers beginning October resulted in this weekend’s hotly contested action for eviction.
Ithaca Capital Partners acquired 202 of the 369 units in the 70-story waterfront hotel in a “fire sale” and shortly afterward discovered that Trump’s managers are incompetent and took them to court. The AP reports:
Relations quickly soured amid abysmal hotel occupancy numbers and allegations by Ithaca and other hotel unit owners of financial mismanagement or misconduct. Trump’s company — which he still owns but does not directly control — refused to hand over control of the property, arguing that the vote to fire Trump Hotels was invalid.
A Panamanian court declined to support that claim in December, and the parties have since been fighting in court. The AP reported that the Trump management team ran off a group of Marriott executives who had been invited to tour the property amid a search for a replacement hotel operator.
On Thursday, Fintiklis arrived at the property with management staff and lawyers intending to take over the hotel immediately. The Trump management team again refused to yield control of the property, and according to the legal complaint filed by Ithaca’s lawyers, refused to allow Fintiklis to check into any of his company’s 202 hotel rooms.
Yesterday, Ithaca Capital Partners filed suit again against four of Trump’s managers in Panama for ‘usurpation’ because they refused to allow Fintiklis, the rightful owner of most of the building, to check in to stay at his own property. Reuters reports:
It was not clear why the four staff members had denied Fintiklis access, but Ithaca’s lawyer Sarai Blaisdell told reporters they had said they were acting upon orders from “superiors.”
The four staff belonged to the previous administration of the hotel, Blaisdell said.
But that’s not all that happened. Trump’s Panamanian management team began destroying records in plain sight of the condominium owners trying to fire them. Then, Trump’s security team intervened, assaulting unit owners and fighting an astonishing room by room for control of the property. The AP reports:
Trump’s managers retreated behind the glass walls of an office where they were seen carrying files to an area where the sounds of a shredding machine could be heard, according to two witnesses aligned with the owners.
Elsewhere in the building, the hotel owners’ team and its allies were barred by Trump Hotel staff from entering the room containing the building’s closed-circuit TV system as well as key computer servers for the hotel and apartments that share the property. In response, they shut off power to the room — temporarily bringing down phone lines and internet connections within the building.
According to the legal complaint, Trump’s chief of security and six security guards “pushed and shouted at” Fintiklis when he came to deliver the termination notices.
The new owners of Trump Panama are also seeking to change the name of the iconic sail-shaped hotel [sic] to remove the stigma of the Trump-brand, following in the footsteps of high profile towers in Toronto and lower Manhattan.
Donald Trump’s first and most profitable international branding deal is going down in flames and facing the unusual prospect of a management company being involuntarily evicted.
This weekend’s reports about his management team’s hardball tactics will make anyone with sense think twice about hiring the kind of company that will forcibly lock out legitimate property owners in a desperate attempt to avoid eviction.