• The Trump International Hotel and Tower Panama in Panama City is currently the site of an intense business dispute.
• Trump Organisation employees refused to vacate the premises after being fired by the hotel’s majority owners on Tuesday.
• The international blowup could cause problems for President Donald Trump.
The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama City boasts 369 hotel rooms, an infinity pool with spectacular ocean views, and a bitter business dispute that’s already required police intervention.
It’s the site of a contentious showdown between Trump Organisation staffers and the property’s majority owners, led by investor Orestes Fintiklis. His firm, Ithaca Capital Partners, has a majority stake in the property, The New York Times reported.
The owners chose to cut ties with the Trump brand last year, and have been in arbitration since October 2017. The Los Angeles Times reported the owners have accused Trump Hotels of “gross mismanagement” and “financial misconduct.”
But the Trump Organisation isn’t budging.
In January, the organisation refused to admit a team of Marriott staffers visiting on behalf of the owners. Now, the owners are accusing the Trump Organisation executives of illegally encroaching on their property, The New York Times reported.
Last week, Fintiklis showed up at the hotel to hand out termination slips. The Trump Organisation team called the police and “barred the owners’ group from entering a room containing the building’s computer servers and closed-circuit television system,” The New York Times reported. Trump Organisation executives were also overheard shredding files, the Associated Press reported.
The face-off turned physical on Tuesday, when rival teams of security guards began to scuffle in the building. Police were called again, and broke up the fight. One guard was handcuffed, but not arrested, after blocking police access to the building’s administrative offices, The Washington Post reported.
Once he was allowed to access the hotel, Fintiklis celebrated by playing Beethoven on a piano in the hotel’s lobby, according to the Washington Post.
And Wednesday, riot gear-clad police burst into the building to investigate whether hotel staffers were being paid. Panamanian authorities have opened an investigation into the tense situation.
The ongoing dispute could bring about repercussions felt in the White House, possibly sparking concerns about President Donald Trump’s international conflicts of interest, reported Business Insider’s Allan Smith.
Here’s a look inside the five-star hotel that’s the center of this dispute:
The 70-story skyscraper is the tallest building in Central America and the only Trump hotel in Latin America. In 2014, Trump tweeted that the building’s “design evokes a majestic sail fully deployed in the wind.” The property includes both a hotel and condominiums.
For a stay in late March, guests can pay anywhere from $US135.15 a night to $US1,994.25 a night for the presidential suite.
Source: Trump Hotels
If the website is any indication, the hotel is still taking guests, despite Tuesday’s fracas and an impending investigation by the Panamanian government.
The hotel has largely favourable reviews on Trip Advisor, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars. But declining revenues are reportedly the reason why the majority owners are looking to sever ties with the Trump Organisation.
Thirteen stories up, hotel guests can dive into an infinity pool overlooking the ocean. Five other outdoor pools dot the property. Other features include the Ocean Sun Casino, which takes up three floors, a fitness center, and shops.
Source: Trump Hotels
In terms of dining options, there are four restaurants to choose from if you don’t want to leave the hotel. Guests can decide between Latin American fare at Tejas, a breakfast buffet and “tapas-style bistro menu” at BARcelona, drinks at Cava 15, and “all-American” cuisine at Azul Bar and Grill.
Pets are also welcome. The hotel’s social media feeds include a number of posts welcoming canine guests.
Back in 2011, Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric visited the hotel together. In 2015, Eric returned.
Real estate developer Roger Khafif first took up the idea for the Panamanian project with Trump in 2005. Reuters reported that Trump hoped the hotel would be a “baby” for Ivanka to handle. At the time, she had just joined the Trump Organisation.
Construction on the property began in 2007. The project proved to be a big financial win for the Trump family. It also came together with the help of an alleged fraudster and ex-car salesman Alexandre Ventura, according to a November 2017 report from Reuters.
The hotel opened on July 6, 2011. The day before, Trump took to Twitter to celebrate, writing, “Tomorrow we’ll be going to Panama for the opening of our new hotel. It’s a fantastic building in a fantastic location.”
On July 7, 2011, Trump participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with then-Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli. “You’re my friend. Great honour,” Trump reportedly told Martinelli, according to Fast Company. The Panamanian politician also sat on the board of Global Bank, one of the property’s co-trustees.
Martinelli served as president of Panama until 2014. In 2015, he fled the country before he could be arrested on charges of allegedly embezzling funds, insider trading, and spying on Panamanian politicians, activists, and doctors. In 2017, Interpol put out a notice to arrest the politician. He was detained in Florida, where he is currently fighting extradition.
Reuters reported that Trump earned anywhere from $US30 million to $US50 million for essentially lending his name to the project and providing hotel management.
In August 2017, investment company Ithaca Capital Partners acquired the hotel and the majority of the property’s condo units. Trump Organisation staffers continued to manage the property. According to the Washington Post, the Trump Organisation has claimed the contractual right to manage the property until 2031.
So far, Trump hasn’t put out any statements about the situation, on social media or otherwise. Neither have his sons, who are currently running the Trump Organisation. Ithaca Capital Partners and Trump Hotels did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
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