Donald Trump’s business empire relies much on public image and societal whims — and the cost of bucking those trends was evident in the second year of his presidency.
Tax returns released on Friday by the House Ways and Means Committee show a surge of revenue for the former president in 2018, a year after he took office and placed his business empire into a blind trust controlled by his adult sons.
The surge originated from a sale of numerous real estate properties, including some handed down to the then-president as part of his inheritance. Others were his own, built up or purchased during his years in Manhattan boardrooms.
But in one part of Mr Trump’s returns breaking down the individual sources of income from sale of real estate, a sharp divide appears which may point to the financial cost of the public blowback suffered as a result of his political career.
The entirety of his income from real estate sales in 2018 actually came from properties passed down to Mr Trump through his father, Fred Trump. The bulk of it came from one sale, the May 2018 sale of a nearly 6,000-unit housing complex in Brooklyn known as Starrett City. It netted $905m on the market, of which Mr Trump reported roughly $14.8m in profits.
Other properties which became part of the Trump empire when Donald was at the helm fared far worse that year. A number of transactions under “DJT Holdings” as well as the sale of a “beachouse” property at his Mar-a-Lago estate and other sales at his 40 Wall Street development actually netted Mr Trump a loss of more than $2m in total. Those losses actually ended up making Mr Trump’s capital gains tax burden a bit milder.
The explanation for the losses Mr Trump suffered at properties directly tied to his name could be a result of the overall effect that his presidency had on the Trump Organization; while some properties (such as, mainly, the Trump International Hotel in DC) saw a flurry of activity from people eager to meet the president or his inner circle, others suffered a financial malaise brought on by a hesitance of some to appear at Trump-branded properties out of a desire to preserve their public images.
This phenomenon was documented by NBC News in 2017, months after Mr Trump took office. At the time, the news outlet noted a surge in financial losses at a number of Trump Organization properties such as the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland amid the 2016 election.
The downward trend of interest in and acceptance of the Trump brand has followed the ex-president through his post-White House journey; NPR reported in the fall of last year that shops and other amenities at Trump’s Fifth Avenue property have dried up as business has receded.