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Saved Stories – None: Donald Trump May Struggle to Pay Back His Empire’s Spiraling Debt

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Experts say that former U.S. President Donald Trump may find it difficult to pay back the mountain of debt his empire owes over the next four years, with revenues of some of his key businesses plunging amid the coronavirus pandemic and his reputation bruised by two impeachments.

Financial statements released on January 20, the day Trump left office, show that he owes hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, and most of it needs to be paid back by 2025. Experts have told Newsweek that the pandemic has had a devastating financial impact on Trump Organization businesses—many of which are in tourism and real estate.

Trump’s reputation has also been sullied by the deadly attack on the Capitol building on January 6, which led to him being impeached by the House of Representatives for the second time. Since then, many leading financial institutions and banks have refused to lend to the former president. Among them are Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley.

On top of this, the New York City government and the PGA of America pulled out of business arrangements with the Trump Organization, hitting the former president’s income.

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The National Doral Golf Club outside of Miami, typically the biggest money maker of Trump’s golf properties, made $44.2 million in revenue in 2020—$33 million less than the previous year.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., once a popular place for officials and lobbyists to stay in the capital, saw its revenue to drop to $15.1 million in 2020, down more than 60 percent from the year before.

The Turnburry club, Trump’s famous golf club in Scotland, took in less than $10 million in 2020, 60 percent lower than the previous year. The family’s golf club in Aberdeen saw a similar fall in revenue.

However, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago holiday club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he now lives, saw revenue rise 10 percent to $24.2 million.

The presidential financial report, which is filed each year with federal ethics officials, does not tell the whole story. Although the statements only show revenue rather than profits, financial experts have said the picture doesn’t look good for the Trump Organization, which has not responded to Newsweek’s request for comment.

Phillip Braun, Clinical Professor of Finance at Northwestern University, believes that Trump’s sources of funding are running out.

“Trump has somewhere around $300 million in loans coming due in the next three years. Furthermore, Forbes estimates all his debts total close to $1 billion, just not all of it coming due in the next few years. With some of Trump’s banks cancelling their business relationship with Trump, it will be difficult for him to access credit markets in the future to refinance these loans,” he told Newsweek.

“Beyond his debt, we also need to take into account the losses that his businesses are suffering, due to the pandemic, loss of his brand value, and other factors. His most recent financial disclosure shows that his properties lost more than $120 million last year. That is an enormous cash drain on his businesses, and will be difficult for Trump to sustain in the future.”

Braun expects Trump to stop paying some of his loans to conserve money, causing some of his businesses to default on their outstanding debt. This will cause his lenders to either renegotiate the terms of his loans or take Trump to court.

“My expectation is that his banks will renegotiate his loans rather than go to court (which is what ultimately happened with his loans for the Trump Tower in Chicago). Given the long time frame for the resolution of lawsuits, the ultimate financial demise of Trump could be years away,” said Braun.

“It will be difficult for Trump to recover from this. When his loans come due, we can expect his current banks to try not to roll over his current debt into new loans. This will require Trump to search for new lines of credit. This will be hard for him to do. If he is able to raise new credit, that credit will be rated as junk debt and the interest rate on the debt will be very high (the current interest rate on CCC rated junk debt is just under 8 percent).”

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for his last time as President on January 20, 2021 in Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Trump, who has been impeached twice, may struggle to pay back hundreds of millions of dollars of debt over the next four years, experts say.
Pete Marovich/Getty

Like Braun, John Pottow, a commercial law professor at the University of Michigan, believes the president could face a barrage of lawsuits that could eventually lead to personal bankruptcy.

“Absent the consent of the lenders, he has no option other than filing for bankruptcy,” Pottow told The Hill. “I mean, that’s just the way it works. If you owe someone money and you can’t pay it, then they can either forgive it or they can sue you.

“There’s a bunch of corporate actors who are running away from him, like Deutsche Bank, so I think the last thing they want to do is to refinance him,” Pottow added.

Jeffrey Harris, professor in the department of finance and real estate at American University in Washington, D.C., says that despite the pandemic hitting Trump’s businesses, he still has a strong brand among many Americans, which will mean money-making opportunities. The academic noted that former presidents often reap large windfalls for books and speaking arrangements.

“It is true that the industries in which Trump has been most visible (leisure, for the most part) have been hit the hardest from the COVID crisis. With vaccines being distributed and optimism around the corner, my guess is that these industries will start to rebound in the 2nd and 3rd quarter of 2021,” he told Newsweek.

Because Trump caters to the top-end consumers in this sector, Harris predicts that the former president’s hotels and golf courses will rebound even before the general hotel industry.

“The most wealthy are most likely to begin travel and leisure activities first, once the vaccines become more widely implemented,” he explained.

Harris said it remains to be seen whether the Capitol riots will have a profound impact on the president’s reputation in the long-term.

“Trump has morphed from businessman to TV star to politician and has shown a remarkable ability to make these transitions. If his businesses are capable, he will likely find financing to move forward,” he said.

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