Trump close to a deal to sell marquee DC hotel

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Former President Donald Trump's family company is in advanced discussions to sell the rights to its opulent Washington, D.C., hotel in a deal worth more than $370 million, say people familiar with the matter.

CGI Merchant Group, a Miami-based investment firm, is in talks to acquire the lease on the hotel, these people said. The Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., is located in the former Old Post Office, a short walk down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in a building featuring some of the largest guest rooms in the capital.

The property is owned by the federal government, but with extensions the lease runs close to 100 years. CGI has also entered into discussions with hotel operators, including Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.’s Waldorf Astoria luxury brand, about removing the Trump name in favor of that of another hotel manager, these people said.

The lease deal could ultimately fetch closer to $400 million, which would represent roughly a doubling of the money the Trump Organization spent to convert the government building into a luxury hotel, said one of the people familiar with the matter.


The hotel sales talks have been heating up as Democratic-controlled House committees have been investigating and holding hearings on potential conflicts of interest and emoluments issues surrounding Mr. Trump.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has been examining the lease terms between the Trump Organization and the federal government’s General Services Administration for use of the Old Post Office. The deal predates Mr. Trump’s entry into national politics, but the committee is probing how well Mr. Trump managed conflicts of interest while president.

A Friday report from the House committee said the hotel lost more than $70 million between its opening in 2016 and last year, leading the company to inject at least $24 million in aid.

The Trumps have disputed those findings, though their government filings show a slowdown in business. The hotel generated about $150 million in revenue over four years, according to Mr. Trump’s financial disclosures while president. His most recent disclosure, which covered all of 2020 and the first few weeks of 2021, showed the hotel’s revenue fell to $15 million, compared with $40 million in 2019.


The Washington, D.C., hotel has been a jewel in the Trump family portfolio. In 2012, the Trumps beat out some of the most experienced and deepest-pocketed names in the lodging business, including Marriott International Inc. and Hilton, for the rights to the lease.

The family’s pledge to spend about $200 million renovating and converting the 19th century post office into a modern luxury hotel was the highest offer, say people familiar with the matter.

About two years ago, the Trumps decided to test the sales market for the hotel’s lease. The family initially hoped it could sell the lease for close to $500 million, a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal at the time.

During the Trump years in the White House, the hotel became something of a Republican clubhouse, attracting fans, lobbyists, lawmakers and others with business before the Trump administration.

That business has fallen off since he left the White House, but hotel analysts suggest that the hotel’s prime location and 19th century architecture make it a unique destination.

"It’s an older building that has undergone extensive renovations, but it has design characteristics and architectural detail you can’t replicate today," said Sean Hennessey, chief executive of Lodging Advisors, a New York hospitality consulting firm. "If it becomes affiliated with a luxury brand, that brand can create a new identity for the property."


CGI Merchant Group was among roughly a dozen firms to express interest in the property, according to a person familiar with the matter, including pension funds, foreign government funds and high net-worth individuals.

The GSA, which manages the government’s real estate holdings, would be involved in the approval process for any sale of the lease, according to its contract with the Trump Organization.

The Miami-based CGI is part of a new breed of investors focusing on more socially conscious investing. The firm has pledged that properties in its Conscious Certified Hotels collection, which includes the Gabriel and Celino South Beach in Miami Beach, will donate 1% of all room revenue to local nonprofit organizations, according to the company’s website.

CGI founder and Chief Executive Raoul Thomas has donated to political causes, including more than $72,000 to President Biden’s campaign and the Democratic Party during the 2020 election, fundraising records show. More recently, Mr. Thomas contributed $25,000 to the campaign committee of Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, state records show.

To read more from the Wall Street Journal, click here

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