President’s company ousted from hotel in Panama

Daily Mail

Escorted by police officers and a Panamanian judicial official, the majority owner of the Trump Panama City hotel has taken control of the property.

A team of Trump Organization security officials abandoned the area on Monday. Video footage circulated on Twitter showed a shoving match between the security guards and one of the owners’ lawyers.  

The action by Panama’s government resolves a 12-day standoff between President Donald Trump’s family hotel business and Orestes Fintiklis, a private equity investor who sought to drop Trump’s management company and brand.

Though Fintiklis and other owners tried to fire Trump’s company last year, the Trump Organization had refused to surrender physical possession of the hotel.

An employee wasted no time in physically removing the metallic name ‘Trump’ from the building’s stone marquee.

Speaking from the hotel’s administrative offices Monday, Fintiklis called the fight a commercial matter that had spun out of control and praised Panamanian authorities.

A representative of the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Fintiklis, for now the apparent victor in the skirmish, sat in the hotel lobby and played a Greek folk song on the piano in celebration. The tune was ‘Accordeon,’ an anthem about fighting fascism.

The hotel remained open for business this week against a backdrop of power and water interruptions, bad press and a fight over the Trump Organization’s management contract that ended in fisticuffs and repeated police calls last week before being resolved on Monday.

‘This isn’t what you expect from a luxury hotel,’ one guest was heard fuming

Fintiklis, who manages the Miami-based private equity fund Ithaca Capital, has alleged financial misconduct by Trump Hotels dating back years and has said Donald Trump’s statements on immigration have destroyed his brand in Latin America.

Fintiklis is waging a bitter battle to oust the Trump team from the hotel.

In a letter marked ‘Private & Confidential’ to the hotel’s other owners, Fintiklis, compared the Trumps to leeches attached to the building and were ‘draining our last drops of blood.’

The New York Times obtained a copy of the letter.

The dispute has left hotel employees not knowing from one day to the next who they should take orders from or whether they will have jobs when the dust settles.

‘Many of us came to work at the hotel precisely because of the Trump brand – it meant quality’ said one bellhop, who did not want his name used for fear of reprisals. ‘Now, we don’t know. We just want to work.’

Anibal Herrera, a lawyer for Fintiklis, said that while 10 Trump management employees had been fired – though they refused to leave the property or attend labor hearings – none of the 230 other employees has anything to fear.

Representatives at Trump Hotels dispute the firings’ validity.

Herrera did say that Fintiklis had control of the hotel’s finances and would stop paying bills incurred by the Trump management team.

Under a decade-old agreement with the property’s original developer, Trump Hotels was supposed to manage the property until at least 2031.

As part of a deal to sell 202 of the hotel’s 369 condo units last year, the Trump team attempted to extract an ironclad concession from the buyer, Fintiklis, not to challenge that management contract.

That is precisely what Fintiklis is now doing. Whether the Trump business got a legally binding commitment is a matter of contention.

Trump Hotels maintains that the company will not give in to ‘mob style tactics’ intended to remove it from the property until courts or arbitrators have settled the contractual matter.

‘To be clear, Trump Hotels is highly confident that it will prevail in these proceedings,’ the company said in a statement released last week.

‘Rather than abide by the clear terms of the agreement he had signed, Mr. Fintiklis had been conspiring with others to remove Trump Hotels as manager and fire most, if not all, of its loyal and dedicated employees.’

‘Looking back, it is now apparent that Mr. Fintiklis, in flagrant violation of the commitments he had made, never had any intention of keeping his word and had been plotting a takeover and termination of Trump Hotels all along.,’ the company’s statement added.

According to emails sent by Fintiklis to fellow owners of the hotel condo units, his units alone are running a six-figure monthly deficit.

‘Our investment has no future so long as the hotel is managed by an incompetent operator whose brand has been tarnished beyond repair,’ Fintiklis wrote the owners in January.

During that month, supposedly the peak of Panama’s high season, occupancy ran around 30 percent and hotel unit owners didn’t make enough to cover their maintenance fees, he said.

Donald Trump’s June 2017 financial disclosure shows his company earned a little over $800,000 from the property during the previous 15 months – a paltry amount compared with the payout of between $32 million and $55 million that the company was on track to receive, according to a deal that emerged from the property’s 2013 bankruptcy.

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