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Stormy seas at trump Ocean Club

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Hotel Trump. Hotel Trump.
LA PRENSA/Roberto Cisneros

On July 6, 2011, during a heavy thunderstorm, Donald J. Trump inaugurated the Trump Ocean Club in Panama, a giant tower of 260,000 square meters reaching 69 floors.

The project is not owned by the current president of the United States, but it does carry his name under an agreement reached with the promoters that paid him $1.2 million, in addition to a commission of 4 percent on sales of hotel units, residences , offices and shops.

To finance the project, the developer, Newland International Properties, issued a bond in 2007 for $220 million.

But the impact of the financial crisis in the United States, plus cost overruns, put the project in financial trouble from the start. The developer defaulted on the bond.

The deal with the project developer allowed the use of the Trump brand throughout the complex, and the hotel would be operated from its inauguration by the Trump Organization. However, the ownership of the rooms would not belong to the operator: some had been sold to investors and others remained in Newland's possession.

Last year, Newland reached an agreement with Ithaca Capital to sell 202 of the 369 hotel rooms and 13 commercial spaces of the complex.

The promoter announced that this deal, which would generate an income of $23.7 million, represented the substantial sale of all the company's remaining assets and that, if the corresponding payment was made to the bondholders, there would be a "material deficit" with respect to the existing debt under the obligations of the bonds.

The relationship between the new owner and the administrator of the hotel has resulted in a dispute over the control of the operations and a flurry of complaints.

Trump Hotels said that the co-ownership regulation of the hotel prevents anyone from owning more than 10 units without its consent. However, it clarified that it allowed the sale on the condition that there was no interference in the management of the hotel or a termination of the administration contract. That agreement, in its opinion, would have been breached by the new owner of the hotel, which aims to cancel the relationship with Trump.

In October 2017, Orestes Fintiklis, a representative of Ithaca Capital, sent Trump Hotels a notice of default and submitted an arbitration request to the International Chamber of Commerce to rescind the administration contract.

Trump Hotels responded to the arbitration by filing a counterclaim for $50 million against Fintiklis.

The tension between the two groups reached such a level that on Feb. 22, Fintiklis could not access the hotel due to the impediment of some employees and members of security.

The incident provoked the presence in the building of police, according to the businessman in a complaint of misappropriation filed with the Public Ministry.

Fintiklis counted in the complaint that he stayed in the lobby until midnight and that he was not allowed to obtain a room in his own hotel.

In addition, he saw how employees "moved open boxes with folders containing documents and heard that they were shredding documents in the hotel's office in the lobby."

Trump Hotels, on the other hand, relates these events as "a coordinated attack to physically take over the administration of the hotel."

The company said Fintiklis tried to shut down the hotel's computer room. "As a result of his aggressive behavior, the local police, as well as a local judge, have had to make repeated visits to the hotel to maintain peace and restore order," said Trump Hotels.

The Public Prosecutor's Office said in a statement that it had opened an investigation "to establish whether there is any punishable conduct with respect to a complaint of encroachment on the property of the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower."

And now, what was advertised as the most luxurious skyscraper project in Latin America, has reached a point where the matter will most likely be decided in a courtroom, rather than Mr. Trump’s preferred arena – the boardroom.

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