The outside of Le Chateau des Palmiers looks like any other luxury estate on the French West Indies island of St. Martin. Terracotta-tiled structures and palm trees sit beside a crystal blue swimming pool mirroring the Caribbean Sea.
The inside, however, screams Donald Trump: gold-hued decor from the wallpaper to the curtains, wardrobes and headboards.
It can be yours for $16.9 million, a relative bargain after the former U.S. president’s company slashed the price by $11 million since first listing the property four years ago.
The home is a small slice of the Trump Organization’s sprawling real estate empire, a disparate collection of properties that is straining under the weight of the pandemic and blowback from Trump’s controversial presidency. It’s also one of several assets the company has put up for sale — with no takers so far. If buyers emerge, the offerings could far exceed any transaction from the four years the billionaire was in office.
In Washington, the hotel that became a conservative hub during Trump’s presidential years went on the market in 2019 for $500 million. A fixer-upper mansion across from Mar-a-Lago in Florida is listed for $49 million. The company also is considering selling Seven Springs, an estate in New York’s Westchester County that’s tied to an investigation by Manhattan prosecutors, according to a person with knowledge of the family business.
Deals for the properties could add tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to the family coffers at a time when the Trump Organization has at least $590 million in loans coming due in the next four years, more than half personally guaranteed by its leader. They also would provide cash as the company looks to turn Trump’s 74 million voters into customers, with the former president floating the possibility of a social-media platform.
The Trump Organization didn’t respond to a request for comment.
While buying and selling property is the core of any real estate company, the assets for sale are outside of Trump’s typical business of marketing condos in a Las Vegas tower or homes at its California golf community. The family’s holdings include golf courses, hotels and office buildings, with a hodgepodge of mansions and a winery thrown in, and potential transactions could tap into soaring real estate demand among the ultra-rich.
But for the mogul behind “The Art of the Deal,” an agreement may be hindered by lofty price expectations, as well as the Trump name.
Washington’s Trump International Hotel, which opened just before its owner moved into the nearby White House, sat on the market for more than a year without reaching its $500 million asking price. The Trump Organization has said it attracted what would be record bids “north of $350 million” that the company rejected.
Those who’ve gone public with their offers have cited much lower figures. Brian Friedman, a D.C. real estate investor, said he offered around $160 million. He doesn’t think there were many other serious suitors.
“I don’t have anyone calling me saying ‘I bid on it too,’” Friedman said. One issue is that the ground lease Trump negotiated was too expensive, he said.
Trump himself said in 2012 that he paid too much for the property — a promised $200 million to renovate the historic Old Post Office and $3 million in annual base rent. Friedman said he’d need 80% occupancy and a high average daily rate to make buying worth it.
The hotel saw revenue plunge last year amid the pandemic and sits in a city where Democratic leaders are now in power. It’s no longer officially on the market. The broker handling the sale, Jones Lang LaSalle, quit in January after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, just one mile to the east.
The Trumps don’t plan to replace JLL or actively market the hotel, but the company is still open to offers, said the person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named discussing the family’s business.
Two buildings that represent Trump’s most valuable assets — a 30% stake in office towers in New York and San Francisco, worth an estimated $685 million — also were in play last year yet failed to sell after bids came up short of expectations. The controlling owner, Vornado Realty Trust, was seeking a buyer for its interest and ended up tabling those plans.
“I was disappointed in the reception,” Vornado Chief Executive Officer Steven Roth said on the company’s earnings call in February. “We found that the buyers were in two groups: bottom-fishers, which were not for us, and the conventional, long-term institutional investors were tentative.”
It’s a tough time to be a seller in the commercial-property market after a year of lockdowns slammed hotels and led legions of people to work remotely. Nationally, office demand is expected to fall about 15% from pre-Covid levels, said Dave Bragg, managing director at real estate analytics firm Green Street.
“To see some deals that had certain expectations for pricing not realize those is not particularly surprising given the uncertainty surrounding the long-term outlook for remote work,” Bragg said.
But the pandemic likely isn’t an issue for the Chateau des Palmiers. It was first listed for $28 million in 2017 before the price was cut later that year, bringing it closer to levels more consistent with other luxury homes on St. Martin. The fact that Trump’s name is on the deed is likely one reason why the estate has been languishing on the market, even as the island became a popular refuge for people looking to ride out the pandemic in paradise, said Jonathan Schaede, a local real estate broker.
“People who were interested in the property weren’t interested in being in the spotlight for buying the house of the former president of the United States,” Schaede said.
The Trumps rent out the 10-bedroom home as a private resort, with weekly rates of as much as $140,000 during the high season. But in 2020 and the first 20 days of 2021, rental income from the property was $50,000 at most, according to Trump’s final disclosure. That’s down from as much as $1 million reported in Trump’s 2017 disclosure, which covers 15 and a half months, mostly in 2016.
The pandemic has also drawn the ultra-wealthy to Palm Beach, Florida, where the Trumps listed the beach-front mansion across from Mar-a-Lago at $49 million, a hefty premium over the $18.5 million they paid in 2018. The market is so hot right now that the name of the seller doesn’t matter, said local real estate agent Chris Leavitt.
“You have so many different generations of wealth going on here and all battling for limited products,” said Leavitt. “There are so many qualified people financially, buying for all the same real estate and what does everybody want? They want ocean-front, beach-front real estate.”
The house comes with a membership to Mar-a-Lago, which typically commands a $250,000 initiation fee. Guy Clark, a Palm Beach real estate agent with Douglas Elliman, said that makes the mansion inextricably tied to Trump and likely means it would have to sell to a supporter.
In New York, the more than 200-acre Seven Springs estate could be on the market soon, according to the person familiar with the family business. Trump bought the 15-bedroom home in 1995 for $7.5 million. New York City prosecutors, who are investigating his company for possible tax, bank and insurance fraud, have broadened their probe to include the property.
Melissa Marcogliese, a Westchester real estate agent, said she doesn’t think Trump’s name will be a major factor for a purchaser in the booming suburban New York market.
“Luxury buyers are looking for something luxurious,” said Marcogliese. “They’ve done their research, they’ve done their homework and they want what they want.”
— With assistance by Pierre Paulden, and Max Abelson