An acrimonious court battle ended with the Trump name removed from a Panama hotel, and the hotel was renamed “Bahia Grand Panama.”
On March 5th, Panama’s courts ruled that the property’s majority share owner, Orestes Fintiklis, could take administrative control from the Trump Organization. Immediately after the ruling, Fintiklis arrived at the hotel with a delegation of court officials and police officers. ABC News footage showed a workman removing the Trump name from the hotel sign with a crowbar. “This is a purely commercial dispute that just spun out of control,” Mr. Fintiklis said in a news conference following the removal. “And today this dispute has been settled by the judges and the authorities of this country.”
The dispute started back in 2016 when Fintiklis bought 202 of the hotel’s 369 units. The Trump Organization okayed the deal, on the condition that Fintiklis does not interfere with their management. Fintiklis then arranged a meeting with the hotel’s unit owners, where they voted that the Trump Organization had failed their management responsibilities. Fintinklis blamed the Trumps for the hotel’s financial woes, saying that their “utterly incompetent management of the hotel” brought down profits and drove away guests. Since then, the move to oust the Trumps has been debated in courts in Panama, New York, and Delaware, alongside an international arbitration.
In February, the dispute became public when Fintiklis unsuccessfully attempted to fire several Trump staff members. The fight moved from the courtrooms to the hotel itself, and armed guards, police officers and government officials have gotten into heated disputes in front of the guests. The day of the court order, Fintiklis’ delegation was initially stopped by Trump security guards, one of whom got into a shoving match with a lawyer.
This isn’t the first time the Trump Organization has lost a hotel in the past year. In 2017, hotels in Toronto and Manhattan bought out of contracts with the organization and removed the Trump name. Indeed, the Trump brand has faced difficulties since the President’s election, with governmental ethics requirements making it difficult to close deals. And some believe that the administration’s divisive record is turning potential customers away from the Trump brand altogether. Algerd Monstavicius, one of the Panama hotel’s unit owners, says that Trump’s anti-immigrant stance has made it difficult to sell the brand to customers in Latin America. “The perception is: Trump is anti-Latino,” Monstavicius told the New York Times. “And that’s reflected in the occupancy.”
According to the hotel’s financial records, the property lost more than $1 million in 2017, after making a gross operating profit of more than $800,000 the previous year. But in a letter to the hotel’s unit owners, the Trump Organization said that the hotel “continues to outperform the market by a wide margin.” They refused to disclose occupancy rates.
Although Fintiklis won the case in Panama’s court, the Trump team says they’re not backing down just yet. Trump’s team had an agreement with the property’s original owner that they would manage the property until at least 2031, and they believe the deal is binding. On March 9th, the law firm Britton and Iglesias released a statement saying that they will be “presenting legal actions seeking to restore the Trump name to the hotel.” “We just want to run the hotel peacefully, and without interference,” a Trump Organization lawyer told the New York Times. “But I look forward to litigating this, and have no doubt we will prevail.” The deliberations in New York, Delaware, and international arbitration court are still continuing.
But for now, Fintiklis isn’t concerned. According to a report from The Post, he celebrated his win by walking over to the lobby’s piano and playing “Accordeon,” a Greek anti-fascist anthem. And, in the press conference following the Trump brand’s ousting from the Hotel, Fintiklis said that he was considering obtaining Panamanian citizenship, saying “Today Panama has made us proud.”
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