White House

Trump lost millions at golf courses in Scotland. U.S. voters weren’t told that.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks as he arrives at his revamped Trump Turnberry golf course in Turnberry Scotland on June 24, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks as he arrives at his revamped Trump Turnberry golf course in Turnberry Scotland on June 24, 2016. AP

President Donald Trump’s pair of golf resorts in Scotland have steadily lost money, with losses calculated at $23 million the last year his company reported figures to United Kingdom officials.

U.S. voters may not know that.

That’s because Trump told U.S. officials that Trump Turnberry earned $15 million and Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen earned $3.8 million in what he describes as “golf-related revenue” for roughly the same period of time.

Trump, who is expected to visit his Turnberry property this weekend while on a week-long trip to Europe, appears to have masked some of his company’s problems in Scotland on his personal financial disclosure required of U.S. government officials, according to several experts who reviewed the document.

“He has that history — playing fast and loose with the numbers,” said Henry DeLozier, a principal in Global Golf Advisors, which works with investment bankers, real estate developers and golf owners.

Several legitimate possible reasons exist for the discrepancy. But Trump has long been accused of inflating his income. A Forbes reporter even said Trump disguised himself as another Trump Organization official in 1984 to try to convince Forbes magazine staff to give him a place in its annual ranking of America’s richest people.

“If there’s one thing we know for certain about Donald Trump’s financial disclosures and lack of disclosures, it’s that denying Americans a full picture of his financial situation is a top priority,” said Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen.

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Trump’s expected trip to his Turnberry property in the U.K., where he remains deeply unpopular, marks the first time he has visited one of his properties outside the United States since he was sworn into office.

He plugged the property Friday during a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May as they discussed Britain’s plans to leave the European Union.

“If you remember, I was opening Turnberry the day before Brexit and we had an unbelieveably large number of reporters there because everybody was there because of of Brexit. And they all showed up on the ninth hole overlooking the ocean. And I said, ‘What’s going on.’ All they wanted to talk about was Brexit. They asked me for my opinion. And I’II think you’ll agree, I said I think Brexit will happen. And it did happen. And then we cut the ribbon.” (Trump actually arrived the day after Brexit was announced.)

Since his inauguration, Trump has visited one of his properties, usually in Florida, New Jersey or Virginia on 155 days, sometimes more than one a day, according to a compilation of information released by the White House.

The visits have led to so much publicity — and perhaps additional customers — that ethics experts have accused him of using his office to make money. Immediately following his election, his Mar-a-Lago resort in south Florida doubled its initiation fee to $200,000.

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The White House referred questions to one of Trump’s outside lawyers, Sheri Dillon, who did not respond to a message seeking comment. The Trump Organization, the collective name for about 500 Trump businesses owned by the president and run by his adult sons while Trump is president, did not answer questions but provided a statement saying Trump’s financial disclosure statement was reviewed and certified by the White House ethics counsel and the Office of Government Ethics. “It was prepared in accordance with all applicable requirements,” said a spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump’s two Scotland developments lost money for three years in a row with losses doubling in 2016 from the year before, according to documents the Trump Organization filed with Companies House, a British government agency that tracks a company’s revenue, expenses and profit.

In an October 2017 report outlining the $23 million in losses in 2016, the company said some of the problems stem from shutting down the Turnberry resort for six months for renovations.

Yet Trump reported $15 million in revenue at Turnberry and more than $3.8 million at Aberdeen between January 2016 and mid-April 2017, according to his personal financial disclosure statement filed in June 2017. Both properties are valued at more than $50 million. each.

One authority on the golf course business who declined to speak publicly about the president said some wealthy business owners accept when their properties lose money, especially in the short term, if they believe the value would likely grow, or if they offset the losses with profits from another business.

The discrepancy could make sense if the Trump Organization only licensed or managed the developments, as it does for many of its resorts, but news reports indicate Trump purchased the Scotland properties.



Still, experts say there could be several reasons the numbers differ — the governments are asking for different information, such as gross revenue versus net revenue, some of the numbers accounted for depreciation while others didn’t or Trump failed to list all business-related debt on his U.S. form.

Trump also could be incorrectly listing his company’s revenue instead of his personal income on his financial disclosure statement. In several places, he uses the words “revenue” and “sales” that seem to indicate he is listing how much money came in before expenses. U..S. law requires a filer to list assets and income on a personal financial disclosure statement.

Kathleen Clark, an ethics lawyer who previously worked for D.C. government and the Senate Judiciary Committee and now teaches at Washington University School of Law, said Trump is providing an incomplete financial picture on his forms. “People are supposed to list their personal income,” she said. “However, I think consensus is the Trump hasn’t done that.”

Adding to the confusion: The U.S. government allows those who file financial disclosure forms to reveal only ranges of income on its forms which makes it difficult to determine accurate total numbers.

Trump ignored calls to fully separate from his business interests when he became president. Instead, he placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his “exclusive benefit,” which he can receive at any time. He retains the authority to revoke the trust.

In total, Trump reported holdings of at least $1.4 billion and revenue of nearly $600 million, including $288 million from his 19 exclusive clubs around the globe that include Scotland, Ireland, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Some Scottish residents praised the resorts for boosting the economy while others complained about environmental impacts, especially in Aberdeen.

Trump reported that revenues grew at both Scotland courses in 2017 on his financial disclosure filed earlier this week but a comparison is difficult to draw because the time period for the two years overlap.

Trump has repeatedly refused to release his tax returns, which would help provide a clearer picture of finances. The Trump Organization, a private company, does not have to publicly release financial information in the United States.

Asking the county for a property reassessment in the hopes of a lower tax rate is a common business practice. Experts say they find it odd, however, that Iredell County reduced the value of Trump National Golf Course, Charlotte by 60 percent, desp

Ben Wieder in Washington contributed.

Anita Kumar: 202-383-6017, @anitakumar01
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