The case highlights how Trump’s activities during the final days of his presidency continue to haunt him as he navigates numerous criminal investigations and business challenges linked to the Capitol riot.
The litigation is one of many involving Trump and his business and comes as the company has been indicted on New York state charges relating to an alleged 15-year tax fraud scheme and faces ongoing civil and criminal investigations. The company has pleaded not guilty to the charges and Trump has called the investigations politically motivated.
Recently, a new grand jury was impaneled because an earlier grand jury was set to expire to hear evidence from the Manhattan District Attorney’s ongoing investigation into whether the Trump Organization and its executives inflated or lowered valuations to mislead lenders, insurers and tax authorities, a person familiar with the matter said.
Last month Trump sat for a four-hour deposition in a lawsuit alleging an assault in 2015 outside of Trump Tower. On Monday, a judge ruled that the Washington, DC, attorney general’s lawsuit alleging Trump improperly benefited from the President’s Inaugural Committee could move to trial. The judge dropped the Trump Organization from the lawsuit but its hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue remains part of the case.
The fight over the golf course is one of the latest examples of Trump’s political rhetoric clashing with his business interests. In August two-thirds of the residents of a 35-story condo tower in White Plains, New York, voted to remove the Trump name from the building and officially change the building name, which has been Trump Tower at City Center since it opened in 2005, said Anthony Schembri, the condo board president. That followed earlier moves by other buildings to strip the Trump name from the properties.
The potential loss of the Ferry Point business to the Trump Organization comes at a time when the hotel industry suffered from the pandemic but golf course operators have seen their revenues bolstered as players took to the greens as a safe way to exercise and socialize. According to court filings, Ferry Point brought in over $8 million in revenue for the first 10 months of the year, above its pre-pandemic revenues of $7.28 million over the same period in 2019.
The Ferry Point lawsuit involves a battle over the license to manage the Bronx golf course, which was built on the site of a former landfill and has been licensed to the Trump Organization since 2012. The course is designed by pro-golfer Jack Nicklaus’s company and a clubhouse and restaurant on the grounds opened in 2019. A presidential seal is imprinted on the grass, according to one Instagram post.
Days after the January 6 riot on the US Capitol, de Blasio pledged to terminate the city’s relationships with Trump, ending Trump’s management of the Central Park Carousel, two ice skating rinks and Ferry Point.
Five days after the Capitol riot, the PGA of America cancelled its agreement to host the 2022 championship tournament at Trump’s Bedminster golf course in New Jersey saying doing so would be “detrimental” to its brand, and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews said it would not host any events for the “foreseeable future” at Trump’s Turnberry golf course in Scotland.
Park officials cited those statements when terminating the license arguing Trump breached the terms to operate a “first class, tournament quality” golf course.
“The actions of the PGA of America and R&A described above are plain, irrefutable evidence that the Ferry Point course’s ability to draw tournaments of the requisite caliber has been significantly impaired by the Trumps’ actions leading to the events of January 6. That is a material breach of the License,” Mitchell Silver, commissioner of New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, wrote in a notice denying Trump’s appeal of the termination.
In June, the Trump Organization sued New York City alleging breach of contract. It is seeking to have a judge reinstate the license, which was awarded in 2012.
Trump’s attorneys have argued that the city’s decision was based on de Blasio’s animus toward Trump, adding “there is absolutely nothing” in the license that requires Trump to host a tournament. They also included statements from professional golfers attesting to the high-quality of the course and said terminating their contract would cause the loss of 150 jobs.
The city has accused lawyers for the Trump Organization of trying to intimidate potential bidders for the licensing rights, writing in a court filing: “For example, a September 22, 2021, letter from TFP’s outside counsel to Morningstar Golf & Hospitality referred to TFP’s Article 78 proceeding and warned against entering into a license to operate the course, and advising them ‘you proceed at your peril.'”
Last month the city’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee voted 4-2 to award the remaining 13 years of the license to Bobby Jones Links, an Atlanta-based golf course operator.
Park officials told Trump that the licensing agreement ends this Sunday. Trump asked the judge to delay the deadline and she agreed for now.
Even if the judge finds that Trump didn’t materially breach the contract, the battle is likely not over. The city could appeal the ruling or move to terminate Trump’s licensing agreement “at will,” and Trump’s lawyers have put the price of a termination payment at $30 million, a figure the city has not endorsed.
“We’re ready to go the 15th,” Whitney Crouse, founding partner of Bobby Jones Links, told CNN before the judge’s decision to delay the changeover. “We’re going to keep all the employees. It’s going to be as good or better as before.”
Crouse said he’s aware of the risk that Trump could use his pulpit to go after them, but said they bid for the contract because they are confident New York will prevail in the litigation.
“We’ve thought long and hard about that,” he said. “I’m sure something will be said, and it will be in the press, and it will be controversial but six months from now or next year when golf season begins, golfers will have forgotten the issue.”
Crouse added, “The world will move on as it has with other things with Mr. Trump.”