Of all the ways President Donald Trump's name is appearing in headlines this week, perhaps the most surprising is what's happening at the Trump Hotel in Panama. The latest development of a standoff between the Trump Organization and the hotel's majority owner came on Monday, March 5. A team of a dozen Panamanian police, fully equipped with bullet proof vests, entered the Trump International Hotel and kicked out the organization's staff, according to ABC.
The majority owner is a Cyprus national named Orestes Fintiklis. The dispute between the Trump Organization and Fintiklis, per The Washington Post, has been going since November 2017, with the latter claiming that Trump — or his international unpopularity — is to blame for the hotel's declining revenue and lost profits. He has until now been using legal pursuits to force the organization out of management. Fintiklis has also accused the Trump Organization of failing to do proper upkeep on the property.
On Monday, Fintiklis said that a legal official in Panama had granted him the right to oust the Trump Organization as managers and take over the job himself. Within a minute, per the Post, a worker had stripped the Trump name off the building, while a jubilant Fintiklis celebrated by playing piano in the hotel's lobby to gathered onlookers — singing what he described as a Greek anti-fascist tune.
Monday's win for Fintiklis represents the culmination of a legal battle that has been underway for a while now. With 70 stories, the hotel contains 369 rooms, 202 of which Fintiklis bought in 2017. He reportedly wrote in a letter to the hotel's other partial owners in early 2018 that the units were hemorrhaging financially.
One of the hotel's partial owners, Jeffrey Rabiea, told the Post that the hotel's popularity was plummeting among consumers. "Nobody wants to go there," he said. "If you've got a Marriott and a Hyatt and a Trump, you're not going to Trump."
The tension between Fintiklis and the Trump Organization escalated on Thursday, Feb. 24 when Fintiklis arrived at the hotel in person, demanding that the Trump staff leave. When they refused to do so, what resulted was a period of power shut-offs, shouting matches and brush-ups with local police, according to the Post. Monday's reported decision by the legal authority may put an end to the feud.
Per ABC, Fintiklis entered the hotel on Monday morning announcing that he had prevailed in court. Trump employees reportedly left, but not without taking some equipment with them.
The Trump Organization has a contract through 2031 to manage the hotel, which opened in 2011, but doesn't own the building itself.
The Trump Organization is currently headed by Eric and Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest sons, while the senior Trump is in the White House. The Panamanian hotel is the only of the Trump Organization's properties in Latin America. Per the Post, Trump reported earning over $800,000 off its management of the hotel in the 15 months prior to his latest financial disclosure.
The Trump Organization in a statement shared with ABC called the maneuver by Fintiklis a "flagrant violation" of their agreements. "Rather than abide by the clear terms of the agreement he had signed," read the statement, "Mr. Fintiklis had been conspiring with others to remove Trump Hotels as manager and fire most, if not all, of its loyal and dedicated employees."
Trump's business at large has come under fire for its potential violations of U.S. law by exposing the president to conflicts of interest. The Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., opened in October 2016, had quickly brought in a pretty penny, prompting ethics watchdogs to call foul on those profits. Lawsuits are underway to determine whether Trump's properties, particularly the D.C. hotel which caters to foreign dignitaries, violate law around a president's business limitations. Per the emoluments clause in the Constitution, presidents are prohibited from accepting compensation from foreign governments — which might include profit made from personal businesses which are supported or patronized by foreign officials.
Trump's own "Winter White House," his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Palm Beach Florida, has been the subject of much scrutiny. As of Jan. 22, he'd spent a total of 133 days at one of his properties while in office, 58 of which have been at Mar-a-Lago. (That tally was already up to 110 days before the end of last year.)
As the Post points out, this isn't the first time the Trump name has been removed from buildings since the president took office. The same happened with Trump hotels in Toronto and Manhattan back in 2017.