President Trump's controversial namesake hotel in Washington, D.C. — just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House — is for sale with an asking price of as much as $500 million.
Patricia Tang, director of sales and marketing for Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., confirmed to CBS News on Friday that real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle has been hired to market the luxury hotel to buyers. She also confirmed the Trump Organization is hoping to get as much as $500 million for its 100-year leasing rights for the government-owned property, or about $2 million per room.
The Trump Organization told the Associated Press that the potential sale was partly to avoid criticism over conflicts of interest. The Trump International Hotel, which opened in late 2016 just before Mr. Trump was elected, has been a magnet for lobbyists and diplomats looking to gain favor with the administration.
"People are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel and therefore we may be willing to sell," Eric Trump, an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, told the AP in a statement. "Since we opened our doors, we have received tremendous interest in this hotel and as real-estate developers, we are always willing to explore our options."
The Trump Organization opened the luxury hotel in Washington's Old Post Office building just months before Mr. Trump was elected president in 2016 — and he has faced criticism and lawsuits ever since. Earlier this month,said it would reconsider an earlier ruling that threw out a lawsuit accusing Mr. Trump of illegally profiting off the presidency through his stake in the hotel.
According to Mr. Trump's financial disclosure report, he earned more than $100 million from his properties in 2018, including almost $41 million from the Washington hotel last year.
Government ethics watchdogs say the president's ownership of the hotel can create conflicts of interest. A Washington Post report, for instance, found a lobbying firm with ties to the Saudi government paid $270,000 to the Trump hotel in Washington between October 2016 and March 2017.
News of the Washington hotel going on the market comes as the Trump Organization seems to be making moves to distance its business from the organization's namesake. Last week,that the White House was no longer considering the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort as the host for the G-7 meeting in 2020, as had been earlier announced. The Trump name was also recently removed from two popular ice skating rinks in New York City that have long been operated by the president's company.
The Trump Organization, based on a deal it signed in 2013, pays the federal government $250,000 a month to rent the Old Post Office building. As part of the deal the Trump family business agreed to renovate the property, eventually spending more than $200 million by the time the hotel opened in late 2016, according to Bloomberg.
Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert and Trump critic, said the Trump Organization may be selling now because it fears the profits will fall if the president is not elected.
"There is no reason to think that Republican Party operatives or a trade association that wants to curry favor with the next president will choose this hotel," Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told AP. "It will just be another fancy hotel."
Other good government critics saw danger with the sale itself: Will the buyer pay more than the hotel is worth in an attempt to get in good with the administration? And what if the buyer is from overseas?
"If the Trump Organization puts out a 'For sale' sign on the Trump International Hotel and seeks and takes bids, it will create massive conflicts of interests with the deep-pocketed individuals, foreign governments, investment funds or corporations that could afford to make such a purchase," Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a liberal-leaning consumer advocacy group, said to AP.
In his statement, Eric Trump addressed concerns about conflicts of interest by noting the company cuts a check to the U.S. Treasury each year for what it calculates as "profit" from foreign government business at its hotels and other properties. That amounted to $191,538 last year, up from $151,470 the previous year.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the hotel was for sale.