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Donald Trump to Hand Over Business Reins to Sons

WASHINGTON—In a press conference today, President-elect Donald J. Trump outlined plans to put his business assets in a trust and cede control of the Trump Organization to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr., and a longtime business executive to address potential issues around conflicts of interest. It was Trump’s first full press conference since clinching the 2016 presidential election.

According to a lawyer who has worked closely with the Trump Organization on the plan, Trump is “voluntarily taking this on to make it clear that he is not exploiting the office of the president for his gain. Don and Eric will have the authority to manage the Trump Organization without input from Donald Trump. An independent ethics adviser will be added to the management team to ensure business activities are beyond reproach.”

The trust will hold Trump’s liquid assets, treasuries and previously owned business assets such as Trump-owned and –operated hotels, resorts, golf courses, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, FL, and Trump Tower in New York, according to Sheri Dillon, a tax adviser at Morgan Lewis.

In addition, Trump’s lawyer confirmed that Ivanka Trump will resign from all management and operational roles and have no further involvement with the Trump Organization. The move comes after her husband, Jared Kushner, was named senior White House adviser to President-elect Trump. In preparation for the pivotal role, Kushner is resigning as CEO of Kushner Companies and publisher of the New York Observer, as well as divesting substantial assets to comply with federal ethics laws. 

The question of new and existing deals—domestic and international—was also addressed during today’s press conference, with Dillon, Trump’s tax adviser, stating that all pending deals have been terminated, including 30 deals that were set to close at the end of last year. There are also severe restrictions on any new business deals during Trump’s presidency, with only domestic contracts allowed and the soon-to-be-installed ethics adviser must closely vet them, she noted.

His access to information related to the Trump Organization will also be limited during the presidency in an effort to separate him from the businesses. “He will only know of a deal if he sees it in the paper or on TV,” she said. Dillon also stressed that Trump has no plans to sell the business or his stake. “President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built,” she said. 

Still, with a family so closely tied to its hotel brands, a few questions remain: Is this enough to avoid potential conflict of interest issues? With the departure of Ivanka and the ascent of Eric and Don, how will this impact the brands, including the development of its newest, Scion?

In an exclusive interview with Hotel Business in October, Trump Hotels’ CEO Eric Danziger emphasized that the Scion brand is an integral part of the family business. “There is no Mr. Four Seasons. There is no Mr. Rosewood. There is no Mr. Mandarin. There is a Trump family and they are deeply, deeply involved in their business. It’s their life. It’s their legacy. Ivanka Trump looks at every design we do in this brand and Trump,” he said. It appears that life—and business—will be looking very different for the Trump family.

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