Business & Tech

Watch: Judge, police help oust Trump Hotels from Panama property

PANAMA CITY — Trump hotel executives were ousted from their offices in Panama’s Trump Hotel on Monday, as Panamanian officials stepped in to resolve a 12-day standoff between Trump’s company and the property’s owners.

Trump’s security guards also left the property, and crews immediately began stripping Trump’s name from the building.

The action began when a Panamanian judge and armed police officers escorted the head of the hotel’s owner association into the Trump-branded 70-story, luxury property on Panama Bay, with Trump’s security staff departing soon after.

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A legal dispute over Trump’s management contract at the hotel continues, but Monday’s developments indicated Trump had effectively surrendered physical control of the property.

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‘‘This was purely a commercial dispute that just spun out of control,’’ said Orestes Fintiklis, a private equity investor and the head of the hotel’s owners’ association, shortly before entering the hotel management’s offices. ‘‘And today this dispute has been settled by the authorities and the judges of this country.’’

The Trump Hotel’s website had ceased offering direct bookings at the hotel by early Monday afternoon.

‘‘We apologize,’’ the site said. ‘‘There are no available rooms for your requested stay.’’

A tourist posed for pictures after a Trump logo was removed from the entrance to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City on Monday.
RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images
A tourist posed for pictures after a Trump logo was removed from the entrance to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City on Monday.

The judicial intervention resolved the most contentious part of a 12-day standoff between Trump’s hotel business and Fintiklis, who sought to take physical control of the property on behalf of the hotel owners. Though the owners tried to fire Trump’s company last year, the Trump Organization had disputed the termination as legally invalid.

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As part of his fire-sale purchase of 202 of the hotel’s 369 units, Fintiklis signed a February 2017 agreement not to challenge Trump’s management contract — a deal that Trump Organizations consider binding.

Fintiklis quickly changed course after the deal closed in August, arguing that alleged mismanagement by Trump’s staff and the deterioration of the Trump brand rendered keeping the property in Trump hands impossible.

In late December, Trump’s management team ran off a team of Marriott hotel executives visiting the property at Fintiklis’s invitation.

‘‘Our investment has no future so long as the hotel is managed by an incompetent operator whose brand has been tarnished beyond repair,’’ Fintiklis wrote to his fellow hotel owners in a January e-mail.

The most recent and intense feuding began Feb. 22, when the Miami-based Fintiklis came to the property with termination notices for Trump’s management team. Trump hotel officials turned away Fintiklis and his entourage, refusing to let Fintiklis check into any of his private equity fund’s 202 hotel rooms.

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A legal complaint filed by Fintiklis said that, late that same evening, he and others in his party witnessed Trump’s management team destroying hotel documents, which Trump officials have denied.

For more than a week, Trump’s hotel business staved off efforts by Fintiklis and his allies to gain control of the property.

Rival security teams skirmished over physical control of key infrastructure, including the administrative offices and the hotel’s closed-caption security system, which was housed in the condominium association offices in the same building.

The hotel (the building with the curved roof) is a prominent part of the Panama City skyline.
Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg News
The hotel (the building with the curved roof) is a prominent part of the Panama City skyline.