It’s not only his political career that has been hit by former president Donald Trump’s plummeting reputation. His businesses will suffer, too.
This is the view of PR expert Eric Schiffer, who told Insider that by becoming the enemy of the people, Trump will destroy any revenue potential his brand could have had. He called it a “modern-day brand suicide.”
“There will be blood against his economic possibilities,” he added.
Trump’s businesses were already struggling
Trump boasts a business empire of roughly 500 ventures, which he controls through the Trump Organization. It includes 10 hotels and 19 golf courses alongside residential buildings, resorts, and restaurants across North America, Asia, and Europe. He has also had a career on TV, earning almost $200 million for his starring role in “The Apprentice.”
His golf clubs and hotels suffered huge revenue drops in 2020, according to recent financial disclosures.
Revenue from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, fell 63% from $40.5 million in 2019 to $15.1 million across 2020 and the first 20 days of 2019. Trump’s hotel-related sales in Vegas – where he owns the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas – also dropped roughly 60%.
Much of this can be attributed to travel restrictions and lockdown measures during the pandemic. But Trump’s actions as president may have impacted his businesses, too.
His net worth has fallen by $500 million since he took office in 2017, according to Bloomberg. During his presidency, Trump-branded Manhattan buildings lost half their value, too.
Council members in New York City spent years lobbying to end business contracts with the Trump Organization to manage four concessions in its park, saying Trump’s reputation was causing its profits to plummet.
The Trump branding was likely detracting people from visiting the attractions, Mark Levine, former chair of the city’s parks and recreation committee, told Insider. He called the Trump Organization’s connections with the four businesses “a stain on the city.”
“I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they just can’t bear to go to Wollman Ice Rink or the Central Park Carousel because of [Trump’s] association with it,” Levine explained.
The Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) of America canceled an event due to be held at a Trump-owned golf clubs in 2015 after the then-presidential candidate referred to Mexicans as “rapists” and people who are “bringing crime and bringing drugs.”
Then his reputation fell further
According to Schiffer, Trump already had a low reputation because of his COVID-19 mismanagement, racist comments, and baseless claims of voter fraud, thanks in part to his miscalculation that “chaos could lead to continued power.”
In the days after the Capitol siege, Trump’s reputation fell even further.
His approval rating hit a historic low of 29% as his favorability with Republicans nosedived, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.
On January 13, Trump became the first president to be impeached twice after the House charged him with inciting an insurrection. Ten Republicans lawmakers broke ranks with Trump and voted in favor of his impeachment.
Trump’s transition to being a private citizen again will likely make him the target of numerous legal investigations, Schiffer said, which “can turn a brand into rat poison fairly quickly.”
Any kind of legal judgment could make his supporters could back away, he added. This seismic shift away from Trump is a “further killing machine against his brand,” he said.
“If you’re a brand manager and you could have any brand to manage, you’d avoid Trump,” Schiffer added.
The Capitol siege has made the outlook even bleaker for Trump’s businesses
Top chief executives were overwhelmingly in favor of Trump’s impeachment, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, founder of Yale’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute, told Insider.
As a result, dozens of large companies pulled the plug on political donations following the Capitol siege on January 6.
But political donations aren’t the only way companies give money to politicians. When politicians double up as businesspeople, like Trump, companies can essentially be funding them by spending money at their enterprises.
In response, companies have been cutting their business ties with Trump, too.
E-scooter startup Lime became the first major company to vow never to give money to businesses connected to Trump or Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. It has also scrubbed Trump’s properties from its list of approved corporate travel hotels for its 600 employees.
E-commerce platform Shopify also removed accounts associated with Trump, including his official campaign store. Sites like shop.donaldjtrump.com and trumpstore.com can no longer be accessed.
The Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) of America, meanwhile, pulled its 2022 Championship from Trump’s New Jersey golf course, and it’s unlikely that major CEOs will continue holding events at any of Trump’s venues, Sonnenfeld told Insider.
It’s not just businesses freezing Trump out either. The City of New York is ending its business contracts with the Trump Organization after years of lobbying, and the Girl Scouts of Greater New York told Insider it’s trying to exit lease for a Manhattan office tower known as the Trump Building. The condo board of West Palm Beach’s Trump Plaza, meanwhile, voted unanimously to remove Trump from the name.
Trump’s loyalists can’t prop his businesses up
Trump still has a small group of dedicated supporters – but they won’t be enough to keep his businesses going. His loyalists “were not in many ways his core buyers,” Schiffer told Insider, noting that “many are not of high income.”
Members are even quitting Mar-a-Lago because it has become a sad and dispirited place since Trump moved in, according to the author of a book on the luxury Florida resort Trump bought in 1985.
Trump may be able to monetize from his MAGA crowd in other ways, Schiffer said, such as creating a blog or newsletter or holding ticketed events, but these won’t make up for the revenues lost through his hotels, restaurants, and golf clubs.
“Trump will exit the presidency with a brutal set of targets surrounding the heart of his brand, which will be a danger to his survival economically and that of his children, and likely will lead to excruciating pain of the type he has really never faced,” he added.
His political supporters will struggle, too
It’s not just Trump who will suffer economically following his COVID-19 mismanagement, election fraud misinformation, and actions in the run-up to the Capitol siege, Schiffer believes.
It’s likely his supporters from his time in office will feel the financial implications, too.
“Those individuals are going to be in crisis,” Schiffer told Insider. “There is a movement to ensure that those that were tied to Trump are suffocated economically and do not get any opportunities.”
The editor of Forbes, Randall Lane, has urged companies not to hire communications officials from Trump’s administration, saying there should be “repercussions” for those who had lied on behalf of the then-president. Lane suggested any companies employing them would be viewed as a “potential funnel of disinformation.”
Schiffer said: “Many mainstream employers will look at anyone who worked with Trump at the White House like they are hiring the Black death.” These employers wouldn’t allow Trump’s supporters to receive a paycheck with their brand name on, he added.
An investigation by Insider showed former White House communications staff are getting snubbed while hunting for jobs. One PR recruiter told Insider they took on six former White House employees as clients, but none were able to even secure an interview with corporations they had applied to.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has also reportedly struggled to find a new role.
This backlash against Trump’s closest political allies, which also included dozens of companies halting PACs to the lawmakers who voted against Biden’s certification, could make them rethink their stance on impeachment, experts told Insider.
“Cutting funding hits these politicians where it hurts,” Donald Hambrick, a professor of management at Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University, said. “I think senators are gonna be squirming.”