The Trump name will soon stand high above Toronto’s financial district, as the city’s latest luxury hotel-condo is set to open in the next several months. Built and owned by Toronto-based Alex Shnaider, a billionaire Russian immigrant who made his money in steel, the Trump family will manage the hotel. The Trumps, in their first foray in Canada, hope to lure guests with their “global superbrand.” Donald Trump, in between reality television work, oversees holdings in hotels, golf and other assets such as perfumes. His oldest son, 33-year-old Donald Jr., is an executive vice-president at the company, one of three siblings with the same title, and was in Toronto Sept. 26 to speak at the Ontario Business Achievement Awards.
Mr. Trump is bullish on his family’s prospects but otherwise bearish, worried the United States economy will suffer through years of turmoil.
What’s your thinking on interest rates? How long do they stay low? Japan - which has its own particularly problems - is two decades in on rock-bottom rates.
The bullish scenario is that we end up Japan. The way it looks right now, the way people are making decisions, it’s just not working any more. Interest rates, while I like it, for selfish purposes, they’re ridiculously low. We can’t artificially boost everything. It’s the same potholes. We don’t learn from our mistakes.
That’s a pretty dark outlook.
Darker outlook, realistic outlook, I’m not the kind of guy [to say], ‘Yeah, sure the glass is half full, or our leaders, these people are going to make the right decisions.’ My outlook is glum because I don’t have much faith in the people that we have, for the most part, in our government.
You’re bearish on America?
We’re bearish on aspects of it. It’s still our backyard. That local knowledge, especially in real estate, is paramount, over anything else. Markets may be down but ultimately that doesn’t mean you can’t make a good deal.
Some people say Canada’s real estate market looks frothy. The word bubble is bandied. What’s your thinking?
It’s always difficult to say. It’s hard to group real estate as ‘real estate.’ I break it down to zip codes; left side, right side of the street. It’s difficult for me to look at a general market and say: ‘This is the problem.’
In Toronto, the market for high-end luxury seems pretty crowded now, with the Ritz, Shangri-La, Four Seasons and you. What’s the outlook now?
When I first went to look at the market, I stayed at the best options, and I was definitely underwhelmed. There was a vacuum in the ultra-high end. We were the first to recognize the need. That said, I welcome the competition. Our sales, our numbers, speak for themselves.
You have international projects on the go in Panama, Scotland. What’s next in Canada?
I want to get established in Toronto first. There’s definitely room, potentially, in Canada. I’d love to do something on the west coast. Vancouver’s one of my favourite cities in the Americas, if not the world, being an outdoors guy myself. Canada definitely has a place on our radar.
This interview has been condensed and edited.