As they move forward with plans to sell a landmark Toronto property, the owners of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto are being warned that no one says "You're fired" to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump without a fight.
Billionaire Alex Shnaider's real estate company, Talon International Development Inc., is negotiating to sell the 65-storey Trump Toronto property, and hotel chains and real estate firms are among the bidders. It is expected that new owners would want to sever a 12-year-old agreement for Trump Toronto Hotel Management Corp. to provide marketing, reservation and housekeeping services at the 261-room hotel. The Trump name is boldly displayed across the roof of the building, which is in the heart of Toronto's financial district.
But Trump Hotels insists a change in ownership would not mean a new brand or manager at the tower, which also has 118 condominiums.
"We do not own this property and as such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on a potential change in ownership," a spokesperson for Trump Hotels said on Friday. "However, we do have a long-term agreement to manage the hotel and want to assure guests that they will continue to receive the same superior level of service, quality and luxury that has become synonymous with our brand."
Symon Zucker, a lawyer advising Mr. Shnaider, said a new owner would have the right to change the hotel's manager, but added that the issue is likely to be the subject of litigation. Last December, Trump Hotels took Mr. Shnaider and Talon to court to block a bid to end the management agreement, alleging that the developer wanted to "replace Trump as manager for selfish reasons." The two sides are in mediation.
Trump Hotels is motivated to keep its name on properties to catch up with larger hospitality companies. The Toronto development is one of just 15 hotels under the Trump banner; the chain also manages seven hotels in the United States, and properties in Vancouver, Scotland, Brazil, Panama and Bali. Hotel chains compete for wealthy travellers by offering loyalty programs and reservation systems that work across global portfolios. Trump Hotels is outgunned by rivals such Four Seasons Hotels Ltd., with 98 properties in 41 countries, and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, with 81 hotels.
The next owner of Trump Toronto is expected to be a real-estate company with hospitality experience or a hotel chain: Mr. Shnaider made his fortune in Ukrainian steel mills and commodities trading; the Toronto project was his first hospitality venture.
Los Angeles-based real-estate investor Colony Capital Inc. is rumoured to be a suitor for Trump Toronto, according to sources in the real estate and hospitality industries. The company has $60-billion (U.S.) of assets under management, and previously invested in Fairmont Raffles Hotels International. A spokesperson for Colony Capital did not respond to requests for comment.
"Colony has excellent relationships with all the major hotel chains, including Fairmont and Starwood, and this is exactly the sort of landmark property they target," said one real-estate executive whose company looked at Trump Toronto, but decided not to bid. Sources say other interested parties include Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., one of the world's largest chains, and investors in distressed real estate, such as TPG Capital and Blackstone Group LP.
Mr. Shnaider and his bank, Raiffeisen Bank International AG of Austria, known as RBI, are attempting to sell the Trump Toronto after Talon defaulted last year on a loan with approximately $260-million (Canadian) outstanding. In 2007, RBI lent Talon $310-million to finance construction; the overall cost of the project was $500-million.