NEW YORK ― President-elect Donald Trump said he was offered a deal to lend his name to real estate in Dubai just a few days ago, but declined.
Putting a characteristically unverifiable and astronomical value on his cut of the rejected deal, Trump said at press conference Tuesday that “over the weekend, I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man.” That man is Hussein Sajwani, the head of DAMAC Group, a real estate company. Trump said the offer from DAMAC was for “a number of deals and I turned it down.”
DAMAC partially confirmed Trump’s account, but declined to confirm the president-elect’s assertion that it was worth $2 billion. “The discussions took place as stated in the media briefing but the proposals were declined by the Trump Organization,” DAMAC Senior Vice President Niall McLoughlin wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. “These proposals were for a variety of different properties deals.”
McLoughlin would not comment on the specific value Trump put on the offer, saying “further comment would be competitive sensitive for us.” Trump previously lent his name to a DAMAC development in Dubai, the Trump International Golf Club.
The details of the offer were unclear, but given Trump’s previous dealings with DAMAC and other developers, it was likely a branding agreement to lend Trump’s name to a project owned by DAMAC.
The Trump transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump announced on Tuesday that to deal with his financial conflicts of interest as president, he would hand over his company to his adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric, and that the company would only pursue domestic, not foreign, deals.
Such a plan fits with what Trump has said for months he would do if elected and does little to erase potential conflicts or their appearance. Trump will still retain ownership of the company and said that after his stay in office, he will return to the company. Speaking of his sons’ leadership, he said, “I hope at the end of eight years I’ll come back and say, ‘Oh, you did a good job. Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I’ll say, ‘You’re fired.’”
In his press conference, Trump praised Sajwani as a “great developer for the Middle East ... a friend of mine, a great guy.” That was not the first time Trump has publicly heaped praise on Sajwani. Sajwani’s family attended the New Year’s Eve party Trump hosted last year at his Mar-A-Lago club, and the president-elect called them “the most beautiful people,” in a speech to the crowd. Sajwani reciprocated the praise, telling NBC that his wife and Ivanka “are very good friends. They send emails. She’s been here to my house. We’ve been in New York having lunch and dinners with them regularly. And, you know, you enjoy working with somebody — it’s not only cold business relation.”
Sajwani confirmed to NBC that he had met with Trump’s daughter, who advises her father and is a member of his transition team, after the election. Trump’s election is “definitely good news,” he said to NBC. “Naturally, I think we will benefit from the strength of the brand going forward.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Hussein Sajwani as the emir of Dubai.