POLITICS

Trump's Got A New Hotel Venture, But You Didn't Hear About It From Him

At last we've found a subject Trump WON'T tweet about.

As the 2016 election winds down, and the White House recedes ever further from his grasp, you might be wondering: “So, what’s the next zany scheme for ol’ Donald Trump?” Many observers suspect he’ll go on to a rewarding new career in election-delegitimizing and fabric-of-nation-corroding, perhaps from a perch at a brand-new media enterprise ― the better to keep wringing coin from his fans’ hands. But what about all the old Trump-branded luxury goods of yesteryear?

No one knows for sure, but it certainly looks like Trump’s namesake company is planning for a brand-damaged future. Bloomberg’s Hui-Yong Yu and James Nash report that “as the race approaches its conclusion amid a torrent of controversy, his company is launching a new brand that won’t carry his name.” Said brand will be known as Scion ― a word you may soon see affixed to a new “line of hotels that will target younger clients.” (”Scion,” of course, means “descendant of a notable family” ― more on that in a second.)

Whatever the plans for Scion, Trump himself is keeping uncharacteristically mum about it. Bloomberg notes that a quote from Donald was conspicuously missing from the organization’s press materials on launch. And let’s face it, that’s kind of weird, considering Trump’s only real skill is talking about how awesome he is.

As you may have heard (because he never shuts up about it), Trump has some very interesting ― and excitingly varied ― ideas about his overall net worth. Perhaps the clearest window into his thinking came during a December 2007 deposition, when Trump testified that his net worth “fluctuates,” going “up and down” with both the “markets” and according to “attitudes and feelings, even my own feelings.”

[Attorney Andrew] Ceresney: Let me just understand that a little. You said your net worth goes up and down based upon your own feelings?

Trump: Yes, even my own feelings, as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day...

Ceresney: When you publicly state a net worth number, what do you base that number on?

Trump: I would say it’s my general attitude at the time that the question may be asked. And as I say, it varies.

On the face of it, this is risible. But it’s actually not a bad way to think about Trump’s business ventures, many of which ― at least in theory ― derive some part of their value from simply having his name on them, the way an “Oprah” or “Martha Stewart” imprimatur might help a product stand out from its competitors. Trump himself, as has now been amply documented, is not actually that great of a businessman. But if people think his name represents success ― even success of a gaudy, obnoxious, faintly sleazy variety ― then that perception creates a kind of value all the same.

Trump may have hollowed out a lot of that value with his presidential campaign, though. The whole “pitting Americans against each other” thing? The whole “lifelong pattern of mild sociopathy”? Not a good look. Not classy. In January, Politico’s Will Johnson and Michael D’Antonio found that Trump’s reputation was “taking a major hit” among the posh set:

In categories such as “prestigious,” “upper class” and “glamorous” the Trump name has plummeted among high-income consumers. Within the same group, it is also losing its connection with the terms “leader,” “dynamic” and “innovative” ― quite a blow for a man who criticizes others for being “low energy” and considers himself an industry trailblazer.

And earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Bruell reported that Trump’s name has only taken on more water since the release of a 2005 video in which Trump was heard bragging to Billy Bush about how easy it is for him to commit sexual assault.

According to Bruell, the Trump name ― during less controversial times ― really did carry some special value-inflating mojo. As Robert Passikoff, founder and president of the market research firm Brand Keys, put it, the “added value” of Trump’s name as recently as 2015 was “anywhere from 20% to 27%, depending on the category” ― a range he described as “enviable.” Even by the time Trump secured his party’s nomination, Passikoff told the Journal, “the added value of the Trump brand in entertainment was as high as 43%.”

Since the release of the Billy Bush video, however, things have not gone well. Per Bruell:

That added value has been significantly diminished since the video surfaced. The perceived added value in TV and entertainment, a category with which [Trump is] closely associated after “The Apprentice,” fell 13 percentage points as of Oct. 9, while the value of the Trump brand dropped 8 percentage points in real estate and 6 percentage points in country clubs and golf clubs, according to Brand Keys.

“What we know for sure is that these brand engagement numbers correlate very highly with consumer behavior in the marketplace,” said Mr. Passikoff. As the Trump brand becomes more toxic, “consumers will be distancing themselves from Trump-branded products as well.”

This is where Scion comes in. As Bloomberg’s Yu and Nash report, the name will be affixed to a new hotel chain. It’s not intended to replace the Trump brand. Indeed, Bloomberg notes that “Trump Hotels will continue to expand its namesake properties,” even though bookings at those hotels have “tumbled 29 percent in the past six months,” according to the research firm Ovation Vacations.

“In a way, [the campaign is] starting to affect the family negatively and could affect the hotel brand. The statistic is women make more hotel reservations than men,” one source close to Trump told The Huffington Post.

Scion’s hotels will be “aimed at younger customers,” which puts them in a crowded marketplace of similar big-brand offshoots competing for the same people. The most notable aspect about Scion is that it won’t be a “luxury” brand. Not that you should expect the Holiday Inn Express when you check in ― just that these hotels will not feature the five-star perks and pampering prominently advertised on the website for, say, Trump’s latest venture in Washington, D.C. Rather, the focus will be on the “budget constrained under 45-business traveler.”

If you, or the flapping inflatable tube man in your life, are wondering whatever happened to the line of sport compacts also known as “Scions,” wonder no more: That brand has been discontinued and its products folded back into the Toyota catalog. So the name “Scion” is, once again, available ― and the Trump family has an angle of their own. Per Bloomberg:

“We chose this name as a nod to the Trump family and their tremendous business successes, including Trump Hotels,” Eric Danziger, chief executive officer of Trump Hotels, said in an e-mail. “We want to acknowledge the association with Trump in a genuine way, while allowing the new lifestyle brand to stand on its own.”

But does anyone actually want Scion to be associated with Trump? It’s not so clear.

See, Scion has been in the works for a while now. The Wall Street Journal, in fact, reported in June that a new line of hotels without Trump’s name was on the way, and word about the “Scion” brand has been out for at least a month or so.

But Trump himself has seemingly made no real mention of it ― even though we all know how much he loves talking about his businesses. This week, Trump took time off from his ersatz presidential campaign to promote his Trump National Doral Miami golf resort. And as his running mate, Mike Pence, heads to Utah to try and stanch the bleeding there, Trump will be going to D.C. to preside over a ribbon-cutting at his newest hotel.

This is probably all to the good, as far as his kids are concerned. While no one involved with the Trump organization has explicitly said as much, the name “Scion” suggests that this is largely the venture of Eric, Ivanka, and Donald Jr. ― who currently run the family hotel business as executive vice presidents, and who would probably like to have some kind of cushion in place once their father is finished destroying the family name, or America, or both.

On that score, Trump’s kids may have a legitimate reason to worry. As Yahoo Fashion’s Kristine Solomon reported over the weekend, Ivanka’s fashion line is now the target of a boycott effort. And earlier this month, Yahoo News political correspondent Holly Bailey reported that “those in and close to Trump World describe anything but a happy relationship between Trump and his adult children.” In her report, Bailey re-raised an old concern that was first reported by NBC News’ roving Trump correspondent Katy Tur ― the idea that les enfants Trumps are beginning to “worry about the campaign’s effect on the family business.”

As best I can tell, Trump has not mentioned the Scion hotel line on Twitter at all. And maybe Trump’s own scions would prefer to keep it that way. As for Trump’s own post-election prospects, perhaps he can look forward to a lucrative career in taking his name off of things.

Ryan Grim and Ben Walsh contributed reporting.

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Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.