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Former members of Trump's Doral golf club may wait the rest of their lives for refunds from the president

Taylor Dolven, Miami Herald on

Published in Business News

But progress has not come yet. Trump is currently sitting on at least $2.8 million in Doral golf membership deposits, but the number is likely closer to $4 million.

"I have no faith," said a former member of 18 years who left after the 2016 election. "We'll never see the money. That's why I don't bother worrying about it."

The person who perhaps worries most about it is a current member and resident of Doral Park, Peter Brooke, 74, a lawyer who joined the club in 1997 when it was owned by KSL Hotel Corporation. Brooke and his wife Lee built their social life at Doral, eating dinner there every Friday night and playing golf regularly with friends. He is so incensed that he wrote the letter on behalf of five former members to Martin, the Trump Organization lawyer.

Brooke said he had a bad feeling about the future of the club as soon as Trump acquired it out of bankruptcy in 2012 for $150 million. Brooke recalled Trump's public attacks against the five black and Latino teenagers accused and later exonerated of assaulting a white woman in Central Park in 1989.

"I saw a change coming in something that was very important to me," Brooke said. "He's not a nice human being."

Trump agreed to honor the membership and the refund waiting list when he purchased the property. At that time there were nearly 500 active golf members and around 200 on the refund waiting list, according to bankruptcy records.

 

Shortly after buying the resort, Trump held a meeting with golf members in one of the ballrooms. Brooke remembers Trump promising renovations to the golf courses and saying, "No one ever leaves my clubs."

As it turned out, that wasn't strictly true. Now, Brooke said, the club is visibly desolate. He said he rarely runs into anyone in the gym in the morning. During Trump's first visit to the property as president this past June, hotel occupancy was at just 23 percent. On a recent Wednesday morning during the August dog days, three people sat in the members lounge.

The company has blamed financial trouble at the property on hurricanes and Zika virus in an attempt to distance the resort's downturn from the president's image.

But in a review of the property's taxable value last year, a Trump Organization consultant told the Miami-Dade Value Adjustment Board that the property was "severely under-performing" compared to its competitors and blamed the shortfall on "some negative connotation that is associated with the brand." As evidence, the consultant showed profits fell nearly 70% from 2015 to 2017. The county agreed to reduce the resort's assessed value for 2018 from $110.3 million to $105.6 million. Trump reported that he made $76 million from the Doral resort and golf club in 2018, down from $116 million in 2016.

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