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Companies are dumping Trump brand in wake of Capitol insurrection. But can Chicago shed Trump Tower's giant sign?

Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

With the House having impeached President Donald Trump for a second time and corporate America distancing itself in the wake of the deadly Capitol insurrection, the Trump brand is taking a beating in the waning days of his presidency.

Even as pressure mounts to remove the president’s name from his signature property in Chicago, the Trump International Hotel & Tower, the brand may be hard to shed, potentially looming over the city for years to come.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council floor leader, earlier this week said he plans to introduce an ordinance this month to remove the sign from the prominent property on the Chicago River, as the list of companies formally breaking ties with Trump and his Republican supporters in Congress grows.

The ordinance would bar any person convicted of treason, sedition or subversive actions from doing business with the city, including having a sign permit. Pending the results of Trump’s impeachment, the proposed ordinance may apply to the soon-to-be former president, Villegas said.

“That may allow us to take the sign down finally,” Villegas said Tuesday. “The sign just doesn’t represent Chicago’s values.”

Trump Tower, a gleaming 98-story skyscraper that includes condos, a hotel, restaurants, event and retail space near the Magnificent Mile, opened in 2009 to general architectural acclaim. It was branded five years later with a 2,891-square-foot sign spelling out T-R-U-M-P in 20-foot letters overlooking the Chicago River, spawning criticism and a change in the city’s signage laws.

 

The Trump brand’s shift from over-the-top opulence to hard-right politics has transformed the sign into a politically charged symbol, said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“The Trump brand has become even more polarizing than ever,” Calkins said. “We’re going to see companies move very quickly to distance themselves from the Trump brand, and we’re going to see companies do it in a more overt fashion than they have before.”

The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump Tower has been struggling during the Trump administration, with plummeting condo prices, soaring hotel vacancies and a dearth of retail tenants.

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