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Trump Panama hotel showdown appears to end, and the Trump name is coming down

Washington Post
Published: March 5, 2018 Updated: March 5, 2018 at 05:13 PM
A man removes the word Trump, off a marquee outside the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, Monday, March 5, 2018. Escorted by police officers and a Panamanian judicial official, the owner of the Trump Panama City hotel has taken control of the property. A team of Trump security officials left the property. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco) PAN111

PANAMA CITY, Panama ó Workers began removing the Trump name from the only Trump-branded hotel in Latin America on Monday after the majority owner of the Trump Panama hotel won a legal battle to eject the presidentís company as its manager.

In early afternoon, a worker hooked a crowbar behind the "T" in the large "Trump" sign outside the hotel along Panama Cityís waterfront and hit the crowbar with a hammer. In about a minute the entire Trump name was removed.

Earlier Monday, majority owner Orestes Fintiklis ó a Cypriot businessman now based in Miami ó said that a Panamanian legal official had allowed him to take over the hotelís administration.

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

After the officialís decision, Fintiklis said he had won a weekslong legal battle with the Trump Organization, which he blames for the hotelís declining revenue and low occupancy rates.

"Today, this dispute has been settled by the judges and the authorities of this country," Fintiklis said.

For the past week, the 70-story building in Panamaís capital has been the scene of shoving matches between rival security guards, repeated visits by police, power outages and reports of documents being shredded.

Now, for the first time, Fintiklis seemed in control.

Since Trump took office, his name and his company have also been removed from Trump hotels in Toronto and Manhattanís SoHo neighborhood. In both of those cases, however, Trumpís company reached a quiet, amicable settlement with the hotelís owners. In Panama, Fintiklis chose a more confrontational route.

The Trump hotel in Panama opened in 2011. The presidentís company does not own the building, but it had a contract to manage the hotel until 2031.

Fintiklis bought 202 of the hotelís 369 room units last year, assumed control of the hotelís condominium owners association and quickly moved to kick out the Trump Organization. He noted that, in 58 units, the owners had lost so much money on rentals that they were refusing to pay their condo fees.

The Trump Organization refused to leave the property, saying Fintiklis had no legal grounds to break its contract.

In his last financial disclosures, Trump reported that his company had made about $810,000 in management fees from the Panama hotel in the preceding 15 months.