Trump-ed in Charleston

[Once again the Glebe Street Hacks is honored to reprint Steve Bailey’s column that originally ran in the Post and Courier.  I meant to post this earlier, but the hurricane and evacuation interrupted those plans.]
Donald Trump loves to see his name on his properties — often in large, gilded capital letters. And he has made a fortune doing it.

There is the Trump Tower, of course, the Trump Taj Mahal and the Trump Palace, to name just three. Sometimes he builds them, sometimes he just licenses his name to other developers.

There are Trump golf courses, steaks, shirts and ties, water, energy drinks, cologne and vodka. Once upon a time there was a Trump University.

But outside Trump’s only property in South Carolina there is not so much as a sign, gilded or otherwise.

img_0211No flag flies from the pole outside. A high chain-link fence, topped with barbed wire, rings the property, which is overgrown with weeds.

The last tenant moved out last year, and filed a lawsuit charging a leaky roof cost it millions in ruined products.

That smell blanketing the place is from a waste disposal facility next door.

The faded and vacant industrial building on gritty Pace Street off Azalea Drive in North Charleston is what is left of the Trump Magic in South Carolina, the legacy of an investment gone bad by Donald Jr. and his partners.

There are no jobs being created here — in fact, there are no jobs at all.

Instead, it is a too-familiar Trump tale of lawsuits, angry creditors and taxes unpaid.

This time, though, it is in our backyard.

The failure of Donald the Younger and Donald the Elder’s maneuvering to protect his son and profit from his mistakes has been chronicled in dogged detail by Post and Courier reporter David Slade.

While the losses at Titan Atlas Manufacturing Inc. are a rounding error compared with Trump’s multiple casino bankruptcies, it is our hometown window into the Art of the Deal as practiced by the family that would rule America.

Titan Atlas was started by Donald Jr. with two partners to make steel-and-concrete home construction kits that could be assembled quickly on the building site.

The company shut down in January 2012, three years after it was created, amid costly patent litigation.

When Titan Atlas failed, Donald Jr. and his partners were on the hook for a $3.6 million loan they had each personally guaranteed with Deutsche Bank. With roughly the entire note coming due in November 2015, dad came to the rescue, buying the loan from the bank.

Like father, like son. Donald Trump’s own father, Fred, bailed him out in 1990, when he sent his lawyer to buy $3.5 million in chips at a blackjack table, but didn’t use them so the casino could pay its mortgage.

Trump Castle was fined $30,000 for an illegal loan; the son got to keep the money.

If the father again rescued the son, South Carolina taxpayers have not made out so well.

We don’t know what, if anything, Donald Trump pays in income taxes because he is the only presidential candidate in four decades to refuse to release his taxes, but here is what we do know:

Donald Jr.’s Titan Atlas has failed to pay almost $115,000 in state sales tax, workers’ compensation and federal taxes, according to court filings.

Donald Trump bought the property at a foreclosure sale this year.

It’s up to the state and federal government to chase the defunct Titan Atlas for the back taxes.

Good luck on that. To quote Donald Trump: “I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.”

Other creditors were left in the cold, too.

A Philadelphia law firm won a judgment of more than $400,000 in 2013 against Titan for unpaid legal bills in a patent lawsuit. Franz Meier said he made “a big mistake” choosing to sell the Pace Street property to Donald Jr. and his partners over other bidders, and it was a long, expensive process to settle litigation over what he was owed.

“The people who have the money have the power,” the German-born Meier, one of a new generation of restaurateurs in the late 1970s who helped turn Charleston into a culinary capital of the South, told me. “And the more money they have the more power they have. I lost a lot of money.”

Donald Jr. also has a 10 percent stake in the proposed redevelopment of the long-vacant Charleston Naval Hospital, North Charleston’s tallest building.

But that project has fared no better:

The developer was forced into foreclosure in the spring amid more than $15 million in unpaid debt and contractors who said they weren’t paid.

Sound familiar?

Neither the national nor state spokesmen for the Trump campaign responded to requests for comment.

A nothing warehouse in the middle of nowhere barely rates as a footnote in the gold-plated history of Trump World.

The man who loves to see his name everywhere called the company he used to buy the place D.B. Pace Acquisition LLC. (Mailing address: Trump Tower.)

But it is yet another example — our example — of how the Trumps tend to win and others at the table — creditors, vendors, taxpayers — turn into so much collateral damage.

Now he wants to close the biggest deal of his life.

Buyer beware.

 

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