Donald Trump golf resorts claimed at least £3.3m in UK furlough support

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<span>Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Donald Trump’s loss-making Scottish golf resorts claimed in excess of £3.3m in emergency support from the UK government, to help furlough staff during the Covid pandemic.

Company accounts for the former president’s resorts at Turnberry in Ayrshire and Balmedie, north of Aberdeen, show his businesses cut 273 jobs due to the Covid crisis last year, while also claiming £2.8m in furlough support.

Other government data shows Trump Turnberry and Trump International Scotland in Aberdeenshire then made further claims this year while the UK government’s job retention scheme was still in force.

The BBC reported those claims, not yet included in the Trump companies’ accounts, were worth between £520,000 and £1.3m, leading to a total claim for furlough funding of between £3.3m and £4.1m overall.

The resorts reported heavy losses due to their enforced closure during the lockdowns: the headline loss for Turnberry was £3.4m, after a £321,000 profit in 2019, and £1.3m at Balmedie, compared to a loss of £1.1m in 2019.

The accounts also show both resorts owe more money to Trump: loans from the former president’s own funds and the holding company he controls to both businesses now total £159m. The accounts report the assets – the land, buildings and equipment – at Turnberry are worth £86m, and £32m for the Aberdeenshire resort.

The accounts suggest the family holding company injected £1.1m into the Balmedie business to help with day-to-day cashflow after it was forced to close the resort’s boutique hotel, named after his Scottish mother, Mary MacLeod, for the whole of 2020. It did not reopen until April this year.

The accounts show the headcount at Turnberry, which has a five-star hotel, holiday lodges, a spa, ballroom and two championship golf courses, fell from an average of 541 employees in 2019 to 289 in 2020. At the much smaller Aberdeenshire resort, average staffing dropped from 84 posts to 63 last year.

In a foreword to the accounts, Trump’s son Eric, who was given day-to-day control of the businesses after his father won the presidency, said the UK government’s cash was helpful because it helped retain staff. Many were later rehired, he said.

“Government support was helpful to retain as many jobs as possible, however uncertainty of [sic] the duration of support and the pandemic’s sustained impact meant that redundancies were required to prepare the business for the long-term effects to the hospitality industry,” he said.

Global controls on air travel, particularly from the US golfing visitors; the impacts on staffing, supply chains and costs from Brexit; and general inflation, had all hit the Trump businesses, he added.

Confirmation that the Trump resorts have had more than £3.3m in furlough support could have implications for a US House of Representatives investigation into whether the former president has broken a clause in the constitution which prohibits US presidents from seeking and receiving financial rewards or benefits from foreign governments.

The Guardian reported last year that Trump’s Scottish resorts were expected to receive property tax rebates of nearly £1m because business rate payments for hospitality and tourism businesses had been suspended due to the pandemic.

The US Congress passed legislation prohibiting businesses in which Trump holds a stake from receiving any Covid-related bailout funds. Under Scottish and UK legislation, his Scottish resorts were given the same rights to claim as any other comparable business.

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