Excerpt from AP
Workers pried President Donald Trump's name from signs outside his family company's luxury hotel in Panama on Monday, as Trump's executives were ousted from their management offices in a business dispute under orders from Panamanian officials. Trump's security guards also left.
The end to a 12-day standoff over control of the property came early in the day when a Panamanian judicial official and police officers backed the hotel's majority owner, Orestes Fintiklis, as he took possession of the offices. The Trump-affiliated management and security officials then left the 70-story, waterfront high-rise.
"This was purely a commercial dispute that just spun out of control," said Fintiklis, a Miami-based private equity investor and head of the hotel owners' association. "And today this dispute has been settled by the authorities and the judges of this country."
The Trump Organization's lawyers, however, said Panamanian courts had in fact made no determination on the underlying dispute — a management contract held by the Trump group that it claims is still valid — and had only appointed an interim management until an international arbitration panel rules on the issue.
"Trump Hotels is totally convinced it will not only prevail, but that it should also be paid damages, costs and other charges related to today's actions," the lawyers said in a statement. The Trump Organization didn't say who the new management was or why the Trump name was removed from the hotel.
The Panamanian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Panamanian judicial official told The Associated Press a statement would come later in the day.
The Trump Hotel's website had ceased offering direct bookings at the hotel by early Monday afternoon. "We apologize," the site said. "There are no available rooms for your requested stay."
The hotel owners tried to fire Trump's company last year, but the Trump Organization disputed the termination as legally invalid. As part of his fire sale purchase of 202 of the hotel's 369 units, Fintiklis signed a February 2017 agreement not to challenge Trump's management contract — a deal the Trump Organization considers binding.
Fintiklis quickly changed course after the deal closed in August, arguing that alleged mismanagement by Trump's staff and the deterioration of the Trump brand rendered keeping the property in Trump hands impossible. In late December, Trump's management team ran off a team of Marriott hotel executives visiting the property at Fintiklis' invitation.
"Our investment has no future so long as the hotel is managed by an incompetent operator whose brand has been tarnished beyond repair," Orestes wrote to his fellow hotel owners in a January email obtained by the AP.
The most recent and intense feuding began Feb. 22, when Fintiklis came to the property with termination notices for Trump's management team. Trump hotel officials turned away Fintiklis and his entourage, refusing to let him check into any of his private equity fund's 202 hotel rooms.
Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.