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First Menie, next Scotland – Trump expands

DONALD Trump is poised to expand his global business empire by taking over recession-hit, high-profile developments in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe, The Scotsman can reveal.

The billionaire, who is behind the controversial 1 billion golf and housing development at the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire, is involved in "ongoing discussions" about a buy-out of several major projects in Scotland that have been stalled by the slump.

The Trump Organisation claims the tycoon has already saved $500 million on the cost of the Menie project as a result of the favourable exchange rate and that his empire has escaped virtually unscathed from the global financial crisis.

He is now set to make a series of "cash-and-grab" raids on a number of leisure, hotel and residential developments.

George Sorial, the managing director for international development at the Trump Organisation, declined yesterday to reveal potential targets.

He told The Scotsman: "I can't comment specifically on anything. However, we have been and are looking at a number of distressed properties in Scotland, in the UK, in Europe and globally.

"There are several very attractive projects right now in Scotland where we have ongoing discussions. They are in the areas of our core business – homes, hotels and leisure resorts.

"It can be situation where a developer has got in trouble with the banks, or where a developer simply has run out of money and doesn't have the funding to bring a project forward. We have said over and over again that, although there are some very obvious problems with the global economy, there are plenty of opportunities out there for a developer with a good cash position."

Mr Sorial, who is also in charge of the Menie development, said: "We have just acquired a significant property just outside of Washington DC. Again, I can't disclose specific details because the closing is going on just now.

"But it is a classic situation of having a property that was worth, say, $50 million four or five years ago when the market was hot, and that same property right now may be worth $15 million.

"There aren't that many players out there that have any cash and we have been very lucky in that regard."

He added: "We had several major projects completed and sold out prior to this economic downturn.

"We had a major property across from the United Nations (in New York] which did very well. And we had another development on Park Avenue and a whole series of buildings on the west side of Manhattan. The timing worked out well.

"Mr Trump does have track record of having great judgment, but I think anyone would agree that having a little bit of luck always helps."

BACKGROUND

ALTHOUGH details of projects under review are not being disclosed, the Ury Estate, near Stonehaven – a 40 million luxury housing and leisure development with a Jack Nicklaus golf course as its centrepiece – has already been ruled out as "too small".

Potential projects which have recently been put on hold include plans to turn the 19th-century A-listed Taymouth Castle, below, into Scotland's most luxurious hotel, the massive Caltongate development in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town and the Gregor Shore developments on the coast at Leith.

 
 
 

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