Only days after Donald Trump took the oath of office, the head of his hotel-management company outlined hopes for an ambitious expansion across the U.S., including in Dallas, raising new questions about potential conflicts between his business and the presidency.
Trump Hotels Chief Executive Officer Eric Danziger suggested the company’s broad U.S. ambitions while saying it shelved plans for expansion in China, where the president’s comments have already led to rocky diplomatic relations.
“There are 26 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., and we’re in five,” Danziger said after a panel discussion Tuesday at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles. “I don’t see any reason that we couldn’t be in all of them eventually.”
Danziger, who joined Trump Hotels in August 2015, said the company is considering opening luxury properties in Dallas, Seattle, Denver and San Francisco. Trump’s company manages eight namesake hotels in the U.S., some of which the Trump family owns.
Most ethics experts, including the agency that monitors such matters in the federal government, have said Trump should divest his holdings entirely. The expansion — which has the potential to benefit from Trump’s actions and profile as president — could spark further controversy.
Even if his business activities are considered legal, they certainly heighten the perceived conflict, according to Wendy Patrick, who teaches business ethics at San Diego State University.
“Although he is now officially the leader of the Free World, Donald Trump remains both a businessman and a brand,” Patrick said in an e-mail. “The fact that the hotel chain that bears his name is seeking to expand within the United States raises questions of both law and ethics.”
Instead of divesting, Trump has turned over management of his company, the Trump Organization, to his two elder sons and pledged no new foreign deals during his term. He has financial ties to $3.6 billion of assets in about 20 countries and more than $600 million of debt. Jennifer Rodstrom, a spokeswoman for Trump Hotels, didn’t immediately respond to a call and e-mail seeking comment.