Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club on Palm Beach is poised to earn a record $9 million this fiscal year, despite a lawsuit filed by the GOP presidential candidate claiming air traffic from Palm Beach International Airport is damaging the club’s 90-year-old buildings resulting in increased repairs and a loss of business income.
The financial results were buried in a treasure trove of documents Trump had to disclose this month as part of his legal battle with Palm Beach County. They offer a glimpse into one corner of the GOP presidential nominee’s business empire just as Trump faced renewed pressure to release his federal income tax returns in the wake of this week’s presidential debate.
The documents Trump turned over to county officials appear to show, however, that profits at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, arguably one of the gems in his global real estate portfolio, have increased despite his assertions that PBIA traffic undermines the property’s success.
Neither do the documents provide a hard, quantifiable extrapolation bearing out Trump’s charge that PBIA traffic over Mar-a-Lago has caused the club nine-figures in damages.
Profits at Trump’s exclusive club stood at $2.5 million in 2007-08, climbed to $4.7 million in 2014-15, and were at $8.6 million as of July 2016 — two months before the end of the club’s fiscal year, according to income statements turned over this month to Palm Beach County by Mar-a-Lago as part of the nearly two-year-old lawsuit.
Trump is seeking $100 million in damages from the county, alleging County Airport Director Bruce Pelly is intentionally sending jets over Mar-a-Lago as part of a personal vendetta against the Republican candidate.
The club, which is 2.5 miles east of PBIA’s main runway, was built as a home for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and is a national historic landmark.
In the suit, Trump alleges that emissions from the jets flying overhead are “causing substantial destruction of the materials” used to build the club, which include unique and historical items like “porous Dorian stone, antique Spanish tiles and antique Cuban roof tiles.”
Meanwhile, noise and fumes from the air traffic have “substantially deprived” Trump and the club’s more than 450 members the ability to use the property’s outdoor areas and amenities, the suit alleges.
Despite the suit, Mar-a-Lago’s financial records suggest the club has not suffered. Income statements show Mar-a-Lago is on track to have its most lucrative year in nearly decade.
Aside from a two-year period during the worst of the recession, profits steadily have climbed at the club. Financial gains have come largely from membership dues and initiation fees.
Revenue from membership initiation fees jumped from $4,500 in 2007-08 to $3.4 million this year. Membership dues have also grown, rising from $4.4 million in 2007-08 to $5.8 million this year.
At the same time, maintenance expenses related to the clubs buildings and grounds have maintained steady at about $1 million to $1.3 million since 2007. Overall, expenses at the club, including payroll and other operating costs, have ranged from $10 million to $14 million since 2007.
The club’s income statements were part of a series of documents Trump’s legal team turned over to the county this past month after a year-long battle over records in the case. In June, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Richard Oftedal was forced to decide exactly what information each side would have to share with each other as part of the suit.
Although Oftedal ordered Trump’s team to produce documents showing business damages incurred as a result of PBIA traffic, Trump’s lawyers said in a Sept. 14 court filing that the team had “not yet discovered documentation supporting these losses.”
The lawsuit is one of several Trump has filed against the county through the years to in an attempt to stop traffic from PBIA from flying over the club. The most recent case was filed while Trump was still flirting with a presidential bid.
County attorneys have taken aim at Trump, saying the case has more to do with his political career and social standing than it does with damage to Mar-a-Lago.
“This suit, like the prior suits, does not serve any legitimate purpose, and appears designed to create press buzz for Trump’s announced presidential campaign, cocktail party braggadocio and negotiating leverage while imposing unnecessary expense on the county,” the county attorney’s office wrote in July 2015 court filing. “Enough is enough.”
Trump has said he simply wants to protect the club’s historical integrity.
“I’ve done a great job with Mar-a-Lago,” Trump told The Palm Beach Post in Jan. 2015 after filing the suit. “I want to make sure it’s protected and not destroyed by the noise, the pollution and the soot.”
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