I doubt whether Donald Trump was thinking about the Trump International Golf Club Dubai when he called for all Muslims to be banned from the US earlier today. It’s more likely he was trying to steal the thunder from the latest opinion polls in Iowa, which indicate that he has been overtaken by counterpart Ted Cruz.
But the impact on his business dealings in the Gulf as a result of his comments could – and some would say should – be severe. Trump’s primary interests in the UAE concern two golf clubs, both being built by Dubai developer Damac. The picture that’s currently doing the rounds on social media is of a smiling Trump standing next to Damac chairman Hussein Sajwani as they launched their first golf course together last year.
Damac is not the only Gulf corporate to have bought into the Trump brand. Earlier this year, Dubai’s Landmark Group signed off a deal to sell Trump Home-branded products across the Gulf in its Lifestyle shops. Another huge Dubai retailer, Al Tayer Group, opened two Trump Home by Dorya galleries in the UAE in June. Arabian Business has approached all three firms for their thoughts on the issue and Trump's latest comments.
Niall McLoughlin, senior vice president at Damac Properties, issued the following statement: "We would like to stress that our agreement is with the Trump Organisation as one of the premium golf course operators in the world and as such we would not comment further on Mr. Trump’s personal or political agenda, nor comment on the internal American political debate scene."
That seems to me to be something of a cop-out. The Trump brand is synonymous with the man himself - without him, it is nothing. And under the terms of the Republican candidate’s most recent announcement, Sajwani wouldn’t even be allowed to travel to the US if Trump were to become president. It hardly makes for a cosy business relationship.
Al Tayer Group declined to comment, while Landmark Group had not provided a response at the time of publication.
Setting up a partnership with any brand takes time, money and effort – and a degree of risk. It’s understandable why no company would want to ditch that partnership unless it was absolutely necessary. But the time is now fast approaching when any local firms associated with the Trump brand must at least consider a serious review of their strategy. Muslim consumers in the Middle East have absolutely no say in next year’s US presidential election – but they can still vote with their wallets.