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Fri 8 Aug 2008 04:00 AM

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Trump on Trump

Donald Trump and Nakheel CEO Chris O'Donnell talk up the credentials of the Trump tower on the Palm.

With neither party renowned for skimping on spectacular announcements, last month saw the launch of Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York, with Donald Trump and Nakheel chief executive Chris O'Donnell talking up the project's credentials.

The partnership between the two organisations was formed in November 2005, after Nakheel chairman Sultan Bin Salayam met with Trump to discuss the possibility of working together.

"Now we're witnessing the launch of the Trump Tower in Dubai, which is a stunning building that will offer top-of-the-line services to both residents and hotel guests," O'Donnell told Hotelier Middle East at the launch.

"Basically, you buy your apartment and you'll have concierge-type services that will be provided, but your apartment will be your apartment. For residents, it offers a freehold volumetric title.

"It's a stunning building and a stunning location in the centre of Palm Jumeirah. The Palm is cracker-jack full of prestige and fun opportunities for tourists to enjoy."

Although Nakheel has aligned itself with other brand-name entities such as the Cirque du Soleil, O'Donnell says the Trump brand is one that is well recognised in the Middle East.

"We felt it was a good association and that is evidenced by the pre-sales we've achieved," he added.

"The Trump name associated with Nakheel and the Palm Jumeirah is an alliance that is certainly paying dividends."

And while the initial focus is on delivering the Trump Tower to the satisfaction of the owners and consumers alike, O'Donnell said the company was looking at other opportunities to work with Trump in the region.

"Right now, we're really trying to focus on the success of the first Trump Tower," he explained.

"Another thing to remember, is just how exclusive you are if you build other towers in and around the same location. There is room for other Trump products but it's a matter of picking and choosing and not cannibalising the market position you've established.

Those are the things we'll be looking at with the Trump organisation over the next 12-18 months. But the key for us is to get the first one up and running and successfully sold, and then go from there."When pressed to compare the Trump project with other developments slated for the UAE, O'Donnell said that he believed different brands would appeal to different market segments.

"You have to choose the right partner who has a proven track record and who will give you the opportunity to be unique in the marketplace," he said.

"What I like about Trump International Hotel Tower is that it's in the centre of Palm Jumeirah, which is an icon by itself, and it's surrounded by all these other great names, which will make it hard for other branded products to replicate what we've achieved.

"When it comes to real estate, location is key. I think it will be hard for Palm Jumeirah Trump to be trumped."

But when asked about potential loyalty conflicts for the different projects on the Palm - Nakheel is also involved in developing Atlantis, for example - O'Donnell is quick to point out the synergies of the whole project.

"I don't feel different loyalties to different products," he said.

"I feel incredibly privileged to be involved in all of these wonderful projects. Where else in the world can you spend the morning working on the Trump project, tour the Atlantis in the afternoon and then later, work with Cirque du Soleil to design the new bespoke Middle East show?"

And the long-term vision is to ensure that Dubai is able to consolidate its tourist-drawing power into a sustainable destination, with many tourists later becoming residents of projects such as Nakheel's, O'Donnell continued.

"Interestingly, the people who get their first flavour of Dubai are usually very sad to leave," he said.

"There is an energy in Dubai that makes it unlike many cities around the world. Therefore people who come to Dubai and experience that energy vote with their feet and are happy to invest here.

"As a foreigner in Dubai you can buy real estate and get a freehold title and, in what is really a master stroke, you get residency as well. We're finding that people come to Dubai as tourists and a lot of them look to live and work in Dubai. With the population expected to grow to four million by 2020, I think a lot of people will be back and will stay."

The opening date for Trump International Hotel Tower has been scheduled for 2011. Until that date, expect to see more from the joint efforts of Trump and Nakheel.

What is it about Nakheel that attracted you?

Trump:Nakheel is a great company, spectacular people, and Chris has become a real friend of mine and Sultan Bin Salayam. They're great people to work with. That was very important because we have many opportunities in the Middle East and elsewhere. Second of all when I saw the Palm and I saw the site they were talking about it was instantaneous. It was really a very easy decision.

What was it about the Palm that attracted you?Trump:Well it's unique. There's nothing like it in the world. In New York, as an example, I'm building a world class catering facility at Jones Beach which is right on the ocean, and everything is very difficult in New York. It's hard to get approval.If you drop a pebble into the ocean you suffer serious consequences and here [in Dubai] they're building an island in the ocean the likes of which nobody has ever seen. It's really spectacular. It's a great engineering feat-I'm all about engineering. I love building and I love engineering. It's just something that's really spectacular.

Do you have plans for further expansion in the Middle East?Trump:Yes we do. And maybe with Nakheel - we're looking at certain things. We really want to make this the tremendous success that we know it's going to be. I love doing one [project], making it really great and then we do the next one. We are going to be looking at other things and ideally with Nakheel.

Are there going to be any two- or three-star hotels on the Palm to make it more accessible to the less wealthy?

O'donnell:All the hotels on the crescent will be five-star hotels. But you know I just saw the opening package for Atlantis: AED 2200 (US $598) for a night including two tickets to the water park.

Two tickets to the water park cost AED 200 ($54) each so that's AED 1800 ($490) for a night, which is pretty good buying for a hotel of that nature, so I think you're going to find that we've lots of good packages that will be offered; so the majority of people are going to be able to come and stay on the Palm for sure.

Are you considering any golf developments in Dubai?Trump:I told Chris that we'd love to build a course. I have the number one rated course in California and Florida, and we've got two amazing courses in Westchester County [New York] and New Jersey. I like golf - I've done well with the courses. I've got $450,000 per membership in Florida and it's totally sold out.

I'm trying to get Chris to let me do a big golf development there, but so far I haven't been successful. If Chris comes up with the right opportunity I'd love to do something out there. If we had a Trump International Golf Club it would blow out everything.

Does the Trump Organisation have an equity stake in this project?

Trump:We have a private partnership so we cannot really comment on that. But, we have a very big stake in this development. The success of the development is important from that standpoint. We don't talk about our deals because they're private.

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