Trump says cancelling Palm Jumeirah tower was a “smart” move

US businessman says Dubai developer Nakheel “were very nice people” but his new Damac golf course was “more important”
Trump says cancelling Palm Jumeirah tower was a “smart” move
Donald Trump
By Courtney Trenwith
Tue 20 May 2014 09:24 AM

US businessman Donald Trump says it was a "smart" move to cancel plans to build a 60-storey tower on Palm Jumeirah when the Dubai property market crashed in 2009.

The billionaire conceded he also was "a bit lucky" to escape the project before construction had started, walking away without any financial loss.

"The world collapsed and we were really lucky because we didn't start that project," Trump told Arabian Business in an exclusive interview on Monday while on a visit to Dubai.

"Many of the projects that started, you see some of them sitting around all over the world [uncompleted]. We were smart and we got a little bit lucky that we never started that job."

Trump International Hotel & Tower had been promoted by the Palm master developer Nakheel as “the striking centrepiece of the island”, with the mixed-use luxury hotel and residential building destined to become "a landmark icon in Dubai’s skyline”.

The project was first suspended in 2009 as Dubai property prices began to plummet, eventually tumbling an average 60 percent.

Neither company publicly confirmed the project's cancellation but in November 2012, Nakheel, which subsequently fell into so much debt it is still paying back its bail out, opened Al Ittihad park on what had been the site proposed for the Trump project.

Trump insisted he still had a good relationship with the Dubai government owned developer despite pulling the pin on what was to be their prime building on the man-made island.

"They were very nice people, we had a great relationship; we still do," Trump said.

"It was easy [to cancel the project], we just said 'let's hold off'.

"The world crashed; this was not Dubai's fault, or it was not Nakheel's fault. They were wonderful people, we have a great relationship with them. We made a deal and then the world crashed prior to construction, so obviously if the world crashed they were smart and we were smart in saying let's hold off or let's not build it.

"I didn't lose any [money]. I don't think they lost much either."

It is the first time Trump has spoken publicly about the cancelled project since it was suspended five years ago.

Trump is in Dubai to launch his self-named golf course, which will be the focal point of the Akoya by Damac master development in eastern Dubai.

He said the world-class golf course and 100 luxury villas - which will be Trump's first completed project in the emirate - were "in a way more important" than the planned Trump tower on the Palm.

"We may very well do another project [with Nakheel] but this [the golf course] was just one that I thought was going to be so important for Dubai, so big," he said, adding that he was "talking" to Nakheel but there were no specific projects on the table.

"When you have a top line, important [golf] course like we're building - we're building a world class destination - when you do that, that's, in a way, more important than doing something else."

Trump had always wanted to return to Dubai and was not afraid to invest in the emirate, despite it's magnificent crash in 2009-10.

"I think the real estate in Dubai is only going to go up," he said.

"This is a much different time and I think it's a much smarter time."

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