Among the many things that David Cay Johnston ties together from former President Donald Trump's finances, is the strange profit he was able to obtain for his Beverly Hills mansion where he had the affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels.
In his new book The Big Cheat, Johnston explains that Trump bought the 5,400-square-foot property in 2007 for $7 million. In 2016 he hired a property lawyer to argue for a $6 million evaluation. Suddenly, however, in 2019, Trump sold the home for $13.5 million, nearly twice what he was hoping to get for it.
The real estate website Property Shark also noticed the odd price tag, noting that the property values in the area didn't quite match up with Trump's profits.
“There was only a 20 percent median increase from 2008 to 2017, which indicates that prices didn’t increase as drastically as you would expect in this lavish city. The median sale price for these Beverly Hills homes was $2.2 million in 2008 and $2.5 million in 2017," Johnston cited the website. Interestingly, Trump also owned the home next door, but sold it in 2009, saying he lost $850,000.
So, Johnston asked, who would pay more than twice the amount for a Beverly Hills home just because it belonged to the president of the United States. The investigative reporter discovered it was a firm called Hillcrest Asia Limited, which is a "front for Hary Tanoesoedibjo, an Indonesian media and real estate baron. A foreigner was paying the American president what at the very least was a very good price for American property."
He had no intention of moving to Beverly Hills, his wealth centered around the hope that he would build a kind of Asian version of Hollywood. It turns out Trump was going to build a set of luxury villas, a resort and golf course to go with Tanoesoedibjo's project. The Trump Organization's website still is promoting the Lido City development.
"We look forward to creating a new 'point of departure’ in the most populated archipelago in the world with this iconic resort development," the site says. "As the foremost golf course developer in the world, Trump delivers the finest portfolio of award-winning courses, set against the most spectacular landscapes, presenting new levels of challenge."
But in March, it was revealed that the project was moving forward with or without Trump.
"The Trump Organization, which had been linked with the development since 2015, had been scrubbed from the presentation and promotional materials," said Forbes citing a report by Nikkei Asia.
The story quoted "self-made billionaire" Tanoesoedibjo, who considers himself the “Donald Trump of Indonesia." He confessed that the Trump Org. "won't likely pick up yet for the time being."
They were supposed to do that project along with a “six-star” Trump tower and golf course in Bali. Tanoesoedibjo was welcomed to the Trump inauguration in 2017 and met with Don Jr. and Eric Trump.
Two months before Tanoesoedibjo bought the Beverly Hills home, the Bali project stalled. By Aug. 2019, however, Don Jr. was saying it was back on.
“Property is about location, location, location,” said Don Jr., calling the Indonesian resorts they would build “dream projects.” Tanoesoedibjo told Reuters that it would be developed by his company over three years for $1.7 billion.
Forbes noted that as late as Aug. 2020 Tanoesoedibjo's company was still promising Trump was involved.
“Inspired by the grace and charm of the area, Trump Residences Bali is tucked away in the 102-hectare grounds of Trump International Resort, Golf Club & Residences at MNC Bali Resort,” a tweet said.
“With breathtaking mountain views, Trump International Golf Club Lido - an 18 holes PGA standard golf course designed by Ernie Els, offers a fascinating experience for all members to enjoy,” said another tweet.
It's been over a year and #TrumpLido and #TrumpBali haven't been mentioned since, except on the Trump Org. website, of course.
David Cay Johnston's book The Big Cheat is on sale now.
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