Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resort Membership Fee Increased to $200,000

The Mar-a-Lago resort, owned by the Trump Organization, has doubled its membership fee to $200,000 after Donald Trump assumed office as the President.

The Florida-based palm resort has witnessed a growing interest since the election. The increase in initiation fee could boost its revenues after President Trump called the resort the “Winter White House”. The hike could also directly benefit his private fortune after he refused to divest his business holdings while holding office. However, his son Donald Jr. has been appointed as the club’s official director as a part of Trump’s pledge to separate his business from his presidency.

It is noteworthy that the membership fee was slashed by half from $200,000 to $100,000 back in 2012 in the wake of a reported decline in memberships following the Bernie Madoff scandal.
A daily was reported to have quoted sources close to the resort as saying that the increase had come into effect on January 1 and had been considered for some time.

The members-only resort, which requires its members to pay $14,000 a year as annual fees over and above the membership fees, plus tax, is located across 20 acres and has more than 100 rooms, along with private quarters for Trump and his family. The sumptuous resort also has a ballroom encompassing a whopping 20,000 square feet, a beach club, pools, restaurants and tennis courts. The resort earns its revenue through two means: as a private club exclusively meant for members, and as a venue that can be rented for weddings and events. Hosting an event at the club can cost anything between $100,000 and $300,000.

The club, which has come to offer its deep-pocketed members the unique opportunity to rub shoulders with the President, has also given a chance to Trump’s critics and ethics watchdogs to lay into him. Norm Eisen, a former chief White House ethics adviser, termed the Mar-a-Lago price-hike as a “naked profiteering that is more like something out of the era of Louis XVI.” Eisen is part of a lawsuit accusing Trump of acting in violation of a constitutional provision barring presidents from taking payments from foreign governments.

While the Trump Organization has assured that it will not engage in any new overseas deals, it also intends to keep expanding its operations and outreach in the U.S., and the Mar-a-Lago move is an indicator that price hike can be instrumental to its growth.

According to Bloomberg, the chief executive officer of Trump Hotels, Eric Danziger, hinted at a threefold expansion in the States. “There are 26 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., and we’re in five,” CEO Eric Danziger said after a panel discussion at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday. “I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t be in all of them eventually.”

Although the executives at the Trump Organization have chosen not to respond to the criticism, the timing is likely to be used by Trump’s critics to drive home their argument that the new president elect is trying to profit from a government office.

Ford Crushes Hopes And Exits Mexico Under Trump’s Pressure

The Mexican automobile industry is one of the important sectors contributing to the economic growth of the country. The industrial boom in Mexico started in 1994 after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, USA, and Canada. During the presidential election, Trump criticized the NAFTA agreement, threatening to cancel it when he assumes office. Even before Trump started his official administration, he has successfully forced Ford to scrap its plan to build a $1.6 billion car plant in San Luis Potosi, Central Mexico.

In the San Luis Potosi, at least 70% of the industry is dependent on the auto sector. The decision by Ford will have a huge impact on the entire community. It could result in loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy. The city anticipated an increase in manufacturing and contracting jobs. Many economic experts are still unsure about the negative impact of the decision by Ford.

Ford initially planned to start its car manufacturing plant in Mexico to build small cars with reduced labor costs while manufacturing expensive vehicles in the USA. Even before the election, Trump had been bashing Ford for its decision to take away jobs from the USA. He said that he will be imposing border tax on cars manufactured in Mexico and sold in the USA. Ford in its statement on exiting Mexico mentioned that the plan is canceled due to a decline in the demand for small cars in North America.

The Ford factory site at San Luis Potosi looks like a graveyard with white skeletal buildings left uncared. Numerous suppliers who were part of the supply chain had also invested heavily in the city to participate in the auto sector boom. A few other major automobile players are also in the middle of billion dollar investments. General Motors is now targeted by Trump for taking the investment to Mexico. BMW is working on building a $1 billion plant and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co is already erecting a tire facility worth $550 million. The exit decision by Ford raises questions about the future plans of other automakers. In reality, if they wish to cancel their plans, they can do it without any problem and this can put a tremendous pressure on the Mexican economy. Mexico’s auto sector has made 3.22 million autos last year until November and 77% of it was exported to the USA.

Following the news of Ford’s cancellation, Kansas City Southern shares fell by 3.3%. About 40-5 foreign-owned suppliers were ready to provide supplies to the San Luis Potosi plant. Many government and private projects have commenced to improve airport and bus line, anticipating the growth. San Luis Potosi was expected to create 15,000 to 17,000 direct jobs in 2017, excluding the additional jobs that were supposed to be created by Ford factory. As a part of the contract with the Ford, the government had already paid Ford a part of 1 billion pesos. Ford has agreed to reimburse the amount.

Will President Trump Impact the CFPB, Bad Credit Loans?

Near the beginning of his administration, United States President Barack Obama launched the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It is a federal consumer watchdog agency aimed at shielding consumers from unscrupulous players in the marketplace.

One of the initiatives that the CFPB has honed in on is reining in the payday loans industry. President Obama has repeatedly argued for heightened rules and regulations for the short-term, high-interest niche. And, as his days in the White House begin to wane, the president is trying to get the CFPB’s proposed 1,300-page rules on the payday loan industry signed before he leaves Washington.

Many thought that the CFPB wouldn’t be impacted and that the new rules for the payday loan industry would go into effect if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was victorious on Election Day.

Well, Donald Trump happened and his historic and upset victory threw a wrench into those plans.

The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that president-elect Trump could very well reverse the measures put into place by the CFPB, and could perhaps refuse to federally regulate payday loans online. And this isn’t a conspiracy against Trump, but rather a conclusion made from the recent signals.

Since his Election Day win, stocks for payday loan companies and other businesses that offer high-cost loans have been surging in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world.

Moreover, CFPB director Richard Cordray’s term expires in July 2018. It is believed that Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress would attempt to replace him with a a bipartisan commission made up of five members and subject to the congressional appropriations process. Whether or not this happens remains to be seen, especially considering that the GOP doesn’t have a 60-vote filibuster proof mandate.

“Changing the CFPB’s policy-based statute, unlike Obamacare … is subject to a 60-vote filibuster in the Senate. That’s the main hurdle,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director of advocacy organization PIRG, in a statement.

“We expect [Republicans] to try and bypass that rule by attaching riders to either full appropriations bills next year or continuing resolutions. In fact, riders to eliminate independent funding, convert it to a commission, delay the poor credit loan and arbitration rules, and more, have been attached to the House and Senate appropriations bills for years, but stripped in negotiations with the White House.”

Another thing that should be noted is that Trump’s base in Middle America may not approve of dismantling the CFPB and refusing to adopt measures that would limit payday loan products.

For instance, in South Dakota, citizens voted overwhelmingly to cap interest rates on payday loans at 36 percent. It was reported that three-quarters of South Dakotans voted in favor of the measure. This has become a bipartisan issue as well as The Mount Rushmore State has become the fourth state since 2008 to cap rates on payday loans.

In any event, political pundits and analysts believe the Trump administration will refrain from abolishing the CFPB but rather curtail the CFPB’s supervision, enforcement and rulemaking capabilities. Either way, this would be seen as a positive for both financial institutions and alternative financial companies that are under the watchdog agency’s purview.

Starbucks Profit Beats Expectations on Rise in U.S. Sales

Starbucks has reported a jump in profit during its fiscal fourth quarter, helped by improvement in sales in its largest market.

The world No. 1 coffee-shop operator reported on Thursday that its profit surged 23 percent in the quarter, slightly beating Wall Street expectations. This made it raise dividends to be paid to its shareholders.

The company posted $801 million, or 54 cents a share, in net income for the quarter. Adjusted profit was 56 cents a share, compared to 55 cents per share that had been predicted by analysts.

Starbucks said sales at established stores in the Americas region, which includes its largest market, the U.S., gained 5 percent in the fourth quarter. Analysts had expected a rise of 4.9 percent in the region.

Global sales at established stores rose 4 percent, coming in below the 4.9 percent gain forecast by analysts. Sales were up 1 percent in China and the Asia Pacific area, while they slipped 1 percent at stores in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Revenue jumped 16 percent to $5.71 billion, beating the $5.69 billion predicted by analysts.

“There was some thought that they might not be able to perform as well as they did in the quarter,” Jack Russo, an Edward Jones analyst, said. “Some other really high-profile consumer companies have been reporting some slowing down.”

The expectations-beating results were driven by proactive measures taken by Starbucks to boost sales. It has introduced new food items and stepped up mobile ordering, which speeds up the pace of service at the coffee-shop operator’s cafes. These especially proved helpful to sales in its largest market, where the restaurant industry is experiencing a slowdown.

Starbucks has added new drinks such as cold-brew beverages and coconut-milk mocha macchiatos, while also working to expand its food selections. It plans to add ready-to-drink Teavana beverages in the U.S. market next year.

Chief Operating Officer Kevin Johnson said mobile payments were used for around 25 percent of transactions in the U.S., where the latte seller has almost 13,000 stores. They had accounted for 20 percent of domestic transactions a year ago.

Chief Executive Officer Howard Schulz gave uncertainty over the coming U.S. presidential election as one of the factors that are working against sales.

“Wherever we have been,” the Starbucks CEO said on a conference call to investors. “I don’t think we’ve ever witnessed such concern about what could happen in the U.S. as a result of the election.”

Schulz said the growing popularity of online shopping has also impacted sales, with more and more people choosing to shop from the comfort of their homes.

Starbucks is giving more to its shareholders as a result of the estimate-beating results. Quarterly dividends to be paid next month have been improved to 25 cents per share, up from 20 cents.

Its shares gained 33 cents to reach $52.10 after the close of market on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. They are down about 14 percent this year.

The coffee-shop operator said it expects earnings for the 2017 fiscal year to fall in the range $2.12 to $2.14 a share, lower than $2.16 a share forecast by analysts.