Why Trump Has No Investments in Russia

This Fortune article echoes what I have thought ever since the story of Trump's connections in Putin's Russia started simmering - that Trump has benefited from the huge exodus of capital from Putin's Russia, but that may be as deep as his Russian connections go.

In fact, selling U.S. properties to Russians looking to move their money to a place where Putin’s tax collectors can’t get at it seems to be the one line of business that Trump has done in Russia.

It's been my experience that Russians with capital to invest may be especially attracted to become partners in a US venture, There is a belief that US business interests might help them obtain US residency should they ever face the need to depart Russia.

As for Trump doing business in Russia, there were two brief windows of opportunity for building a property of Trump's ostentatious style in Russia.  One was right after the collapse of the Soviet Union when all the existing hotel properties were up for grabs.  The other happened a few years later when oil prices were high, the ruble had recovered and Russia appeared to be booming. Today the Russian economy is in decline and the market for such properties has declined with it.

Indeed, had Trump been a player in Russia during the up for grabs period, he well could well be dead today.  As Trump knows quite well, unhappy American investors and creditors file pesky lawsuits.  But unhappy Soviet security goons, turned Russian Mafiosi, turned oligarchs, often seek more direct satisfaction.

The hotel business back in the anarchic years after the collapse of the Soviet Union was -- sometimes quite literally -- murderously competitive. U.S. businessman Paul Tatum was gunned down not far from his Radisson Slavyanskaya hotel in 1996 after a highly public dispute with his local partner. In 2002, Konstantin Georgiev, who ran the grand 1950s Peking Hotel, suffered the same fate. Police suspected, but never proved, a falling out with organized criminals.

In 1997, Trump had talked to the Moscow City Government, about leasing and redeveloping the vast, monstrous Rossiya hotel (the world’s biggest) right next to the Kremlin; the deal was estimated to be worth about $800 million. But the project died a quiet death in 1998 after the Rossiya’s general director Yevgeny Tsimbalistov died a considerably noisier one in a hail of mafia bullets.

Nor would Trump's in your face style work well at making deals inside Russia.

As Chris Weafer, founder of the consultancy Macro Advisory Services and a long-time Russia veteran, says: “It’s impossible to do business in Russia without a reliable local partnership. You have to be low-key and easy to get on with, and Trump’s personality would generally seem to work against that."

 

This Fortune article echoes what I have thought ever since the story of Trump's connections in Putin's Russia started simmering - that Trump has benefited from the huge exodus of capital from Putin's Russia, but that may be as deep as his Russian connections go.

In fact, selling U.S. properties to Russians looking to move their money to a place where Putin’s tax collectors can’t get at it seems to be the one line of business that Trump has done in Russia.

It's been my experience that Russians with capital to invest may be especially attracted to become partners in a US venture, There is a belief that US business interests might help them obtain US residency should they ever face the need to depart Russia.

As for Trump doing business in Russia, there were two brief windows of opportunity for building a property of Trump's ostentatious style in Russia.  One was right after the collapse of the Soviet Union when all the existing hotel properties were up for grabs.  The other happened a few years later when oil prices were high, the ruble had recovered and Russia appeared to be booming. Today the Russian economy is in decline and the market for such properties has declined with it.

Indeed, had Trump been a player in Russia during the up for grabs period, he well could well be dead today.  As Trump knows quite well, unhappy American investors and creditors file pesky lawsuits.  But unhappy Soviet security goons, turned Russian Mafiosi, turned oligarchs, often seek more direct satisfaction.

The hotel business back in the anarchic years after the collapse of the Soviet Union was -- sometimes quite literally -- murderously competitive. U.S. businessman Paul Tatum was gunned down not far from his Radisson Slavyanskaya hotel in 1996 after a highly public dispute with his local partner. In 2002, Konstantin Georgiev, who ran the grand 1950s Peking Hotel, suffered the same fate. Police suspected, but never proved, a falling out with organized criminals.

In 1997, Trump had talked to the Moscow City Government, about leasing and redeveloping the vast, monstrous Rossiya hotel (the world’s biggest) right next to the Kremlin; the deal was estimated to be worth about $800 million. But the project died a quiet death in 1998 after the Rossiya’s general director Yevgeny Tsimbalistov died a considerably noisier one in a hail of mafia bullets.

Nor would Trump's in your face style work well at making deals inside Russia.

As Chris Weafer, founder of the consultancy Macro Advisory Services and a long-time Russia veteran, says: “It’s impossible to do business in Russia without a reliable local partnership. You have to be low-key and easy to get on with, and Trump’s personality would generally seem to work against that."