Trump Tower might not really be a Trump


POSTED: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Call a spade a spade, but a lawsuit brought by several buyers alleges that the Trump International Hotel & Tower at Waikiki Beach Walk is not really a Trump.

Honolulu attorney Warren Price III filed suit in state Circuit Court yesterday on behalf of the buyers of 11 units, alleging that Los Angeles developer Irongate did not disclose that Trump was merely licensing its name to the project and could terminate that deal at any time.

“;Our clients intended to invest in an exclusive, one-of-a-kind Trump project in Waikiki,”; said Price. “;They were making an investment in a Rolls-Royce. They weren't told there's a license and it can be terminated, at which time the Rolls-Royce turns into a Ford.”;

Price says Irongate concealed the terms and conditions of the Trump license agreement, including whether it could be assigned to the buyers. These material facts should have been provided before buyers signed their sales contracts.

Without the Trump name, said Price, the plaintiffs would be buying just another off-beach 'Brand X' condo/hotel in Waikiki—not the investment they intended to make.

The suit seeks the cancellation of the 11 sales contracts, with a full return of the plaintiffs' deposits, plus interest.

The buyers were required to pay the remainder in full by cash or committed loan tomorrow to meet a target September closing deadline.

Trump Tower Waikiki is still on track for completion by fall, and set to open by the end of this year.

Irongate principal Jason Grosfeld declined to comment on the suit personally.

But Irongate issued a statement yesterday saying, “;A small group of individuals filed suit today. We believe that all of the claims are without merit and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves. Furthermore, we intend to pursue all of our own claims against these individuals. The vast majority of buyers are moving towards closing and are looking forward to their first visit to Trump Tower Waikiki Beach Walk later this year.”;

Price says he plans to add more plaintiffs to the suit in the next 10 days. He will also file a federal suit on behalf of Japanese buyers who bought units through Seven Signatures Corp., which handled sales in Tokyo.

In November 2006 all 464 units in the 38-story tower were sold for more than $700 million, according to a media release sent out by Irongate touting it as “;the biggest one-day sale in real estate history in the world.”;

But Irongate called real estate mogul Donald Trump a “;co-developer”; in the same release, when he is not, alleges the suit.

Only recently did a brochure go out to buyers, with micro-script at the bottom of a page disclosing that the tower is not owned, operated, developed or sold by Donald Trump, the Trump Organization or any of its affiliates.

Hawaii real estate analyst Ricky Cassiday said the Trump Waikiki units—although marketed as ultraluxury—have shifted to a lower value compared with three years ago. A beachfront project would have retained more value, he said.

“;If I was a betting man, I'd say there's trading going on, and futures of a Trump unit are much lower than 12 to 18 months ago,”; said Cassiday.

The current plaintiffs include a mix of Hawaii and California residents; Morris Peterson, a guard with the NBA's New Orleans Hornets; and a business by the name of Trump Four LLC.

Buyers were required to put a 20 percent deposit down for the units, which had an average price of $1.5 million but also ranged up to $9 million for a penthouse.

Price says buyers have good reason to be wary of the license terms, particularly when there is ongoing litigation between Irongate and Trump for another project in Baja.

“;The law is you need to tell the buyer all the facts so the buyer can make an informed decision,”; said Price. “;All we're asking for is our money back.”;