Donald Trump's Anti-Muslim Comments Are Starting to Hurt His Middle Eastern Interests

After Trump called for a "complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States, drawing international outrage, a Middle Eastern business partner cut ties with the mogul.
December 9, 2015, 4:45pm
Photo via EPA

US presidential candidate Donald Trump has dominated the Republican primary race with his penchant for provocative and often incendiary comments, with seemingly little regard of the ramifications. But his recent call for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," following his openness to the idea of establishing a database to track those that are already within the country, is beginning to cost him business opportunities in the Middle East.

Landmark Group, a Dubai-based holding company that operates the regional home retail chain Lifestyle, announced on Wednesday that its stores would no longer carry "Trump Home" — a line of luxury furnishings inspired by the real estate mogul's properties — in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. If other retailers follow suit, the trend could deal a serious blow to Trump's bottom line, since businessman-turned-reality TV star now makes most of his money from selling his name to golf courses, luxury developments, and retail goods.

After Trump's "complete shutdown" proposal, Landmark CEO Sachin Mundhwa said that his stores would no longer be in business with the presidential candidate.

"In light of the recent statements made by the presidential candidate in the US media, we have suspended sale of all products from the Trump Home décor range," he said. Mundhwa declined to estimate the value of the Trump contract.

A screengrab of the landing page for Trump Home products on the Lifestyle website.

The move echoed a similar disavowal last July, when Macy's discontinued selling Trump merchandise after his controversial statement referring to Mexican immigrants as drug traffickers and rapists.

"In light of statements made by Donald Trump, which are inconsistent with Macy's values, we have decided to discontinue our business relationship with Mr. Trump and will phase-out the Trump menswear collection, which has been sold at Macy's since 2004," the company said. Around the same time, NBC canceled its broadcast of the Miss USA pageant, which was then owned by Trump. He sold it in September.

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Trump has expanded his brand in the Middle East in recent years, and many of his new business partners do not seem thrilled with his recent spate of anti-Muslim statements. Last June, Dubai's Al Tayer Group, the largest luxury retailer in the Middle East, opened two showrooms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi hawking "Trump Home by Dorya," a furniture set branded with Trump's name. After Trump called for the Muslim ban, Al Tayer issued a statement that called the proposal "unfortunate." It is unclear if the retailer will continue to sell his products.

Trump's largest business interest in the region is a deal with the Dubai-based DAMAC Properties to construct two golf courses. One deal for a 42-million-square-foot development will contain the Trump International Golf Club Dubai, Trump PRVT mansions and villas, and a Trump Spa and Wellness Centre. It is valued at some $6 billion.

When asked to comment on Trump's recent remarks, DAMAC drew a distinction between its partner's business and political interests, but declined to say explicitly whether it was reconsidering the partnership.

"We would like to stress that our agreement is with the Trump Organization as one of the premium golf course operators in the world," Niall McLoughlin, DAMAC's senior vice president for communications, said in a statement. "As such we would not comment further on Mr. Trump's personal or political agenda, nor comment on the internal American political debate scene."

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In the Muslim world, Trump has also leant his name to an office and retail complex in Istanbul and a luxury development in Baku, capital of the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan. Representatives of those developments could not be immediately reached, but BuzzFeed News spoke to a number of residents at Trump Towers in Istanbul who were not pleased by the candidate's comments.

"I was proud to move here then," remarked Kadir Olgac, a Turkish restaurateur. "Now, I am not proud any more. "

One former Trump business partner in Dubai, construction billionaire Khalaf al-Habtoor, told Reuters that Trump had wrecked his prospects for successful future collaborations in the region.

"He is really creating war. He's creating hatred between Muslims and Christians," Habtoor, who at one time held the contract to build a later-cancelled Trump International Hotel and Tower in Dubai, told Reuters. "Muslims have invested hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars [in America], creating jobs for Americans. They can go invest it somewhere else."