Trump didn't bankrupt a golf course in Puerto Rico, but he didn't save it either.

Photo via Michael Vadon/Flickr (CC-BY)

Did Trump really bankrupt a Puerto Rico golf course?

There's a lot to unpack here.


Andrew Wyrich


Posted on Sep 30, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 3:46 pm CDT

On Friday several tweets alleging that President Donald Trump left Puerto Ricans with massive debt went viral following the president’s remarks about the island territory and the recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The tweets were sent by Lainie Green, a PR executive, and quickly amassed thousands of likes and retweets. While much of the substance of Green’s tweets are correct, there are a few pieces of context that were left out.

Early Friday, Trump tweeted that Puerto Rico was suffering from “broken infrastructure” and “massive debt” in wake of the storms.

Green responded in a tweet thread.

“Massive debt you and your sons helped when you bankrupted your golf course & never paid back the $33 mil bond you left Puerto Ricans with,” she wrote in a series of tweets. “You remember because you filed for the bankruptcy a month after you started running for president in 2015. And you claimed because you didn’t own it wasn’t your fault that you were just managing for 5 years leading up to the bankruptcy. So how much are you going to give back of that $600,000 paycheck you got for sticking Puerto Rico with a $33 million debt?”

As points out, Trump International entered into an agreement with Coco Beach Golf & Country Club in 2008 to allow the club to use the Trump brand.

BuzzFeed investigated the deal last year. After the agreement, the Puerto Rican government issued bonds to help finance the project, and shortly after selling them, the club defaulted—leaving Puerto Rico taxpayers, as Green suggests, on the hook for more than $30 million.

However, before that the Coco Beach resort had already gotten support from the Puerto Rican government, agreeing to cover $18 million in bonds sold in 2000 and $7.5 million in 2004. In 2008, amid a weak economy, the Coco Beach owners turned to Trump, according to BuzzFeed. Essentially, the resort was in bad financial shape.  

Trump signed a deal to rename the club Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico and to take control of operations at the club in exchange for money, BuzzFeed reported. Trump promised to increase the number of members at the resort and help it turn a profit. As part of the deal, Trump claimed more than $600,000 from the agreements—as Green points out.

In 2015 the resort filed for bankruptcy, and Puerto Rico made a claim of $32,606,821, leaving the territory responsible to pay it back.

Trump was operating and managing the resort as it filed for bankruptcy, but it was in financial trouble before he signed the agreements. Saying Trump “bankrupted” the resort is a bit of a stretch, however he did not save it after agreeing to use his brand and operations following the 2008 deal.

Green is also correct that Trump’s brand tried to distance itself from the project.

“This has absolutely nothing to do with Trump,” Eric Trump, the president’s son told Bloomberg News. “This is a separate owner. We purely manage the golf course.”

You can read all of BuzzFeed’s investigation here and Snopes’ analysis of Green’s tweet here.

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*First Published: Sep 30, 2017, 5:00 am CDT