DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim comments cost him business in the Middle East on Wednesday, with a major chain of department stores halting sales of his glitzy “Trump Home” line of lamps, mirrors and jewellery boxes.
The real estate mogul and reality TV star now makes most of his money from licensing his name on golf courses, luxury developments and retail goods, rather than owning buildings.
On Monday, Trump, who leads opinion polls in the race to be the Republican nominee for president in an election in November next year, called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, in comments widely repudiated by other U.S. politicians.
Trump Home products, like a “table lamp in antique brass with crystal drops” and a decorative box with a “brilliant plume of a peacock... redecorated in gold finish for an exclusive look”, have been on sale at Lifestyle department stores in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
But the chain’s parent firm Landmark, one of the region’s biggest retail groups with 190 stores in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, said it was pulling all Trump merchandise off its shelves.
“In light of the recent statements made by the presidential candidate in the U.S. media, we have suspended sale of all products from the Trump Home décor range,” CEO Sachin Mundhwa said in an emailed statement. The group did not give any details on the value of the contract.
Although there were no other immediate announcements of business partners breaking with Trump so far, others made clear they were uneasy using his brand name in the Middle East, where he has been actively expanding his footprint in recent years, heavily concentrated in the Gulf business hub of Dubai.
In its biggest regional partnership to date, his Trump Organization is working with Dubai-based real estate giant DAMAC Properties to build two golf clubs - including one with a course designed by Tiger Woods - and a gated island community outside the city.
The 42 million sq ft AKOYA by DAMAC development, which will contain the Trump International Golf Club Dubai, Trump PRVT mansions and villas and a Trump Spa & Wellness Centre, is valued at some $6 billion.
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.”
Dubai’s Al Tayer group, which bills itself as the Middle East’s biggest luxury retailer, opened two showrooms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in June to sell “Trump Home by Dorya” furniture made by a firm that licenses Trump’s name.
Al Tayer called Trump’s comments “unfortunate” in a statement to regional news site Arabian Business, but could not be reached for comment on whether it would continue to sell his products.
Trump has long identified the Middle East as a major growth market for his business. His daughter Ivanka, executive vice president of development and acquisitions for his Trump Organization, told Hotelier Middle East in May that the company was looking at “many very compelling deals” in the region.
Dubai was a “top priority” for the company, which was also looking at investments in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, she said.
The Trump campaign has referred requests for comment to the Trump Organization, which has not responded.
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.
At Trump Towers in central Istanbul, shoppers appeared to largely shrug off his comments as all-too-familiar Western prejudice against Muslims, who make up the overwhelming majority of the population of constitutionally secular Turkey.
“In his own way, I think he is right, because he is trying to promote Christianity,” said Arda Ay, a bearded 21-year-old eating a hamburger in the food court with his girlfriend, who was wearing a headscarf. “The media shows Muslims as the devil, so they don’t want us.”
Nur Ozdemir, a 21-year-old nurse, said: “Today nobody wants Muslims.” But Trump’s inflammatory comments would not make her change her shopping habits. “I’ll stop coming here if they change the prayer room to a chapel,” she joked.
One former Trump business partner in Dubai, construction billionaire Khalaf al-Habtoor, told Reuters 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 & 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.”
Additional reporting by Melih Aslan in ISTANBUL and Emily Stephenson in WASHINGTON; editing by Sami Aboudi, Andrew Heavens, Peter Graff and Philippa Fletcher
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