Donald Trump Jr. to host Trump Tower buyers from India

Visits result of new Trump venture

By RISHI IYENGAR
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Donald Trump Jr. leaves the Senate Intelligence Committee on December 13, 2017 in Washington, DC.

NEW DELHI (CNNMoney) - Buyers who sign up early for new Trump-branded apartments in India are being given the chance to meet with Donald Trump Jr.

The "initial few buyers" of apartments at the new Trump Towers in Gurgaon -- about 19 miles outside New Delhi -- will fly to New York and attend a reception hosted by the U.S. president's eldest son, one of the project's developers said on Friday.

"It's generally a feel-good factor -- you're meeting the promoter, understanding what is the design behind the project, what is their vision for the project," Pankaj Bansal, director of real estate firm M3M India, told CNNMoney.

The agenda is "purely business," he added, declining to reveal further details.

India is the Trump Organization's largest residential real estate market outside North America, and the launch of the new project in Gurgaon comes amid continued criticism that the company is benefiting financially from Trump's presidency.

Trump Jr. and his brother, Eric, took the reins of the Trump Organization after their father took office and stepped away from his business empire.

But ethics experts have questioned President Trump's efforts to separate himself from his businesses, saying a pledge that the Trump Organization will not sign any new deals while he is in office is not enough to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

"The Trump administration and Trump Organization appear to be closer and closer to overlapping," said Jordan Libowitz, communications director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a legal watchdog group. "How do you separate President Trump from a business he refuses to separate from, that makes much of its revenue by licensing out his name?"

CREW warned in a new report Friday that "President Trump not only continues to profit from his businesses while serving as president; in many cases he is profiting as a result of his presidency."

Libowitz cautioned that meetings like the one with Trump Jr. could be used as a conduit to his father.

"We would be surprised if there wasn't anyone doing business with the Trumps attempting to influence the president," he said. "This is the fear with the failure to divest from the business empire."

A spokesperson for the Trump Organization confirmed plans for an event, saying it had hosted apartment buyers in the past.

"The plan is to host a similar event for our potential owners of Trump Towers Delhi ... and Trump Towers Kolkata," the spokesperson said in a statement provided by Tribeca Developers, the Trump Organization's main partner in India. "We are currently in the preliminary stage but happy to share more details once logistics are finalized."

The Trump Towers property near Delhi is being built as a joint venture between M3M and Tribeca.

Construction of the Gurgaon complex, comprising 250 luxury apartments in two towers, will start within weeks and should be completed by 2023. India now has four Trump-branded apartment complexes: Trump Towers in the cities of Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune are at various stages of development.

A fifth project -- a Trump office building in Gurgaon -- is also in the works.

The Trump Organization is not involved in building the properties, but has licensed the brand to local developers.

The Trump brand is proving a massive draw in India. The Trump Tower in Kolkata has already sold 65% of its apartments since a soft launch in October 2017, Tribeca and the Trump Organization said in a statement about the Gurgaon project.

Eager buyers snapped up 20 apartments worth nearly $24 million at the Trump Towers in Gurgaon within a day of them going on sale last week, according to M3M India. Sales have gone up by more than 30% since then and appointments to visit the company's display gallery for the project are booked for weeks, Bansal said.

"The response is phenomenal," he told CNNMoney in an interview earlier this week. Bansal said he expects the apartments to sell out completely within the next six months.

The Trump brand commands much higher prices than similar luxury properties in India. Trump partners in other Indian cities have previously said that the name adds a 30% premium to their usual price.

Bansal says apartments in the Trump Towers in Gurgaon are selling for 40% more than his other projects, including four other complexes on the same 60-acre development, which includes a nine-hole golf course.

"It's all about status symbols," he said. "People want to be able to say: 'Come, let's go have a drink at the Trump Tower.' That's what we're trying to tap into."

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