Donald Trump dissolved four 'Saudi-linked' business ventures post-election

Donald Trump dissolved four 'Saudi-linked' business ventures post-election
Video: business ventures set up in Saudi Arabia by Donald Trump have been shut down since the election, as the President-elect prepares to make changes to avoid conflict of interest.
3 min read
10 December, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump shut down some of his companies in the days after the election, including four that appeared connected to a possible Saudi Arabian business venture, according to corporate registrations in Delaware.

The move to shut down the four companies was described as routine "house-cleaning" by the Trump Organisation's general counsel, Alan Garten, who confirmed there is no existing Trump business venture in Saudi Arabia.

The four Saudi-related companies were among at least nine companies that Trump filed paperwork to dissolve or cancel since the election.

But the recent dissolutions represent a fraction of Trump's global network of companies - the breadth of which has raised conflict-of-interest concerns about whether Trump can balance being an international businessman while conducting the nation's business abroad as president.

Trump's holdings include more than 500 private companies, some of which he creates for prospective deals, and the complex and changing structure makes it difficult for Americans to track his financial interests and partners.

Trump has disclosed the names and some details about companies in public filings. But a complete picture of Trump's finances is unclear, given that he has broken with decades of presidential precedent by not releasing his tax returns.

News of the move comes days before Trump is expected to describe changes he is making to his businesses to avoid potential conflicts of interest as the US president.

The business tycoon turned President-elect operates branded hotels and resorts in a handful of countries around the world and has singled out the Middle East and Saudi Arabia as potential expansion locations.

There is not much distinction between the Saudi royal family and major Saudi businesses.

During the campaign, he created eight companies that included Jeddah, a major Saudi city, in their formal names. Four of those companies were shut down months after they were created. The other four were dissolved about one week after the election.

For years, Trump has routinely named corporate entities after the projects to which they were connected. Companies set up as part of licensing or management deals in Indonesia and India bear the names of the cities where those projects are located. The same is true for some of his companies connected to properties and business ventures in the United States.

Garten said he did not know why the companies were set up last year or whether they involved business ventures in Saudi Arabia that didn't happen.

"I'm not aware of any deal in Saudi Arabia," Garten told The Associated Press. "I'll go further: There is no deal in Saudi Arabia," he said, before declining to comment on how the President-elect will be dealing with business when he takes office in January.

Business deals in a country like Saudi Arabia - a strategic US ally - raise potential conflicts of interest because there is not much distinction between the Saudi royal family and major Saudi businesses.

It's important that the US president have a close relationship with the Saudi king and crown prince, said Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a fellow at the Washington Institute and expert in US-Gulf relations.

"But we also want to have a president who can talk frankly to the Saudis about any complications in the relationship and uphold American interests," she said.

Saudi Arabia has long been a key American ally in the Middle East, prized for its vast oil reserves and depended on by a succession of American presidents for its potential as a Persian Gulf peacemaker.

But President Barack Obama and some US counter-terror officials have grown increasingly frustrated with Saudi Arabia's unofficial role in exporting ultraconservative religious dogma and funding terror groups and the militant Taliban movement.