Donald Trump owns or operates 17 golf courses around the world, and, before becoming President, he went on a substantial spending spree in the past decade to pick up distressed golf properties to add to his Trump Organization.
However, amid Trump's rapid pick-up of courses, major U.S. banks were not only reluctant to finance deals for golf properties, they were almost universally against working with Trump himself. Trump had racked up a quartet of bankruptcies from other business ventures, and that made financial institutions reluctant at best to work with him.
So, without being completely liquid to spend his billions in personal wealth, Trump needed financial backers to expand his portfolio. Where did Trump turn?
According to author James Dodson, who has written several heralded golf books, Trump's son Eric said the money came from the Russians.
In an interview with WBUR-FM, Dodson recalled a round he played with Trump three years ago after repeated overtures from Trump's PR team to play with his son Eric as part of the unveiling of renovations at Trump's newly purchased Trump National Golf Club in Charlotte. Dodson rejiggered his planned schedule, which included a stop in Arnold Palmer's hometown of Latrobe, Pa., (Dodson co-wrote Palmer's memoir), to go to the event.
In playing with Eric, Dodson asked how his father had access to what Donald described as $100 million to spend on golf properties. Eric, Dodson recalls, answered with the source of the money.
Dodson said: "So when I got in the cart with Eric, as we were setting off, I said, 'Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks — because of the recession, the Great Recession — have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.' And this is what he said. He said, 'Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.' I said, 'Really?' And he said, 'Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.' Now that was three years ago, so it was pretty interesting."
For his part, Eric Trump denies the conversation.
"This story is ridiculous," he said. "We own all of assets free and clear, buy the properties in cash, etc. This really is the worst of the media."
Russians have invested in Trump's properties, including purchasing condos at a number of his buildings, and they typically look to America for investments as places to hide and grow their money. So, that's not terribly surprising. However, given the investigations into connections between Trump, his campaign and Russian agents, it's an interesting revelation.