PANAMA CITY, Panama — While real estate tycoon Donald Trump appears to be setting his sights on the White House, his daughter Ivanka, a budding real estate mogul in her own right, is setting her sights on the rest of the world.
The daughter of New York’s most famous hairdo traveled to the sweltering tropical latitudes of Panama City on Feb. 23 to unveil her family company’s first international hotel venture: The Trump Ocean Club. The behemoth sail-shaped structure has claimed the honor of being the largest building in Latin America.
Though the building is not scheduled to officially open until July, Ivanka, 29, trekked to Panama City with her brother Eric for a “celebration” of the building’s pre-sale success and a pep rally to help get it through the final months of construction.
“This will raise the bar for Panama and, I would argue, raise the bar for all of South America in terms of a standard of luxury,” Ivanka said. “Nobody else will be able to replicate what we’ve done here.”
At 2.8 million square feet and 70 floors, the building has cost more than $200 million — as much as $400 million, according to some insider estimates. It's unlikely anyone else in the slumping global real estate market would even consider replicating what the Trump Organization is trying in Panama — or elsewhere for that matter. In addition to building six new hotels in the United States since 2006, Trump also has five other international hotel and tower projects in the works.
Even more unlikely is the chance that anyone would try to replicate the growing list of obligations that Ivanka is trying to juggle in her own life.
In addition to overseeing the U.S. and global expansion of the Trump empire as executive vice president of development and acquisitions, Ivanka is also an author, a model, a designer of shoes, handbags and jewelry, a judge on Celebrity Apprentice, a media personality, a U.N. activist and a soon-to-be-mother.
“It’s an honor to be able to do so much and work on projects of such significance,” Ivanka told GlobalPost, upon arriving in Panama fresh off another trip to Hawaii to celebrate the early success of the luxury Trump hotel in Waikiki, which is reporting $500 million in sales after opening a year ago.
The Trump real estate projects, she said, “are viable but they are grand and people appreciate that vision.”
And, with the near completion of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City, that Trump vision and name is becoming increasingly global — much more so than it was before the kids joined their father at the family business.
“My brothers and I have obviously been a big part of the driving force behind our international growth and taking a hotel brand that [Donald Trump] had created for a single asset in New York and creating an organization and infrastructure behind it,” Ivanka said.
With the early success of the Panama project, which has reportedly sold 95 percent of its units in presales, the Trump troupe is also looking to expand their reach further south in Latin America. Ivanka mentioned that she is looking at sites in Colombia, Brazil and Chile.
She acknowledges that her family’s celebrity status helps them to promote their real estate ventures overseas, but says so too does her family’s proven success in delivering products.
“I think it’s a combination; it’s not just about hype,” she said. “We have a track record of execution that most people don’t have. My father has been in this business for 30 years; we have loyal buyers who have bought in every one of our Trump properties — well in advance of their completion — because of a belief that we always deliver the highest quality of products, the best locations and that it makes sense to buy with Trump.”
She added, “And I think the celebrity is never a bad thing, it is only a positive.”
The celebrity also might be a positive for Donald Trump’s potential foray into politics, where he has no proven track record. With early polls showing “The Donald” trailing U.S. President Barack Obama by only a slim margin, time will tell if Mr. Trump might get to use his famous “you’re fired” line in politics.
“I just hope he runs; I think he would be phenomenal,” Ivanka said of her father’s potential presidential bid. “My advice is for him to do it.”