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The Trump Organization failed Tuesday to persuade an international arbitration court to return to its control a luxury Panamanian hotel after the brand was pushed out earlier this month, the latest development in a dramatic fight over the Panama City establishment, according to media reports.

An arbitrator for the International Chamber of Commerce found that an agreement installing the Trump Organization’s hotel arm as manager of the establishment formerly known as Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama was breached when the majority owner ousted the brand in early March and physically removed the Trump name from signage, Univision reported Wednesday.

Nonetheless, arbitrator Joel Richler declined to put Trump Hotels back in charge of the 70-story waterfront hotel, now named The Bahia Grand Panama, and barred the parties from launching new legal fights over the matter, which has sparked disputes that are still pending in U.S. and Panamanian courts, as well as arbitration proceedings, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

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“The facts on the ground now militate against forcibly undoing the steps that have been taken,” Richler said, noting that he might have reached a different decision had the emergency request been lodged before the majority owner won over the Panamanian courts and got police to help evict the Trump management team on March 5, according to the AP.

The arbitrator’s decision wasn’t publicly available Wednesday. Representatives for the Trump Organization declined to comment or provide additional information, and representatives for hotel majority owner Ithaca Capital and Bahia Grand Panama didn’t return requests for comment.

The hotel, which consists of 369 individually owned units, had been under Trump management since 2008. But that agreement with Trump International Hotels Management LLC — which in turn assigned some of its interests in the pact to Trump Panama Hotel Management LLC — came under fire last year after Ithaca acquired 202 units and became the majority owner, according to U.S. federal court filings.

Over the course of 2017, the unit owners raised concerns about declining occupancy and profits stemming from the “gross mismanagement” of the hotel, but to no avail, leading to an October meeting wherein they voted to end Trump’s management, court filings said.

As part of those efforts, a company called Hotel TOC Inc. — which is controlled by an entity that counts the unit owners as beneficiaries — launched an arbitration before the ICC that month, seeking to terminate the contract with the Trump companies and secure $15 million in damages for the alleged mismanagement, according to court filings.

However, the Trump companies fought back with counterclaims in December, seeking around $150 million from Ithaca and other unit owners, among others, for allegedly conspiring to remove them from the hotel management contract, court filings said.

That move triggered U.S. litigation seeking to block the claims, with two Ithaca companies and managing partner Orestes Fintiklis launching a New York federal court suit alleging the Trump companies were trying to “bully, intimidate and harass” them by joining them in the arbitration with the ultimate hope of forcing Hotel TOC to abandon its allegations.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos signed off on the plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction request, blocking the Trump companies from pursuing the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act claims against them in the ICC arbitration.

A similar suit is pending in Delaware federal court, wherein Panamanian law firm Morgan & Morgan PA blasted the Trump companies for dragging it into the arbitration, as well, based on “nonsense” claims that the firm was also involved in the alleged conspiracy to oust the businesses.

Meanwhile, the hotel’s majority owner was embroiled in a public standoff with the Trump companies on the ground. As Fintiklis sought to take control of the property, Trump management responded by blockading themselves in the building and bringing in more security, asserting in a late February statement that they were simply responding to the owner’s “thug-like, mob style tactics” to push them out, according to news reports.

Ultimately, though, Fintiklis secured a favorable order from a Panamanian court and showed up at the hotel on March 5, with police officers in tow, to order the Trump team to vacate the premises, news reports indicated.

A worker immediately removed the Trump name from signage and the establishment has since been rebranded — though the hotel still appears on the Trump Hotels website as Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama.

There is also a dueling Bahia Grand Panama website and Facebook page, which says the establishment remains the “only luxury hotel directly on the open waters of the majestic gulf of Panama City — with one exciting change — we’re under new management.”

Counsel and case information relating to the arbitration decision handed down Tuesday wasn’t immediately available.


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