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[TORONTO] The Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto may soon have a new name on the door, with Marriott International Inc's St Regis brand seen as the front runner to manage the property, according to people familiar with the matter.
Marriott is the lead candidate to take over the brand and management contracts from the Trump Organization for the 65-story tower in Canada's largest city, people close to the transaction said. JCF Capital ULC, the closely-held US firm that owns the building, is also in talks with Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc, which has pitched its Waldorf Astoria name, and Mandarin Oriental International Ltd, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential details. Keeping the Trump brand is also an option, they said.
"No final agreement is in place," said Jay Wolf, one of the operators of JCF Capital. He declined to comment further. A spokeswomen for Marriott declined to comment, and representatives for the Trump Organization and Mandarin didn't respond to requests seeking comment. A Hilton spokesman said the company isn't involved in active talks.
If the deal closes, it would mark a turning point for the decade-long saga of the Trump hotel in Toronto's financial district on Bay Street. The property, Mr Trump's first branded hotel in the country, had been marred by construction delays, a developer who didn't pay its construction debt, and protests from people upset with the US president. The chain that takes over will join other five-star brands in the city, including Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts and Four Seasons.
The hotel and residence, with the US president's name hanging in block letters at the top, has been the focus of protesters rallying against him, even though he has no direct ownership of the building. In particular, hundreds of city residents gathered at the building's base when then presidential candidate Mr Trump suggested banning Muslims from the US and called Mexicans rapists, and again during the global Women's March after his inauguration.
Although the protests stopped, the financing woes under the former owner didn't. Last year, developer Talon International Development Corp, led by Russian-Canadian billionaire Alex Shnaider, tried to sell the property after defaulting on its 2007 loan. JCF Capital acquired the loan from lender Raiffeisen Bank International AG, and when Talon still couldn't pay, JCF Capital launched a sale process for the building that garnered no bids aside from its own. Since then, JCF has been in talks with hotel chains and the Trump Organization to finalise an operating plan for the property.
While Mr Trump has resigned from any roles in his many companies, he has not divested his ownership of them. Instead, Mr Trump's business interests were placed in a trust overseen by an independent ethics officer and managed by Mr Trump's sons, Eric and Don Jr, along with Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg. The president is the beneficiary of that trust.
Marriott's negotiations in Toronto come as Chief Executive Officer Arne Sorenson urges the US president to improve ties with Cuba. Mr Trump headed to Miami Friday and announced plans to roll back part of the Obama administration's policies to thaw relations with the island nation.