World News

Panama Hotel Owner, Declaring Victory, Has Trump’s Name Removed

Posted March 5, 2018 6:06 p.m. EST

PANAMA CITY, Panama — The majority owner of the Trump International Hotel and Tower declared victory here Monday in his battle to oust the U.S. president’s family business from the property, its only current hotel venture in Latin America.

Within hours, a workman wielding a sledgehammer and crowbar pried the silver letters T-R-U-M-P off the sign at the hotel, the tallest building in Panama. It became the latest property around the world to lose the Trump name since the 2016 election.

Orestes Fintiklis, who bought a majority of the hotel in August, secured full control of the property’s administrative offices late Monday morning.

After he arrived at the hotel with a contingent of court officials and national police officers — and a Panamanian court ruling in his favor — Fintiklis ejected the Trump Organization, which had held a long-term contract to manage the property.

“This is a purely commercial dispute that just spun out of control,” Fintiklis said in a brief impromptu news conference in the hotel’s lobby. “And today this dispute has been settled by the judges and the authorities of this country.”

“Today Panama has made us proud,” he said.

Fintiklis, a Cypriot citizen, then strode to the lobby’s baby grand piano and played and sang “Accordeon,” a popular Greek song about the fight against fascism.

The battle is not over. Lawyers for the Trumps have maintained that they believe the law is on their side, and legal proceedings over the property are ongoing in at least three other venues. The Trump Organization will most likely challenge the Panamanian court ruling.

Still, Fintiklis acted as if he had won the battle after a 11-day standoff that has been playing out behind the scenes in Panamanian courtrooms and ministry offices as well as in plain sight at the hotel’s lobby. It became the arena for the ownership dispute, punctuated by yelling and shoving matches, appearances by armed police and visits by government delegations, including Panamanian labor regulators, forensic specialists and a justice of the peace.