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Will You Be Able to Buy Trump Tower at Auction? Not Anytime Soon

Will You Be Able to Buy Trump Tower at Auction? Not Anytime Soon
(Reuters) – New York state could start seizing Donald Trump’s properties if he doesn’t post a bond by Monday to cover a $454 million civil fraud judgment, but it may be well over a year before Trump Tower and other prized real estate holdings are on the chopping block.

Seizing the former U.S president’s sprawling real estate empire, which includes Trump Tower in Manhattan, a 370-acre estate in Westchester and his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, would not entail sheriff’s deputies storming the lobby of Trump’s buildings or chiseling the real estate mogul’s name off of facades.

The process is more similar to a bank foreclosure, legal experts said.

“Seizing’ a property is a poor way to describe it, because it gives the impression that someone goes and grabs it,” said Alan Sash, a New York lawyer who specializes in asset forfeiture. “It’s not like that at all. It’s slow and methodical.”

Trump, a Republican set to face Democrat Joe Biden in the November election, was found liable in February for overstating his net worth and the value of his real estate properties to dupe investors and lenders.

James, a Democrat who brought the fraud case, has said her office is prepared to immediately seize Trump’s assets if he fails to meet the Monday deadline.

Seizing and selling the property at auction would likely take well over a year given the complex ownership structures and debt arrangements of his properties, as well as his ample legal resources, experts said.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and an appeals court could still pause enforcement of the judgment while reviewing the case. He said in a string of recent social media posts that he may be forced sell assets at “fire sale prices” to post bond.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment, and Trump’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

New York law has aggressive civil enforcement laws compared to other states, legal experts say, but seizing and liquidating real estate is more complex than taking someone’s bank accounts or valuables.

James will be able to go after any properties Trump owns to satisfy the judgment and would not be limited to the half-dozen properties at the heart of the case.

But she would need a court to sign off on foreclosing any property, and Trump could object, arguing that it would be unjust for his property to be sold off while his appeal is pending.

James last week registered the judgment in Westchester, a suburb of New York and home to the Trump Organization’s Seven Springs estate, as well as the Trump National Golf Club. The move is an initial procedural step that is necessary if James wants to seize these properties.

The judgment is already registered in Manhattan, where the case was brought and home to several Trump properties such as 40 Wall Street and Trump Park Avenue.

The process could be more complicated for properties outside of New York. James would need to get a local court to enter the judgment, and Trump could object on jurisdictional grounds.

Some states like Florida, home to Mar-a-Lago, have more lenient asset forfeiture laws than New York, according to legal experts.

The complex nature of Trump’s portfolio — scattered across many states and countries and consisting of hundreds of corporate entities — could also make the process more difficult for James.

“There will be a lot of questions about the value of these assets and who else has interests in them,” said Nikos Passas, a Northeastern University law professor and asset recovery expert.

If the foreclosure were to go forward, it would kick off a lengthy process of notifying creditors, co-owners and other third parties, who could raise legal challenges of their own.

In the meantime, Trump’s hotels and golf courses and other properties would continue to operate as before, though James could ask a court to appoint an independent receiver to manage them.

“They are not in the business of being landlords,” Sash said of the attorney general’s office.

If James’ office successfully shepherds Trump’s properties through foreclosure, they would ultimately be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Any final sale prices for Trump’s buildings would likely come at a discount given a wider downturn in the commercial real estate industry, which has been especially hard hit in New York.

In New York City, auctions typically take place in person under the rotunda of the courthouse at 60 Centre Street in Manhattan — the same courthouse where Trump stood trial in the case.

“It’s a fascinating spectacle,” said Sash, who has attended several auctions. “It’s like the wild west, but that’s how they do it.”

(Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Alistair Bell)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters.

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