Eric Trump tells judge family made golf club ‘great again’

Eric Trump gets a kiss from dad, presidential candidate Donald Trump, during a campaign rally at Briar Woods High School on Aug. 2, 2016, in Ashburn, Va.
Eric Trump gets a kiss from dad, presidential candidate Donald Trump, during a campaign rally at Briar Woods High School on Aug. 2, 2016, in Ashburn, Va. AP

WEST PALM BEACH Eric Trump took a page from his father’s playbook Tuesday, telling a judge the billionaire’s renovations to a foundering Florida golf club he bought made it even better.

“We took something that had really gone bad and we made it great again,” Eric Trump, the executive vice president of the golf club, told a judge in West Palm Beach, echoing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign slogan.

The Trump Organization saved Trump National Golf Club Jupiter because it was insolvent, Eric Trump testified. Most members love the renovated golf club now, he said. The suit was filed by former golfers at the club who say they were ripped off when Trump didn’t refund their deposits and barred them from the facilities.

After having insisted for months that people who resigned their memberships at the club didn’t lose access, Eric Trump admitted he was wrong on that point and that some had been barred.

“I’m the first person to have enough hubris to say when you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” he said.

The former members sued the golf club in Jupiter to recover almost $5 million in deposits they say should have been refunded when the elder Trump changed the membership rules after buying the venture from Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. in 2012.

Judge Decides

Both sides in the dispute agreed to waive a jury trial, so U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra will decide whether Trump must pay the club’s former members back.

Marra said at the conclusion of the two-day trial on Tuesday that he’d rule later.

The members who sued were on a list to resign from the club, and were to receive a refund of their deposit, once new members joined. Under the Ritz-Carlton rules, they could continue to use the club until they received their refunds. They paid $35,000 to $210,000 in deposits.

They claimed they were barred from the club even as they waited to get their deposits. The club breached the membership contract when it failed to refund the money within 30 days, Brad Edwards, attorney for the former members, said at the start of the trial.

‘You’re Out’

In a letter to the members, Donald Trump told them if they chose to remain on the resignation list: “You’re out.” In video testimony shown in court Monday the elder Trump called the threat “negotiation.”

When Donald Trump bought the club 16 miles north of West Palm Beach, he agreed to assume the liability of about $41 million in member deposits that were refundable. The club features a 7,531-yard Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, as well as a spa, tennis, fitness center and restaurants.

Last year, Marra ruled the three club members who sued could represent as many as 150 members on the resignation list who hadn’t received deposit refunds. About 65 members remain in the group suing, as Trump has settled with others.

Contact Susannah Nesmith at susannahnesmith@yahoo.com