Former President Trump’s many scandals and compounding legal troubles — though consolidating his base — have wrought a financial blowback that’s wrecking business entities affiliated with him, the latest of which is the company organizing his paid speeches.
According to the Washington Post, the American Freedom Tour, a company that’s promoted a slate of paid appearances by the twice-impeached ex-president, is now financially hard-pressed to pay its vendors, investors, and employees.
The company organized glitzy events that allowed Trump supporters to see the former president and a host of right-wing pundits and conspiracy theorists for a fee ranging from $55 to over $4,000.
The proceeds of the Trump for-profit speeches organized by the American Freedom Tour — part of a multimillion-dollar deal with the former president — went directly into Trump’s pockets, the Post reported last July, citing unnamed sources privy to the matter.
Trump, who advisers say joined the tour with little vetting, is one of the few people who have reportedly seen a payday from the beleaguered company. Several other speakers have yet to be paid in full, if at all.
The tour’s failure to pay its bills had led to the exit of two of its executives, mass cancellation of previously scheduled events, and condemnation from a slate of angry investors, speakers, and even Trump allies who had thrown their support behind the company, according to the Post.
At the start of the tour, investors were promised a 20 percent return on their investments, but when the payments were due six months later, the American Freedom Tour failed to remit the payments, the Post noted, citing an internal loan document.
The tour’s organizer, Brian J. Forte — much like the company’s most celebrated patron, Trump — is a motivational speaker and promoter with a litany of bankruptcy filings and business disputes across the country.
Forte pleaded with investors in March for more time to make payments, but by August, the tour still hadn’t made its payments.
“We needed a little more time,” Forte said. “The investment is intact. Please bear with us a couple of weeks.”
Unpaid investors soon threatened legal action against the tour if it didn’t pay their investments and promised interest in full. “If the company doesn’t pay, the group wants Forte to step aside and give them control of the company… Otherwise, they said they will sue,” the Post wrote.
“We are awaiting payment and now four months overdue,” a consultant leading the local GOP in Austin, Matt Mackowiak, warned via email, per the Post. “I will get loud and litigious if not paid by [the] end of [the] week.”
Republican media consultant Larry Ward, a spokesperson for the tour, has tried to play down the crisis as an unfortunate outcome of “unforeseen scheduling issues.”
“Unforeseen scheduling issues for the programs caused a delay, and we asked a limited number of investors if their payment could be delayed until November,” Ward said.“We are working very hard to make them whole, and we are confident they will be made whole very soon.”
Financial pressure bearing down on the business caused it to adopt deplorable practices, said the Post, including selling tickets online for events it knew were unlikely to hold, one of which was its planned August 20 event in Milwaukee.
Dale Ainge, the tour’s former chief financial officer, one of the aforementioned executives who left the company, told the Post that before his exit, the tour defaulted on two of its loans, incurring the outcry of its lenders.
“They had to cancel a couple events, which caused some financial issues,” he said. “They were behind on things. They were behind on payments. So for me to say, what kind of financial position they’re in? They were a little bit behind in a couple of the notes. There were a couple accounts payable that were past 60 days.”
The other executive who left, Chris Widener, the company’s former president, directed requests for repayment to the company as he had already resigned. “As you know from reaching out a few weeks ago looking for your payment, I resigned from the American freedom tour on August 3rd,” Widener said. “You are definitely owed the money and should be paid promptly.”
The American Freedom Tour is hinging its hopes for a comeback on an upcoming black-tie gala at Mar-a-Lago, where the FBI raided in August and seized thousands of secret government records, including over a hundred classified documents, that the former president had retained illegally after his tenure.
Spending time with the former President at the event, which includes a poolside reception and a formal ballroom dinner, could cost eventgoers $10,000, while dinner and a photo with Trump would cost a whopping $40,000. According to the Post, “a private library meeting with Trump [at the event] is so pricey that it’s only listed as: ‘INQUIRE BELOW.’”