Would you sleep with Donald Trump?

Well, not actually with him, but in one of his hotels. Or would you buy an apartment in one of his modestly-named blocks or join one of his golf clubs?

Leona Helmsley was famous for her tyrannical behaviour but she used this reputation to suggest that standards at her hotels were higher than at those with less demanding owners. She was brought down by failure to pay tax, rather than her unpleasant personality.

Donald Trump has done much the same thing. To put it crudely, people have assumed that such a big-mouth who boasts of his high standards, must run some pretty good properties. The businesses have had plenty of ups and downs but appear to be fairly well-regarded. His move on to the main political stage could be dangerous though.

The US is divided roughly 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans. By coming out as an extreme Republican he has therefore put 50% of his home market against him. However, it is worse than that because many Republicans also find his views objectionable. If he loses the Republican nomination and goes on to stand as an independent, he could destroy the party’s chances completely. That would make him an enemy to most Republicans as well! If your brand is your name, and that name is loathed by 90% or more of your market, things could get tricky.

The Marriott family has always been careful to make it clear that their religion is a private matter and that business is business. People may regard Mormons as weird, scary or just harmless eccentrics but the Marriott chain has carefully distanced itself from the religion. Marriott was one of the first US companies to become actively “gay friendly” when many regarded the Church as quite the opposite. The sincerity of this posturing is open to doubt but it is likely that more people avoid Marriott hotels because of an aversion to their trademark vivid carpets than the religion of the founders.

Donald Trump has not made any attempt to separate business and politics. The profitability of a hotel depends on the last handful of rooms being sold every night. If these last few guests decided to stay away, things could get very tricky indeed. That could be much worse for Mr Trump than political defeat.

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