"The country of Georgia is a small wonder.”
"It's one of the really amazing places in the world right now.”
These words were spoken by United States (US) President-elect Donald Trump back in 2012.
Today the world learnt the news that Trump will become the 45th President of the United States - the most powerful nation on the planet. Trump, who hasn't been involved in politics very long, has an interesting connection with the country Georgia; keep reading to find out more.
Trump in Georgia
Donald Trump visited the country of Georgia long before he was elected as US President.
He visited the nation of 3.7 million, located at the crossroad of Europe and Asia, in April 2012.
Trump arrived in Batumi, on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, and enjoyed the region that's regarded as the country’s main tourism hub.
Trump visited Georgia to expand his global real estate empire and lent his name to two luxury towers here – one in capital Tbilisi and the other in Batumi.
Donald Trump and Giorgi Ramishvili of Georgia's Silk Road Group shake hands as they agree to construct Trump Tower Batumi in April 2012. Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times
The Trump Tower project presentation took place in Batumi and was attended by then-president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili.
I think you have a lot of investment opportunities in Georgia. It's amazing what's going on. It's one of the really amazing places in the world right now," Trump told Reuters in an interview at the time.
You have a lot of opportunities beyond real estate in Georgia (too)," he added.
Prior to Trump’s visit, his ex-wife and former Olympic athlete, socialite, and fashion model Ivana Trump also visited Georgia to explore the area where her ex-husband intended to pursue future projects.
Trump Tower project
Trump Tower Batumi was a $250 million five-star, 47-storey residential building project planned to be developed in Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast. A similar building was later planned for Tbilisi.
An artist's impression of Trump Tower Batumi. Source: SkiGeorgia
Trump was not actually going to build the towers but he licensed the use of the 'Trump' name to Georgia’s Silk Road Group, one of the largest private investment companies in the South Caucasus.
As Georgia becomes a player in the global economy, what's extremely important for Georgia is to have a brand like Trump coming to Georgia and showing the world that like Western development, Georgia is coming to the market as well," Michael Cohen, Trump Organisation's executive vice-president said at the time.
Why was the project delayed?
According to the initial plan, construction of the Trump Tower in Batumi was scheduled to begin in 2013. Three years later it has still not begun.
Today Trump's partner and developer in the project - Silk Road Group - said its contract with Trump Organisation was still in force.
We have never stopped the project and during all this time we have been in constant touch with Trump Corporation,” Silk Road Group’s spokesperson Aka Akhalaia told Agenda.ge today.
This is a commercial project meaning if we implement it, we must be sure that we will earn a profit from it,” he added.
Akhalaia said Trump Organisation and the Silk Road Group both remained committed to the project and consultations were still continuing to find the best and profitable ways to implement the project.
Akhalaia’s comment was in line with what company representatives said about a year ago. In 2015 Silk Road Group said it considered Azerbaijani, Armenian, Russian and Ukrainian citizens as their future clients and possible buyers of apartments at Trump Tower Batumi. The Silk Road Group noted that with the economic situation being unstable in those countries, they had to delay the project's implementation.
How did Trump and Saakashvili first meet?
US President-elect Donald Trump (R) and Georgia's former president Mikheil Saakashvili during the Trump Tower project presentation in Batumi, Georgia in April 2012. Photo source/Bloomberg
Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili once told The New Yorker that he had been a Trump fan since the mid-90s.
After getting a Master’s in Law from Columbia, Saakashvili worked at a New York firm that was a Trump tenant.
I met him in an elevator,” Saakashvili recalled. "He asked me whether we liked the building. I said to him, ‘You better fix the showers on our floor,’ and it was done within, like, 12 hours.”
Meanwhile in 2011 The New York Times said Saakashvili sought out Trump during a trip to New York after reading Trump’s 2008 book Trump Never Gives Up. The men formed a friendship and in 2012 Trump sent an executive, Michael Cohen, to Georgia to consider working with the Silk Road Group on several projects.
Trump seemed impressed by Georgia four years ago. It's not yet known whether he still has a fond attitude towards Georgia or if his opinion has changed, but the people of Georgia now hope Trump will encourage deepening of relations between Georgia and the US.
We are committed to continue working with the US under the new leadership and administration to ensure peace, security, development and freedom in our countries, the region and beyond,” Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said after the US presidential election results were released earlier today.