Joo Kim Tiah — take down that Trump sign

The city’s lawyers are working their way through Vancouver’s bylaws to see if they can stop Holborn Group CEO Joo Kim Tiah, the owner of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, from putting Donald Trump’s name on the side of the building.

It is all part of a growing global movement of governments and institutions seeking to distance themselves from the repugnant racist comments by the billionaire real estate developer and candidate for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

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Trump’s crack about Mexican immigrants to the U.S.  being “rapists  and drug runners” was enough to get that alphabet soup of golf organizations, LPGA, PGA of America, and USGA to denounce him. (Trump owns or operates 18 golf courses across the globe.)

A university in Scotland withdrew an honorary degree granted to Trump back in 2010. The British ambassador to the United Stated broke protocol about staying mum about U.S. politics and took a shot at Trump for his negative comments about Muslims in London. Israeli parliamentarians raised such a fuss about Trump’s pledge to bar Muslims from entering the U.S. that Trump cancelled his trip to that country and a meeting with its prime minister. And the president of France was not amused with Trump’s observation that the reason so many people were being killed in Paris by terrorists was because of that country’s stringent restrictions on gun ownership.

Meanwhile back in Vancouver, Joo Kim remains unmoved by calls from politicians and people in the development community alike to cut his ties with Trump. He has, according to folks in the business, invested millions in buying the Trump Brand for his luxury condo and hotel complex on Georgia, to say nothing of what he is paying to have the Trump organization manage the hotel.

The 30-something Joo Kim is a rookie on the development scene in Vancouver. Folks at the city say his relative inexperience helps explain why Holborn is taking so long to get the work done on their Little Mountain development near Queen Elizabeth Park.

By the way, Holborn’s $75,000 donation to Vision Vancouver for the 2014 election campaign isn’t causing councillors and staff to hold back on their disgust over Joo Kim’s alliance with Donald Trump.

The fact that he is the eldest son of Tony and Alicia Tiah, one of the wealthiest families in Malaysia and he is rolling on his parent’s bank account helps explains how he can take on the projects he does.

He says his parents “have ingrained in me values, ethics and principles of good business.” This apparently doesn’t preclude doing business with a racist.

But then, Joo Kim is not without ego. He is listed on the Trump Tower website along with Donald Trump and the three Trump kids as one of the “Titans.” There’s a photo of them all at Joo Kim’s palatial crib in the British Properties — a ’hood which until the mid-’60s had encumbrances on property titles prohibiting sales to Asians, Jews and blacks.  

Yet, curiously, Joo Kim frequently says he is motivated in his life by his Christian faith: “I am here to carry out what God has called me to do in this life.” That seems to be mainly about making piles of dough.

And, really folks, money is what this is all about. He’s tied himself to The Donald because he assumes it would promote the sales of his condos (starting price $6.5 million) and add a certain lustre to his project designed to attract the world’s uber-rich.

Last week, he released a statement about why he is refusing to eliminate the Trump brand from his property: “We do not comment on political issues or agendas, be they local or foreign.” (He does play in the political arena though. See donation to Vision above.)

But he is clearly saying cutting himself off from Trump will cost him more than any good that will come out of it — in terms of his bottom line of course: “We have contractual obligations to the Trump Organization, banks, purchasers, consultants, trades and business partners. These legally-binding contracts cannot be altered.”

Well, more likely they can be altered, but it may mean Trump would sue him to Kingdom come, a journey that Joo Kim is not prepared to take at this time.

agarr@vancourier.com

@allengarr

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