Mar-a-Lago membership fee doubles to $200,000

Trump's Mar-a-Lago doubles membership fee
Trump's Mar-a-Lago doubles membership fee

Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach resort owned by the Trump Organization, doubled its initiation fee to $200,000 following the election of Donald Trump as president.

People close to the Florida resort said the increase took effect Jan. 1. The resort had been considering an increase for some time, said those people, who declined to provide their names because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the company.

A spokesperson for the Trump Organization did not respond to CNBC's request for comment. But the timing is likely to add to criticism that the Trump Organization is trying to benefit from the president's election.

Indeed, shortly after the fee hike was revealed, Barack Obama's former top ethics lawyer told MSNBC that the increase is a "not very subtle exploitation of the fact that the club's figurehead is now president of the U.S."

"This type of naked profiteering off of a government office is what I would expect from King Louis XVI or his modern kleptocratic equivalents, not an American president," Norm Eisen said.

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A membership at Mar-a-Lago now includes a chance to mingle with the 45th president. Trump plans to use the resort as his occasional "Winter White House." He has visited twice since his election — first for Thanksgiving and then over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

There's no way of knowing whether demand for memberships has grown. The initiation fee for Mar-a-Lago had been $100,000 since 2012, when it was cut from $200,000. People close to the resort said the fee was reduced following a decline in memberships after the Bernie Madoff scandal, which claimed many wealthy Palm Beach victims.

On top of the initiation fee of $200,000 plus tax, members also pay $14,000 a year in annual dues (plus tax).

The 20-acre resort has a main mansion with more 100 rooms, along with private quarters for Trump and his family. It also has a beach club, pools, restaurant, tennis courts and a 20,000-square-foot ballroom that Trump built for events.

Trump has resigned his position as CEO of the Trump Organization and put his assets into a trust. It will now be run by his two sons. Details of the trust and Trump's income from the company remain unclear.

While the company has said it will stop any new deals overseas, it will continue to expand in the U.S. And the Mar-a-Lago price hike shows that it can also grow through higher fees and rates.

At a conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the chief executive of Trump Hotels said the company has room to expand in the U.S.

"There are 26 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., and we're in five," CEO Eric Danziger said, according to Bloomberg. "I don't see any reason that we couldn't be in all of them eventually."

A spokesman for Trump Hotels told CNBC that the company sees "significant growth opportunity in the United States for both our hotel brands."

— CNBC's Christopher DiLella and Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.

Update: This story has been updated with a quote from Norm Eisen.

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