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Donald Trump never intended to finish ‘£1 billion’ Menie golf resort, claims ex-director

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A former Donald Trump International Scotland director has claimed the country was “hoodwinked” by the ex-president’s controversial ‘£1billion’ Aberdeenshire golf course project.

Neil Hobday, who was the project’s director, has said the 2024 presidential candidate u-turned on his promise to spend a ten-figure fee on the north-east site.

Appearing on the documentary ‘Trumped,’ he explained how he felt the north-east and Scotland had been sold short on a project “he never intended to finish”.

Donald Trump at the grand opening of the course in 2012. Image: SNS Group.

Speaking to BBC Sounds, Mr Hobday said: “I felt hoodwinked and ashamed that I fell for it, and that Scotland fell for it.”

When the Trump Organization announced the project in 2006, which is now the Balmedie International Links, the businessman said the investment would ‘be in excess of £500 million’.

That figure quickly rose to ‘over $1 billion’ after appearing in front of the Scottish media.

‘He had no intention of finishing the golf course’

However, Hobday now thinks in hindsight that Trump would have said anything to get his course up and running.

“I don’t think even if he could raise the money to build the whole thing out, he wanted the golf course and that was it,” he continued.

“He was willing to fight the environmental battle and create this impression that this was a $1bn project and Scotland absolutely needed it.

“But I think he never really had the money or the intention of finishing it.

“I feel very hoodwinked and ashamed that I fell for it and Scotland fell for it. We all fell for it.

“He was never going to do it.”

Trump International Links golf course. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

The original proposals for the course included a 450-room hotel, 950 holiday apartments, 36 golf villas and 500 houses for sale which have not materialised.

Latest figures revealed by the organisation say that only £100 million had been spent on the course, which is yet to turn a profit, posting £13 million in losses since it opened in 2012.

Despite the claims however, the Trump Organisation still maintain that they “delivered on its promise to build one of the greatest modern links golf courses of all time”.

Local’s fight against Donald Trump

The Menie Estate in 2006, situated only eight miles north of Aberdeen, is a picturesque stretch of sand dunes and woodland in the backdrop of Trump’s promise to build the ‘world’s greatest golf course’.

However, plans to host major tournaments such as The Open did not come as a pleasant surprise to those who live there.

Locals famously refused to sell their land to Trump and environmentalists were also concerned about the impact of the site.

Michael Forbes’ was one of Trump’s biggest opponents in opening the course.

Part of the course grounds now covers a former ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ which was regarded one of the best examples of a mobile sand dune system.

However, Scottish ministers at the time overruled local councillors decision to overturn the planning permission, on the grounds that the economic benefit would outweigh the environmental impact.

Trump International Links caused further controversy last year when the former US President was accused of mis-representing his wealth in a New York civil court case, which included a “false valuation” of the Aberdeenshire golf course.

‘No credibility’

Trump International Scotland said Mr Hobday has “no credibility”.

A statement responding to the claims and wider BBC interview added: “There are very few, if any, investors in the sport that have done more for Scottish golf in the past
decade than Trump.

“In spite of the many global economic challenges, where other investors walked
away – and despite spiteful opposition, the Trump Organization has remained steadfast in its commitment and delivered on its promise to build one of the greatest modern links golf courses of all time in Aberdeen and to protect the future of one of world’s greatest golf treasures.”

In 2010 Sarah Malone, executive vice president of the Menie course, and Trump’s head of international development George Sorial released statements quashing speculation that Mr Hobday had been fired.

She said then: “Neil Hobday has been a full-time consultant on the project for many years, and played an important role in the early stages of its development. Neil is currently pursuing other business interests and his departure was voluntary. We wish him well for the future.”

‘Dignified and quiet exit’

However tonight, in response to the BBC interview, she released another statement, branding Mr Hobday “bitter” and claimed he was in fact fired by the Trump Organization 14 years ago.

She said: “In 2010 we agreed to give him a dignified and quiet exit, as many businesses do in such situations – and I’m quite sure you know businesses make such statements when someone is sacked.

“However, more than a decade on, this man has chosen to shout about our business and make wildly offensive remarks.  We therefore have a right to respond and put the record straight.

“He was fired and is an extremely bitter man.”

In 2010 Mr Hobday said he “categorically denied” being sacked by Trump, stating: “I have been a full-time consultant here for five years, which is a long time, and I fulfilled all of the objectives I was brought in to do.

“It is the right time to move on and I need time to continue to develop my own golf consultancy business.”

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