The skyscrapers, which opened in 2012 as Trump Towers Istanbul, pay the Trump Organization only a licensing fee — $5 million to $10 million a year in the first years after it opened, and down to $100,000 to $1 million a year in more recent years — according to Mr. Trump’s financial disclosure forms.
But the buildings were the first residential and commercial towers in Europe to hang the Trump name, and both families considered them a success. Mr. Erdogan, then prime minister, cut the ribbon. Mr. Trump; his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump; and her husband, Mr. Kushner, all attended the opening along with Mr. Yalcindag, who became a friend of their family.
“My daughter loves Turkey, and she loves Istanbul, and she really always enjoyed coming here, and she’s been here many times,” Mr. Trump said at the ceremony in Istanbul. “Her great friend is Mehmet,” Mr. Trump added, referring to Mr. Yalcindag as having “done some unbelievable job.” He praised Mr. Erdogan at length as “a good man” who was “very highly respected throughout the world and in the United States.”
For the past decade, Mr. Yalcindag has typically seen Mr. Trump socially about three or four times a year, according to a person close to the family.
Mr. Trump, as he ran for president, acknowledged that his personal relationships influenced his view of Turkey.
“I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” Mr. Trump said in a radio interview in 2015, gushing that it was “a tremendously successful job.”
When Mr. Trump pledged to ban Muslims from entering the United States, Mr. Erdogan briefly called for the removal of the Trump name from the towers. But heeding advice about the value of good relations with Washington, he never followed through.