Trump arts council appointee sues Grand Hotel over memorabilia

Published: May. 8, 2020 at 5:18 PM EDT
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The sale of the Grand Hotel is final.

But now there's a lawsuit filed by an appointee of President Donald Trump, claiming the hotel owners sold the interior designer's personal belongings.

Carleton Varney claims the Grand Hotel was sold with some of his presidential and Hollywood memorabilia inside.

His Saginaw attorney says the hotel's new owners won't give it back.

"He had been the chief designer for the Grand Hotel as far as the interior, in fact the Grand Hotel is what it is today because of Carlton Varney," says Varney's attorney, Victor Mastromarco, Jr.

The 83-year-old Varney is considered one the most famous interior designers in the world.

"He has decorated hotels all over the world," Mastromarco says.

Varney has a residence in Palm Beach, Florida, and another in New York.

"He has a condominium in the Trump Tower so he knows him well," says Mastromarco.

Well enough that the President appointed Varney to the National Council for the Arts, an appointment that has not been approved yet.

For about 43 years, Varney worked on the interior design of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. We talked to him at the hotel in 1983.

"But when we do classic suites, like this presidential suite, I do the real thing," he said.

Many of the suites has his own personal touch, like signed presidential photos and pictures.

"He lent those items to them so it would make the suite even more elegant and special," says Mastromarco.

One of those items include a framed dress that once belonged to actress Joan Crawford. Mastromarco, says Varney was blindsided when the Grand Hotel was sold, despite previous public denials by the owners.

"The hotel was essentially sold without telling him about it, even though they were in constant contact with him, and they hid it from him and they used the memorabilia as part of the selling point for the hotel," says Mastromarco.

Mastromarco also claims Dan Musser, whose family sold the hotel to KSL Capital Partners, told Varney the new owners wanted a young interior designer.

Varnery is suing for age discrimination, and the conversion of his property.

"He is very disappointed with the Mussers, that why he is suing them after all these years," he says.

We could not reach Dan Musser III, who remains chairman of the hotel or the Grand Hotel Holding Company, which is also named in the lawsuit, for comment.

The lawsuit is filed in Washtenaw County Circuit Court.

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