Donald Trump is an American businessman, former television personality, and the 45th president of the United States. He began his real estate career at his father's company, Elizabeth Trump and Son, which he later renamed the Trump Organization. He rose to public prominence after concluding a number of successful real estate deals in Manhattan and New York City, and his company now owns and develops lodging and golf courses around the world. Trump partly or completely owned several beauty pageants between 1996 and 2015. He has marketed his name to many building projects and commercial products. Trump's unsuccessful business ventures have included several casino and hotel bankruptcies, the folding of his New Jersey Generals football team, and the now-defunct Trump University.
After being inaugurated as U.S. president in January 2017, Trump resigned all management roles within the Trump Organization, and delegated company management to his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, in response to concerns about conflicts of interest. Trump retained his financial stake in the business.
Trump has marketed his name on a large number of building projects as well as commercial products and services, achieving mixed success doing so for himself, his partners, and investors in the projects. In 2011, Forbes' financial experts estimated the value of the Trump brand at $200 million. Trump disputed this valuation, saying his brand was worth about $3 billion.
Many developers pay Trump to market their properties and to be the public face for their projects. For that reason, Trump does not own many of the buildings that display his name. According to Forbes, this portion of Trump's empire, actually run by his children, is by far his most valuable, having a $562 million valuation. According to Forbes, there are 33 licensing projects under development including seven "condo hotels" (the seven Trump International Hotel and Tower developments). In June 2015, Forbes pegged the Trump brand at $125 million as retailers like Macy's Inc. and Serta Mattresses began dropping Trump-branded products.
The value of the Trump brand may have fallen due to his presidential campaign. After his 2016 campaign started, an internal Young & Rubicam study of Trump's brand among high-income consumers showed "plummeting" ratings for traits such as "prestigious", "upper class", and "glamorous" at the end of 2015, suggesting that Trump's various businesses could face market difficulties and financing challenges in the future. Some consumers say they are avoiding purchasing Trump-branded products and services as a protest against Trump and his campaign. Bookings and foot traffic at Trump-branded hotels and casinos fell off sharply in 2016, primarily driven by a decrease in visits to the properties by women. Following the release of the Access Hollywood tape recordings in October 2016, the value of the Trump brand was reported to have taken a further hit, with estimates of the reduction in the brand's added value of up to 13 percentage points.
Table Of Contents
- fiber_manual_recordEarly Career in Real Estate
- fiber_manual_recordTrump Tower
- fiber_manual_recordBusiness Bankruptcies
- fiber_manual_recordGolf Courses
- fiber_manual_recordProfessional Sports
- fiber_manual_recordBeauty Pageants
- fiber_manual_recordTrump University
- fiber_manual_recordDonald J. Trump Foundation
While in college, Trump began his real estate career at his father's company, Elizabeth Trump and Son, which focused on middle-class rental housing in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. One of Trump's first projects was the revitalization of the foreclosed Swifton Village apartment complex in Cincinnati, Ohio, which his father, Fred Trump, had purchased for $5.7 million in 1962, equivalent to $46 million in 2017. Fred and Donald Trump became involved in the project. By the time Trump graduated from college in 1968, he was receiving the 2019 equivalent of $1,000,000 a year in untaxed gifts from his father. At age 23, he made an unsuccessful commercial foray into show business, investing $70,000 to become co-producer of the 1970 Broadway comedy Paris Is Out!
He was made the president of the company in 1971 and, in one of his first acts, renamed the company the Trump Organization. In that year, he also moved to Manhattan, where he took part in larger construction projects and used attractive architectural design to win public recognition. In 1973 the Justice Department alleged that the Trump discriminated against prospective black tenants, rather than just screening out low-income applicants as they said. The Department of Justice said that black "testers" were sent to more than half a dozen buildings and were denied apartments, but a similar white tester would then be offered an apartment in the same building. Ultimately the Trumps' company and federal officials signed an agreement under which the Trumps made no admission of wrongdoing, and under which qualified minority applicants would be presented by the Urban League.
By 1973, Trump as president of the Trump Organization oversaw 14,000 apartments across Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. In 1978, the city selected his site on the West Side of Manhattan as the location for its Jacob Javits Convention Center, after finding that he was the only bidder who had a site ready for the project. He received a broker's fee on the property sale.
Trump's first major deal in Manhattan was the development of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in 1978 next to Grand Central Terminal. The aging brick facade of the Commodore Hotel was sheathed in glass, and the existing lobby of the hotel was replaced by an atrium. The Commodore was thus presented as a remodeled Hyatt hotel at its opening in September 1980, helping to bring Trump to public prominence. Part of this deal was a $1 million loan Fred Trump's Village Construction Corp. made to help repay draws on a Chase Manhattan credit line Fred had arranged for Donald as he built the hotel, as well as a $70 million construction loan jointly guaranteed by Fred and the Hyatt hotel chain. Fred was a silent partner in the initiative, due to his reputation having been damaged in New York real estate circles, after investigations into windfall profits and other abuses in his real estate projects, making Donald the front man in the deal. According to journalist Wayne Barrett, Fred's two-decade friendship with a top Equitable officer, Ben Holloway, helped convince them to agree to the project. Donald negotiated a 40-year tax abatement for the hotel with the city, in exchange for a share of the venture's profits. The deal helped reduce the risk of the project and provided an incentive for investors to participate.
In 1981, Trump purchased and renovated a building that would become the Trump Plaza, on Third Avenue in New York City. Trump made this into an apartment cooperative, in which tenants partly owned the building.
In 1983, Trump completed development of Trump Tower, a 58-story skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan. The project involved complicated negotiations with different parties for the Bonwit Teller building, the land, and the airspace above a neighboring building. When negotiations were completed in 1978, The New York Times wrote "That Mr. Trump was able to obtain the location ... is testimony to persistence and to his skills as a negotiator."
Trump Tower occupies the former site of the architecturally significant Bonwit Teller flagship store, which Trump demolished in 1980 after purchasing the site. There was controversy when valuable Art Deco bas-relief sculptures on its facade, which had been promised to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Trump, were destroyed on the orders of the Trump Organization during the demolition process. In addition, the demolition of the Bonwit Teller store was criticized for a contractor's use of some 200 illegal Polish immigrant workers, who, during the rushed demolition process, were reportedly paid 4–5 dollars per hour for work in 12-hour shifts. Trump testified in 1990 that he rarely visited the site and was unaware of the illegal workers, some of whom lived at the site and who were known as the "Polish Brigade". A judge ruled in 1991 that the builders engaged in "a conspiracy to deprive the funds of their rightful contribution", referring to the pension and welfare funds of the labor unions. However, on appeal, parts of that ruling were overturned, and the record became sealed when the long-running labor lawsuit was settled in 1999, after 16 years in court.
Trump Tower was developed by Trump and the Equitable Life Assurance Company, and was designed by architect Der Scutt of Swanke Hayden Connell. Trump Tower houses both the primary penthouse condominium residence of Donald Trump and the headquarters of the Trump Organization. The building includes shops, cafés, offices, and residences. Its five-level atrium features a 60-foot-high waterfall spanned by a suspended walkway, below a skylight. Trump Tower was the setting of the NBC television show The Apprentice including a fully functional television studio set. When the building was completed, its condominiums sold quickly and the tower became a tourist attraction.
Although Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy, hotel and casino businesses of his have declared bankruptcy six times between 1991 and 2009 due to its inability to meet required payments and to re-negotiate debt with banks, owners of stock and bonds and various small businesses (unsecured creditors). Because the businesses used Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they were allowed to operate while negotiations proceeded. Trump was quoted by Newsweek in 2011 saying, "I do play with the bankruptcy laws—they're very good for me."
The six bankruptcies were the result of over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (1992), Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Castle Hotel and Casino (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009). Trump said "I've used the laws of this country to pare debt. ... We'll have the company. We'll throw it into a chapter. We'll negotiate with the banks. We'll make a fantastic deal. You know, it's like on The Apprentice. It's not personal. It's just business."
The Trump Organization operates many golf courses and resorts in the United States and around the world. The number of golf courses that Trump owns or manages is about 18, according to Golfweek. Trump's personal financial disclosure with the Federal Elections Commission stated that his golf and resort revenue for the year 2015 was roughly $382 million.
In 2006, Trump bought the Menie Estate in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, creating a golf resort against the wishes of local residents on an area designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. A 2011 independent documentary, You've Been Trumped, by British filmmaker Anthony Baxter, chronicled the golf resort's construction and the subsequent struggles between the locals and Donald Trump. Despite Trump's promises of 6,000 jobs, in 2016, by his own admission, the golf course has created only 200 jobs. In June 2019, Scottish Natural Heritage ruled that the golf course had "destroyed" the sand dune system, causing permanent habitat loss, and recommended that the SSSI status be revoked.
In April 2014, Trump purchased the Turnberry hotel and golf resort in Ayrshire, Scotland, which is a regular fixture in the Open Championship rota. In June 2015, Trump's appeal objecting to an offshore windfarm (Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm) within sight of the golf links was denied. In December 2015, Trump's attempt to prevent the windfarm being built within sight of his golf course was dismissed by five justices at the UK Supreme Court in the case of Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd v The Scottish Ministers.
In 1983, Trump's New Jersey Generals became a charter member of the new United States Football League (USFL). Before the inaugural season began in 1983, Trump sold the franchise to Oklahoma oil magnate J. Walter Duncan, and bought it back after the season. He then attempted to hire longtime Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, but the deal fell apart because he was unwilling to meet Shula's demand for an apartment in Trump Tower. Trump ended up hiring former New York Jets coach Walt Michaels. The USFL played its first three seasons during the spring and summer, but Trump convinced the majority of the owners of other USFL teams to move the USFL 1986 schedule to the fall, directly opposite the National Football League (NFL), arguing that it would eventually force a merger with the NFL, which would supposedly increase their investment significantly.
Before the 1985 season, Trump signed Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Doug Flutie to a $7 million 5-year personal-services contract. That made Flutie the highest-paid pro football player at the time, as well as the highest-paid rookie in any professional sport. After the season, the Generals merged with the Houston Gamblers. Trump owned 50% of the newly merged team, which would stay in New Jersey and retain the Generals nickname. At the time, Trump boasted "it's probably the best team in football." (New Jersey and Houston both had good but not great seasons in 1985: they each made the playoffs but lost first-round games.)
The Generals never played another game. The 1986 season was cancelled after the USFL won a pyrrhic victory in an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL: the NFL technically lost the suit, but the USFL was awarded just $3.00 in cash damages. The USFL, which was down to just 7 active franchises from a high of 18, folded soon afterward.
Trump had expressed an interest in purchasing the Cleveland Indians for $13 million in a February 15, 1983 letter sent by Kenneth Molloy to team president Gabe Paul. Trump increased his offer to $34 million later that same year. His lack of commitment to keep the franchise in Cleveland beyond three years cost him any chance of completing the acquisition.
Trump remained involved with other sports after the Generals folded, operating golf courses in several countries. He also hosted several boxing matches in Atlantic City at the Trump Plaza, including Mike Tyson's 1988 fight against Michael Spinks, and at one time acted as a financial advisor for Tyson.
In 1989 and 1990, Trump lent his name to the Tour de Trump cycling stage race which was an attempt to create an American equivalent of European races such as the Tour de France or the Giro d'Italia. The name was suggested by his business partner, basketball commentator Billy Packer, who originally planned to call the race the Tour de Jersey. The first stage of the inaugural race ended in the college town of New Paltz, New York where picketers greeted the riders with anti-Trump signs. The second stage began in New York City, and Mayor Ed Koch, who had denounced Trump as "one of the great hucksters", boycotted the event. The last stage of the 10-stage 837-mile race was even more controversial. Going into the last stage, Belgian rider Eric Vanderaerden was favored to win the tour championship, but lost at least 1 minute 20 seconds when he took a wrong turn on a poorly marked course in Atlantic City, riding a quarter-mile or more out of his way. He ended up finishing third overall, behind tour winner Dag-Otto Lauritzen (a Norwegian rider with the American-owned 7-Eleven team) and runner-up Henk Lubberding, who also took a wrong turn during the last stage. Trump withdrew his sponsorship after the second Tour de Trump in 1990, because his other business ventures were experiencing financial woes. The race continued for several more years as the Tour DuPont.
Trump submitted a stalking-horse bid on the Buffalo Bills when it came up for sale following Ralph Wilson's death in 2014; he was ultimately outbid, as he expected, and Kim and Terrence Pegula won the auction. During his 2016 presidential run, he was critical of the NFL's updated concussion rules, complaining on the campaign trail that the game has been made "soft" and "weak", saying a concussion is just "a ding on the head." He accused referees of throwing penalty flags needlessly just to be seen on television "so their wives see them at home."
From 1996 until 2015, when he sold his interests, Trump owned part or all of the Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants.
Miss Universe debuted on CBS, and both Miss Universe and Miss USA moved to NBC in 2002. In 2012, Trump won a $5 million arbitration award against a contestant who claimed the show was rigged. In 2015, NBC and Univision both ended their business relationships with the Miss Universe Organization during Trump's presidential campaign . Trump later announced that he had become the sole owner of the Miss Universe Organization by purchasing NBC's stake. He sold his own interests in the pageant shortly afterwards, to WME/IMG.
In 1999, a few years after buying into Miss Universe, Trump founded a modeling company, Trump Model Management, which operates in the SoHo neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. Together with another Trump company, Trump Management Group LLC, Trump Model Management has brought hundreds of foreign fashion models into the United States to work in the fashion industry since 2000. This business and the beauty pageants overlapped somewhat, with various pageant contestants getting modelling contracts.
Trump University LLC was an American for-profit education company that ran a real estate training program from 2005 until at least 2010. After multiple lawsuits, it is now defunct. It was founded by Donald Trump and his associates, Michael Sexton and Jonathan Spitalny. The company offered courses in real estate, asset management, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation, charging between $1,500 and $35,000 per course. In 2005 the operation was notified by New York State authorities that its use of the word "university" violated state law. After a second such notification in 2010, the name of the operation was changed to the "Trump Entrepreneurial Institute". Trump was also found personally liable for failing to obtain a business license for the operation.
In 2013 the state of New York filed a $40 million civil suit claiming that Trump University made false claims and defrauded consumers. In addition, two class-action civil lawsuits relating to Trump University were filed in federal court; they named Donald Trump personally as well as his companies. All three cases were settled in November 2016, after Trump's election to the presidency, for a total of $25 million.
Trump repeatedly criticized a judge, Gonzalo P. Curiel, who is overseeing two of the Trump University cases. During campaign speeches and interviews up until June 2016, Trump called Curiel a "hater of Donald Trump", saying his rulings have been unfair, and that Curiel "happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that's fine", while suggesting that the judge's ethnicity posed a conflict of interest in light of Trump's proposal to build a wall on the United States–Mexican border. Many legal experts were critical of Trump's attacks on Curiel, often viewing them as racially charged, unfounded, and an affront to the concept of an independent judiciary. On June 7, 2016, Trump issued a lengthy statement saying that his criticism of the judge had been "misconstrued" and that his concerns about Curiel's impartiality were not based upon ethnicity alone, but also upon rulings in the case.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation is a U.S.-based private foundation established in 1988 for the initial purpose of giving away proceeds from the book Trump: The Art of the Deal by Trump and Tony Schwartz. The foundation's funds mostly come from donors other than Trump, who has not given personally to the charity since 2008. The top donors to the foundation from 2004 to 2014 were Vince and Linda McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment, who donated $5 million to the foundation after Trump appeared at WrestleMania in 2007.
The foundation's tax returns show that it has given to healthcare and sports-related charities, as well as conservative groups. In 2009, for example, the foundation gave $926,750 to about 40 groups, with the biggest donations going to the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation ($100,000), the New York Presbyterian Hospital ($125,000), the Police Athletic League ($156,000), and the Clinton Foundation ($100,000).
Starting in 2016 The Washington Post began reporting on how the foundation raised and granted money. The Post uncovered several potential legal and ethical violations, such as alleged self-dealing and possible tax evasion. The New York State Attorney General is investigating the foundation "to make sure it is complying with the laws governing charities in New York." A Trump spokesman called the investigation a "partisan hit job". On October 3, 2016, the New York Attorney General's office notified the Trump Foundation that it was in violation of New York laws regarding charities, and ordered it to immediately cease its fundraising activities "in New York".