Who is he: American business magnate, television personality, and author, Donald Trump, "The Donald," built a New York real-estate empire only to see it taken away from him after several late 20th century downturns. Today, Trump makes his living – a handsome one – as "brand Trump." He appears in TV shows, entertains runs for the presidency and writes books.
Trump's lucrative media personality is a somewhat ironic development given that his reputation is as a successful wheeler-dealer. But it would seem today Trump capitalizes on that reputation rather than on actual real estate deals. Trump is said to be worth billions, but that, too, is controversial and suspect.
It wasn't always so. Trump was convinced that Manhattan was the key to substantial economic growth for his company, so he got involved in large building projects that were attractive architectural designs that could produce higher profit margins thanks to outstanding public recognition.
After the Pennsylvania Central Railroad filed for bankruptcy, Trump got an option on the railroad yards on the west side of the city. Trump wanted to build apartments on the site, but poor economic conditions in the late 1970s put that idea on hold. Donald decided to promote the site as a possible home for a convention center. In 1978, the city government selected Trump's site over two other sites in Manhattan.
Trump's bid to build the complex, as well as his request to forego his fee if the convention center was given the Trump name, were turned down by city officials. The convention center was named after Senator Jacob Javits.
In 1974, Trump bought the Commodore Hotel adjacent to Grand Central Station and entered into a business venture with the Hyatt Corporation. Hyatt needed a hotel in Manhattan. Donald worked out a complex 40-year tax abatement from the city, secured the financing and began completely renovation of the building. The striking reflective glass façade was the signature that Hyatt needed for exposure. The Grand Hyatt opened in 1980.
Trump married Ivana Zelnickova Winklmayr, a New York fashion model, in 1977. She became vice-president of his company after the birth of their son Donald Jr. in 1978. In 1979, Trump leased a site on Fifth Avenue and began building Trump Tower, a magnificent 58-story apartment-retail complex with a six-story atrium. The atrium was lined with pink marble and an 80-foot waterfall. The Tower opened in 1982 and it made Trump a nationally known personality.
The desire to own a gambling casino was a priority for Trump so he bought property in Atlantic City, New Jersey for this purpose. Trump won a gambling license, got all the necessary permits and licenses, and made a deal with the Holiday Inns Corporation, the parent company of Harrah's Casino Hotels, and opened Harrah's at Trump Plaza in 1982.
In 1986, Trump bought out Holiday Inns and renamed the casino Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. Trump also purchased another casino from Hilton Hotels and named it Trump Castle. Trump bought the Eastern Airlines Shuttle in 1989, and in 1990 Trump was able to make a deal on the largest-hotel casino in the world, the Taj Mahal at Atlantic City. It opened in 1990. All the expansion led to financial and personal issues. The Taj Mahal filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990 and Donald was plagued with credit and marital issues around the same time. Trump's net worth fell from $1.7 billion to a little over $500 million. He had to secure over $900 million in loans to keep the company solvent.
But Trump's real estate holdings in New York continued to grow with the addition of Trump World Tower, a 72-story residential tower across from the United Nations, and the purchase of the Plaza Hotel and Trump Parc, which was the former Barbizon Plaza adjacent to Central Park. Things were almost back to normal in the 1990s, so Trump decided to build a condominium project in West Palm Beach and he started a $1 billion, 125-story residential and commercial complex in Los Angeles.
Donald divorced Ivana in 1992 and married Marla Maples in 1993, but that marriage ended in 1997. In 2005, Trump married Melania Knauss, one year after his hit TV program The Apprentice made its debut on NBC. Trump acted like a future candidate for President in 2011, but withdrew his name before the race got started.
Background: Donald John Trump was born in Queens, New York on June 14, 1946. Trump is the fourth of five children. His father was the builder and real estate developer, Fredrick C. Trump. Donald was sent to the New York Military Academy at 13 in order to help the energetic and assertive adolescent learn a little discipline.
By the time Trump graduated in 1964, he was a student leader and a star athlete. Trump studied at Fordham University for two years, but transferred to the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from Penn with a degree in economics in 1968.
Donald joined his father's company, The Trump Organization, after graduating. Trump convinced his father to be more liberal when using loans secured by the equity in their apartment complexes.
Trump used the loan money to finance the company's expansion. Profit margins were narrow and the competition was tough, but Trump managed to move to Manhattan and meet an assortment of influential people, which helped expand the business.
Donald Trump's famous career had begun and fiat-money leverage was a key ingredient to his success.