He has friends in high places, he has been as low as you can get but the man behind the great American myth is Donald Trump. Where did he come from? Where did he go to? What did he do in between?
Donald Trump is an enigma, a man of many faces, a man of great power and he has literally been there and done it all in the world of property and business. There are few people who have risen again like Donald Trump after being written off time and time again but who is the man behind the myth? Who is Donald Trump?
Donald John Trump was born in 1946, the fourth of five children to a real estate developer from New York City. His father set up the original family business, The Trump Organization which would go on to be one of the most recognisable names of the 20th century.
It appears that Donald Trump was greatly influenced by his father and upon leaving university in 1968 he decided to work for his father’s real estate business on a fulltime basis. There begins the great mans love of property and his willingness to take risks, some which worked and others which crashed badly. His first venture was the renovation of the Commodore Hotel into the Grand Hyatt from which he then moved onto the infamous Trump Tower in New York City.
When his father decided to take a back seat and step away from the day to day running of the family’s property business it was Donald who stepped up to the mark. Now he could really let lose and begin his great love affair, divorce and remarriage to the property sector of the US.
Donald Trump the business man
While Trump officially joined the family business after graduating he actually became involved in his first property venture prior to leaving college in his early 20s. The family business acquired a foreclosed apartment complex in Cincinnati and they completely revamped the operation turning a 1200 unit complex with a 66% occupancy rate into a 100% occupancy complex in less than a year. Once the development was complete they sold the complex for $12 million and banked a $6 million profit in no time at all!
In 1972 Donald Trump began to scour the US in search of the next boom state, the next boom city, finally choosing to move lock stock and barrel to Manhattan. His first action in Manhattan was to acquire the rights to develop Penn Central on the West Side and revitalise the old Commodore Hotel which we touched on above. This was Trumps first real experience of dealing with local government and he found they loved him, willing to offer him a number of serious tax concessions in exchange for investment into the area. Donald Trump duly obliged!
The next stage in his master plan
Donald Trump is one of life’s chancers, he is one of life’s risk takers and if he sees something he wants he will do his best to get it. He has been involved in controversy, flip-flopped his political beliefs to meet his own ends and been seen out and about with every power magnet in the US. However, even by his standards the Javits Convention Center in New York City was a major controversy.
Trump had been a leading light in trying to find a location for the new Javits Center and low and behold the final location was a property on which Donald Trump had acquired an option to purchase some years earlier. Already heavily involved with the project he was now in charge of the development and put forward a $110 million budget which was accepted by the city. However, the project was completed late and well beyond budget, in fact estimates vary between $750 million and $1 billion – so any where between seven times and nine times over budget!
It now seemed that everywhere that Donald Trump went controversy was not far behind, he led and many more people followed until that fateful time in 1989 when financial disaster struck.
Trump hits the buffers
For many people the period between 1989 and 1997 would have either finished them off or saw an early retirement. Unable to cover his loans as the economy took a turn for the worse Trump was in trouble, he owed hundreds of millions to the bank, he had bond holders chasing him all over the country and the value of his assets was plummeting. Surely there was no way out?
As the situation worsened Donald Trump’s business ventures were pushed into business bankruptcy and the great man himself was on the edge of a very large precipice with $900 million of personal debt and no way to pay it back. A succession of businesses were put into Chapter 11 protection with many returning as viable ventures after Trump gave up majority control to his creditors in exchange for lower interest payments on his debt.
Amazingly he managed to keep hold of Trump Towers and control of his three casino ventures in Atlantic City. By 1994 much of Trumps personal debt had been repaid and that which was still outstanding was later refinanced when his business operation began to pick up again. Between 1989 and 1997 a great number of Donald Trump’s business flirted with bankruptcy only to amazingly return with him still at the helm.
There can only ever be one Donald Trump, the man who had his fingers in more pies than a pie maker, the man who flirted with what would have been the largest personal bankruptcy of all time but the man who returned time and time again apparently fitter and stronger.
Love him or hate him it is a testament to his skill in the world of property that he still has the trust of investors and banks even after serving them large losses along the way. He is now into everything from hotels to casinos to golf courses although he has often left behind a string of broken promises. Donald Trump will never change, but then maybe it would be a very boring property market without him?