Businessman turns President
In 2016, billionaire real estate mogul and reality television personality Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. U.S. President and real estate developer Donald John Trump was born in 1946, in Queens, New York. In 1971, he became involved in large, profitable building projects in Manhattan. In 1980, he opened the Grand Hyatt, which made him the city’s best-known developer. In 2004, Trump began starring in the hit NBC reality series The Apprentice, which also spawned the offshoot The Celebrity Apprentice. Trump turned his attention to politics, and in 2015 he announced his candidacy for president of the United States on the Republican ticket. After winning a majority of the primaries and caucuses, Trump became the official Republican candidate for president on July 19, 2016. That November, Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States when he defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Early Life and Education
Donald John Trump was born on June 14, 1946, in Queens, New York, the fourth of five children of Frederick C. and Mary Macleod Trump. Frederick Trump was a builder and real estate developer who specialized in constructing and operating middle-income apartments in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn. Donald was an energetic, assertive child, and his parents sent him to the New York Military Academy at age 13, hoping the discipline of the school would channel his energy in a positive manner. Trump did well at the academy, both socially and academically, rising to become a star athlete and student leader by the time he graduated in 1964. He then entered Fordham University and two years later transferred to the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1968 with a degree in economics. During his years at college, Trump secured education deferments for the Vietnam War draft and ultimately a 1-Y medical deferment after he graduated.
New York Real Estate Developer
Trump followed his father into a career in real estate development, bringing his grander ambitions to the family business. As a student, Trump worked with his father during the summer and then joined his father’s company, Elizabeth Trump & Son, after graduation from college. He was able to finance an expansion of the company’s holdings by convincing his father to be more liberal in the use of loans based on the equity in the Trump apartment complexes. However, business was very competitive and profit margins were narrow. In 1971, Donald Trump was given control of the company, which he later renamed the Trump Organization. He also moved his residence to Manhattan, where he began to make important connections with influential people. Convinced of the city’s economic opportunity, Trump soon became involved in large building projects in Manhattan that would offer opportunities for earning high profits, using attractive architectural design and winning public recognition. When the Pennsylvania Central Railroad entered bankruptcy, Trump was able to obtain an option on the railroad’s yards on the West Side of Manhattan. When initial plans for apartments proved unfeasible because of the poor economic climate, Trump promoted the property as the location of a city convention center, and the city government selected it over two other sites in 1978. Trump’s offer to forego a fee if the center were named after his family, however, was turned down, along with his bid to build the complex, which was ultimately named in honor of Senator Jacob Javits. Trump’s business practices were called into question when, in 1973, the federal government filed a complaint against Trump, his father and their company alleging that they had discriminated against tenants and potential tenants based on their race, a violation of the Fair Housing Act, which is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Trump responded to the case in an interview published in the New York Times. “They are absolutely ridiculous,” he said of the Justice Department which filed the case. “We never have discriminated, and we never would. There have been a number of local actions against us, and we’ve won them all. We were charged with discrimination, and we proved in court that we did not discriminate.” After a lengthy legal battle, the case was settled in 1975. As part of the agreement, the Trump company had to train employees about the Fair Housing Act and inform the community about its fair housing practices. Trump wrote about the resolution of the case in his 1987 memoir Art of the Deal: “In the end, the government couldn’t prove its case, and we ended up taking a minor settlement without admitting any guilt.” Meanwhile Trump had set his sights on making a big splash in commercial real estate. In 1974, he obtained an option on one of Penn Central’s hotels, the Commodore, which was unprofitable but in an excellent location adjacent to Grand Central Station. The next year he signed a partnership agreement with the Hyatt Hotel Corporation, which did not have a large downtown hotel. Trump then worked out a complex deal with the city to win a 40-year tax abatement, arranged financing and then completely renovated the building, constructing a striking new facade of reflective glass designed by architect Der Scutt. When the hotel, renamed the Grand Hyatt, opened in 1980, it was instantly popular and proved an economic success, making Donald Trump the city’s best known developer in the process.
Expanding His Empire
In 1979, Trump leased a site on Fifth Avenue adjacent to the famous Tiffany & Company as the location for a monumental $200-million apartment-retail complex designed by Der Scutt. Opened in 1982, it was dubbed Trump Tower. The 58-story building featured a six-story atrium lined with pink marble and included an 80-foot waterfall. The luxurious building attracted well-known retail stores and celebrity renters and brought Trump national attention. During the same period Trump was investigating the profitable ca- sino gambling business, which was approved in New Jersey in 1977, and in 1980 he was able to acquire a piece of property in Atlantic City. He brought in his younger brother Robert to head up the complex project of acquiring the land, winning a gambling license and obtaining permits and financing. Holiday Inn Corporation, the parent company of Harrah’s casino hotels, offered a partnership, and the $250 million complex opened in 1984 as Harrah’s at Trump Plaza. Trump bought out Holiday Inn soon thereafter and renamed the facility Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. He also purchased a Hilton Hotels casino-hotel in Atlantic City when the corporation failed to obtain a gambling license and renamed the $320 million complex Trump’s Castle. Later, while it was under construction, he was able to acquire the largest hotel-casino in the world, the Taj Mahal at Atlantic City, which opened in 1990. In 2016, it was announced the Trump Taj Mahal would be closing its doors amid multiple bankruptcies throughout the years and a lengthy strike by workers. Trump himself had lost his last remaining ten percent interest in the company for the licensing of his name in March when Carl Icahn took over hoping to save the casino. Back in New York City, Donald Trump had purchased an apartment building and the adjacent BarbizonPlaza Hotel in New York City, which faced Central Park, with plans to build a large condominium tower on the site.
The tenants of the apartment building, however, who were protected by the city’s rent-control and rent-stabilization programs, fought Trump’s plans and won. He then renovated the Barbizon, renaming it Trump Parc. In 1985 he purchased 76 acres on the West Side of Manhattan for $88 million to build a complex to be called Television City, which was to consist of a dozen skyscrapers, a mall and a riverfront park. The huge development was to invite television production and feature the world’s tallest building, but community opposition and a long city-approval process delayed commencement of construction on the project. In 1988 he acquired the Plaza Hotel for $407 million and spent $50 million refurbishing it.
Ups and Downs of Business
Expanding his empire to the south, around this time Trump developed a condominium project in West Palm Beach, Florida, and in 1989 he branched out to purchase the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle for $365 million, which he later renamed the Trump Shuttle. After failing to be profitable, Trump defaulted on the loans and the airline venture ended in 1992 after a merger. In January 1990, Trump flew to Los Angeles to unveil a plan to build a $1 billion commercial and residential project featuring a 125-story office building. It was in 1990, however, that the real estate market declined, reducing the value of and income from Trump’s empire; though he had asserted his own net worth in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion at that time, a Forbes magazine investigation into his assets revealed that his existing debt likely brought the number closer to $500 million. In any event, the Trump Organization required a massive infusion of loans to keep it from collapsing, a situation which raised questions as to whether the corporation could survive bankruptcy. Some observers saw Trump’s decline as symbolic of many of the business, economic and social excesses that had arisen in the 1980s. Donald Trump eventually managed to climb back from a reported deficit of nearly $900 million, claiming to have reached a zenith of more than $2 billion. However, independent sources again questioned his math, estimating his worth at something closer to $500 million by 1997. In 2000, Trump construction made headlines again when a state appeals court ruled that he had the right to finish an 856-foot-tall condominium. The Coalition for Responsible Development had sued the city, charging it was violating zoning laws by letting the building reach heights that towered over everything in the neighborhood. The city has since moved to revise its rules to prevent similar projects, but the failure of Trump’s opponents to obtain an injunction allowed him to continue construction.
The 58-story building featured a six-story atrium lined with pink marble and included an 80-foot waterfall. The luxurious building attracted well-known retail stores and celebrity renters and brought Trump national attention.