‘Never Enough – Don­ald Trump and the Pur­suit of Suc­cess’

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

I didn’t re­ally know all that much about Don­ald Trump be­fore he se­cured the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

I re­ally en­joyed read­ing his books and thought he was re­ally lik­able, es­pe­cially as we seem to have a fair amount in com­mon: We share the same birth­day, nei­ther of us drinks al­co­hol or smokes, we both built our for­tunes on real es­tate (although he, of course, has made more money from it than I have), we have both writ­ten a num­ber of books on suc­cess and wealth cre­ation, have both owned mod­el­ling agen­cies, share a taste for beau­ti­ful women and both have a keen sense for self-mar­ket­ing and PR.

I hope though that this is ev­ery­thing we have in com­mon. Over the last few months, my per­cep­tion of Trump has be­come much more crit­i­cal, and this bi­og­ra­phy only served to con­firm my shift in opin­ion.

Let me make one thing clear to be­gin with: this is a crit­i­cal bi­og­ra­phy and I do not share the au­thor’s (left-wing) po­lit­i­cal views, which is why I am un­able to agree with a num­ber of his judge­ments and ten­den­cies. Nev­er­the­less, the book by Michael D’An­to­nio is rich in de­tail and well worth read­ing. It is the prod­uct of in­ten­sive re­search and count­less in­ter­views. The au­thor spent more than ten hours in di­rect con­ver­sa­tion with Don­ald Trump (who clearly didn’t re­alise that the book would ul­ti­mately be so crit­i­cal of him). He also in­ter­viewed Trump’s three chil­dren and his first two wives, and had lengthy dis­cus­sions with a num­ber of Trump’s clos­est friends and staunch­est op­po­nents.

Trump comes from a rich fam­ily, the son of a man whose for­tune has been es­ti­mated at around $200 mil­lion. The au­thor never tires of bring­ing this fact up, and it is clear that he is try­ing to put dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on a num­ber of Trump’s achieve­ments.

Which­ever way you cut it, it is still re­mark­able that this son of a rich busi­ness­man man­aged to build a for­tune of be­tween $4 and 9 bil­lion, es­pe­cially given the fact that so many chil­dren from wealthy back­grounds strug­gle to even hold on to their money, let alone grow it to any­where near this ex­tent. But this is where the ques­tions be­gin, and the au­thor doesn’t shy away from re­peat­edly ask­ing: just how rich is Don­ald Trump?

Trump’s wealth didn’t sud­denly emerge as a point of con­tention when he de­clared that he would be run­ning for pres­i­dent, it has al­ways been a topic sur­rounded in con­tro­versy. To an­swer this ques­tion you first have to de­ter­mine the value of the Trump brand name.

In 2010, Trump claimed that in­de­pen­dent asses­sors val­ued the Trump name at $3 bil­lion (p. 9). At other times, he has claimed that the brand is worth as much as $6 bil­lion (p. 275). You can ar­gue about which of these fig­ures is clos­est to the truth un­til you are blue in the face, es­pe­cially as Trump is well-known for mas­sively over-ex­ag­ger­at­ing the ex­tent of his wealth, as the au­thor re­peat­edly demon­strates.

Whether the Trump brand name is worth as much to­day is an­other point of con­tention. I think that his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign has ac­tu­ally dam­aged the value of his brand. After all, there are as many, if not more, peo­ple who re­ject his pol­i­tics, as there are those who sup­port him. The au­thor uses a range of ex­am­ples to demon­strate that sim­ply ap­ply­ing the Trump name to an as­set does not au­to­mat­i­cally in­crease its value, as Don­ald Trump has pre­vi­ously claimed (p. 198).

No reader can avoid ques­tion­ing Trump’s cred­i­bil­ity, es­pe­cially as it is clear that Trump’s ten­dency to ex­ag­ger­ate has been a re­cur­ring theme through­out his en­tire life.

Trump’s habit of bound­less ex­ag­ger­a­tion is one of the qual­i­ties I like least about him, in par­tic­u­lar as it demon­strates that he has a more than flex­i­ble ap­proach to the truth.

For ex­am­ple, he once claimed that his com­pany owned 22,000 apart­ments when the fig­ure was re­ally 12,000 (p. 145). He also claimed that his stake in a real es­tate de­vel­op­ment project was 50% even though it was re­ally 30%. Why? Be­cause, ac­cord­ing to Trump, “if the seventy per­cent owner puts up all of the money, I re­ally own more than thirty per­cent. And I have al­ways felt I own fifty per­cent, from that stand­point.” (p. 275).

When asked why he ex­ag­ger­ates, Trump replied: “I think ev­ery­body does. Who wouldn’t?” (p. 275). In his book, “The Art of the Deal”, Trump ad­mit­ted: “A lit­tle hy­per­bole never hurts. I call it truth­ful hy­per­bole. It’s an in­no­cent form of ex­ag­ger­a­tion and a very ef­fec­tive pro­mo­tion” (p. 186).

His “lit­tle ex­ag­ger­a­tions” in­clude claims that Queen Elis­a­beth II (who last vis­ited the US in 1983) asked if she could bor­row his heli­copter the next time she, “is over in this coun­try” (p. 191).

D’An­to­nio demon­strates that Trump’s ex­ag­ger­a­tions are of­ten more than just “lit­tle” and that they are far less than ‘truth­ful’: “In his ef­fort to sell his me­moir, Trump’s hype in­cluded so many ex­ag­ger­ated claims that track­ing them was al­most im­pos­si­ble.” (p. 186).

The au­thor shows that Trump has al­ways dif­fered from other wealthy in­di­vid­u­als in that he con­stantly seeks to mar­ket his wealth and suc­cess.

While many rich peo­ple are un­com­fort­able when they ap­pear in the Forbes’ list of the world’s rich­est peo­ple (fear­ing envy, black­mail or kid­nap­ping), Trump is one of the few who reg­u­larly com­plains that his wealth is mas­sively un­der­es­ti­mated. In 1997, for in­stance, when Forbes re­ported that Trump had a for­tune of $1.4 bil­lion, Trump re­sponded by claim­ing the mag­a­zine’s fig­ures were wrong and that he was re­ally worth $3.7 bil­lion. At the end of the 1990s, as Forbes es­ti­mated his for­tune at $1.6 bil­lion, Trump in­sisted that the cor­rect fig­ure was $4.5 bil­lion. (p. 241)

PR and pub­lic recog­ni­tion have al­ways im­por­tant to Trump than wealth.

“The one con­sis­tent el­e­ment in all of these in­ter­ests was the value he placed on pub­lic­ity, which he sought with the skill of some­one who un­der­stood that celebrity is power, re­porters are of­ten lazy about facts, and im­age can trump re­al­ity... Trump be­gins each day with a sheaf of pa­pers

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