The Philippine Star
DONALD TRUMP SONS DON JR. & ERIC ON WEALTH, NOT SPOILING KIDS, PASSION, FAME & SUCCESS
Our grandfather was an amazing man. He had a different success story, while my father wanted to be the King of New York.
What is it about the “Trump” name that makes developers from Manhattan, Florida, South Korea, Dubai, the Dominican Republic and here in the Philippines pay you millions of dollars to use your brand?
For the Trump brand name, when we build, we want only the best buildings in the world. We travel a lot to see real estate projects worldwide, and we always study what can be done better. There’s no question about it, a Trump Tower has to have the very best quality, amenities and facilities. People want that ultraluxurious lifestyle. Don Trump Jr: ‘My
father has always exercised honesty in his business. He is very straightforward and transparent, and I think it’s one of the reasons why he has earned so much respect
This is your first time in the Philippines, what about Asia? Your impressions of Manila?
We’ve been coming to Asia for a long time, about 15 trips already here. Metro Manila, I’m impressed at how bustling the city is — the action, the wealth, the aspiring middle-class, it’s really incredible. The Philippines is doing so many great things, and the Trump Tower Manila is a testament to all that.
Going back to your upbringing, despite the glitz and glamour of your dad’s lifestyle, he made sure you were not spoiled like other lost or confused rich kids of the world?
There were no handouts in our family. We literally had to work if we wanted a bite — that’s the thinking he passed on to us. As children, I remember we were made to mow the lawns, to cut down trees and do all kinds of chores. Out of all my friends, I believe I’m the only kid whose dad made us work to cut rebars; we laid bricks in construction sites and did other real work every summer for minimum wage. Our dad said that it’s important in the future that when we tell people to dig a hole, that you personally know how long it will take to dig that hole. He taught us the value of the dollar. Dad only “spoiled” us by giving us the best education and good homes.
How old were you when you did work for minimum wage pay?
I remember that at nine or 10 years old, I was given a sledgehammer to demolish walls, rooms and bathrooms, because Dad said he was going to rebuild. Dad would say: “In a couple of days, I’d like it totally clean.”
You’re like Tessie Sy Coson, eldest child of SM Group founder Henry Sy, who recounted to me that she was only 13 years old when her dad made her work after classes and not just on weekends or holidays. So that’s one way your dad trained you to work, starting early?
Yes, we’ve learned to work hard every day. As kids, we worked when not in school and also we followed him around his projects. The only things really glamorous which he gave us were our beautiful homes and great education. I studied in Georgetown, Don and Ivanka graduated from Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania.
You mentioned you always rode economy class in your business travels. Why?
We travel so much, it’s our not wanting to ever be too comfortable. It also makes the most sense to fly coach, we’re the first to hop in (smiles).
Top lessons learned from your dad?
My father always talks about the importance of family. We siblings, Don and Ivanka, we’re incredibly close to each other. Loyalty is also important to him, he’s also a guy who believes in the handshake deal. Another thing we’ve also learned from dad is passion, his love for buildings.
Is it really true your dad first saw Don’s future wife the former Wilhelmina model Vanessa Haydon and he introduced them to each
other? That’s called “kaw-siaw” in Chinese.
Yes, he introduced, and I think he has good taste.
Will your dad also introduce a future wife for you?
(Laughs) I already have a wonderful girlfriend.
Who is she, a model or a businesswoman?
Her name is Lara Yunaska, she works in the media business.
Forbes magazine estimates your dad’s net worth at US$2.9 billion. Is this accurate?
He always fights it, because it’s very low. They forgot about the many other assets he owns. I think it’s very much on the low side. At the end of the day, it’s not that important, what matters most is that our dad builds the best and has the top brands whether for buildings, hotels or golf courses. We’re now building the best project here in Asia, that’s I think more important than just an amount on a piece of paper.
How is it managing 22,450 employees in your Trump business empire?
Is it 22,450 already now? ( Laughs) I’m often asked how many employees we have in total and I never knew the exact answer, because we have a lot of businesses in our portfolio like 10 Trump hotels, the beauty pageants and many others.
How is it like growing up in the media spotlight, becoming instant celebrities?
For better or for worse, yes, we grew up in the spotlight, it’s part of our lives. I guess it’s important that you still should be yourself, that you speak your mind, but you have to represent the family correctly. At the end of the day, one has to be honest and project yourself in public positively. Despite the fame, you can still be yourself and let others see how much you really love the business.
Your family has hotel businesses, would you consider going into tourism, which has huge and still largely untapped potential here in the Philippines? I would love to have a Trump Hotel here.
JOEY ANTONIO: We’ll probably do a resort together here in the
Your dad was quoted by US media last month that he’s ready to be the vice-presidential running mate of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, your views on this?
ERIC: Alot of people believe that he should be president of the United States. You know, there’s not a single day when I walk the streets of New York City when someone doesn’t come up to me to say: “Please, please, ask your dad to run for president.” We really need a businessman as leader of our country, not a politician. We need a United States where people can still respect the dollar, where people are frugal. We need leaders who can bring the practices of the private enterprise into government, such as cutting down on too much frivolous spending. In America today,
there’s just too much waste!
Do you think Mitt Romney will win in your November election over President Obama?
I hope, for the future of the US, that Romney will win. He’s the right guy for the job. I really believe in his leadership.
Apart from millions of dollars, I heard, needed to license the Trump brand name, what other criteria do you have in choosing the business people you work with?
There are two key factors we look for in potential partners. First, the proposed project has to be the best. Second, we have to like our partners. We can, and we have, turned down projects. At the end of the day, we like to have fun, because there’s a certain element of lifestyle in our businesses. We like the Antonio family, especially Chairman Joey Antonio and his son Robbie. More than just the business, we choose partners we like, love and can enjoy dinner with.
Why is your business, the Trump Organization not a publicly listed firm?
We don’t like to report to others. We can go IPO and raise additional billions of dollars, but we love being a family business. We don’t like roadshows and all that, we don’t like to report to other shareholders, it’s who we are.
It’s interesting how you established your own Eric Trump Foundation six years ago, but your siblings Don and Ivanka do not have theirs. Why?
I started it to help terminally ill children at Saint Jude Children’s Hospital, which I think has a branch here in the Philippines. We help kids with leukemia and other ailments. My brother Don also helps with Operation Smile. Do you know for only $25, we can help cure a child with deformity and change his or her life? $25 is a very small, small amount but it will have a big impact on a child. I think Operation Smile’s first mission 30 years ago was here in the Philippines.
Why go into philanthropy? I believe with great fortunes come great responsibility, so with our family’s assets and many wealthy friends, we could help raise a lot of money to help others. Creating and heading this foundation is like a second career for me.
Speaking of second careers, if you were not Donald Trump’s son, what other career do you think you’d have chosen outside of business?
Medicine has always been a fascination for me. I’m a Type Aperson…
Maybe I’d be in surgery.
Your dad was once in crisis and was almost bankrupt, do you remember that time?
I was seven or eight years old then, that was in the early 1990s. My father was a great guy and he protected his kids from all the crises he has experienced — whether the divorces or financial difficulties. In crisis or not, Dad was always first in the office every day at 7 a.m. and he is also late to leave the office. There are many different types of fathers, but our dad was really great.
Yes, in the early 1990s, our father was US$900 million in debt, but he worked very hard to recover and he went to war with the banks. During that time, in Japan and the United States, crises brought down a lot of real estate developers.
Without counting your dad, who is the entrepreneur in the world whom you admire the most and why?
Frederick W. Smith, he created Federal Express based on a college thesis in his entrepreneurship class. You have to read his story. His thesis was for creating an overnight delivery service company which would use the hub and spoke system, that when a person wants to send a package anywhere it will send first to a hub wherein all packages are sorted out, then sent out. His professor then said: “You got to be kidding me! You mean to say that if a guy wants to send a package to the next town, the package has to first be sent to a centralized hub, sorted out and then sent?” The professor gave him a grade of D! Fred Smith went on to create FedEx as one of the world’s largest companies. By the way, that thesis of was done at Yale University.
Any other business people you admire?
Aside from Fred Smith, there are so many good business leaders around the world… great developers too… I admire the Tisch family in real estate, there’s also the more generic ones like the late Steve Jobs, and also Apple co-founder Stephen Wozniak. In the Philippines, chairman Joey Antonio here is a generation above me, and I’m impressed with how he’s an ideal role model. He very much reminds me of my father. I’ve seen their other project called Gramercy, the sheer size alone is impressive. People just don’t realize how hard it is to build a building, it’s a passion and it entails a lot of sacrifices.
What about the inevitable question of succession in the Trump business empire? How is your dad preparing for the future? Who will be the next big boss?
I think we’re very fortunate that we siblings work very well together. We each have our own niches, Don, Ivanka and I. We’ve each carved out our niche and responsibilities in the family business. We’ve always worked well together, with each focusing on our strong suits. We’re also very united, and I believe even in the future we work well better and are stronger as a whole than doing our own things alone.
So your dad seems to have discovered the right formula to prevent the usual disintegration of many family businesses by the third generation. Are there lessons other families can learn?
I think training of children, fiscal discipline and teaching people hard work are important. It’s sad that the statistics of many family businesses in the world, many have disastrous histories. Like there are families with one or two kids who don’t like to work, some would go to the office at 11 a.m., then leave the office at 4 p.m. Don, Ivanka and I, we all work every day and even on weekends. At 1 a.m. in the morning, people can still call me on my BlackBerry and I’ll pick up the phone to answer. In this Trump Tower Manila project with the Antonios, we do conference calls with them at different times of the day, like it’s 6 p.m. here in Manila and we’ll have conference call meeting with them at 6 a.m. in New York. Sometimes it’s 10 p.m. here in Manila, and 10 a.m. in New York. I believe hard work combined with some smarts, that is the recipe for success.
Workaholics like you and your brother, do you have any hobbies for relaxation?
(Laughs) One of our big businesses is golf courses, so I play golf. We love playing golf. Our dad is a great golfer… Actually, work is a great hobby for us. It’s got to be that you love the work that you’re doing, so it’s almost like a hobby and fun. There’s never a day that I do not enjoy going to work in the office. If we have two days of no work in the office, I’d already feel so antsy ( laughs).
Any suggestions on how we can make the Philippine economy better?
I believe the Philippines is doing a lot of things right. The current administration is totally against corruption, that is impressive for investors and for multinational companies. You’re creating more jobs, the monetary value of your currency is stable, great things are happening in this country and I think the people are aspiring for a better quality of life.
Your views on the future of Asia?
I think Asia is incredible. You have a huge population here hungry for a better life, you have great work ethic in this region. The economies are fast-growing, and the people in Asia want to achieve luxury, love brands and longing for a better quality of life.
I heard Ivanka is coming in August? You’re here only a day, when are you and Don going to explore our islands. Maybe Joey Antonio should bring you to Boracay or Palawan?
Yes, Ivanka will be here in August. Yes, I’ve been telling Robbie that the next time we come here, we should spend a week going to your islands.
A lot of books have been written about the success secrets of your dad Donald Trump, but from your perspective as a son, what do you think really makes him a success?
Our dad, he’s got an incredible way of marketing himself, based on honesty. Whether people like it or not, he speaks honestly and always from the heart.
I have a personal memory which I shall never forget and which I believe illustrates one of the many reasons why our dad is a success. Years ago he and I were with about 20 other people he was talking to, we were walking through the casino of the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. The place has a couple of thousand square feet in floor area and there were thousands of lights high up on the ceilings. We were riding the escalator, and there was our dad talking to 20 people, then suddenly he looked up, pointed and said: “That light is burned out.” There’s I think 20,000 lights in that huge casino, but dad just has this amazing eye for detail. I couldn’t forget that incident, I was then only seven or eight years old. It’s remarkable how observant our dad always is.