The Trump Organization Business Information, Profile, and History
New York, New York 10022
Donald J. Trump established The Trump Organization in 1980 as the umbrella company for all of his real estate operations and corporate affiliates. In addition to the numerous luxury residential real estate developments in New York City, Mr. Trump's holdings include superior office buildings, hotels, casinos, golf courses, recreational facilities, a modeling and talent agency and an international beauty pageant organization. The quintessential businessman, Mr. Trump has always been committed to taking a personal and direct involvement in all aspects of his projects.
History of The Trump Organization
The Trump Organization presides over the assets of the Trump family and serves as the umbrella for the many business interests of the flamboyant realtor Donald Trump. These assets consist of prime residential and commercial properties in New York City, including Trump Tower; the Trump International Hotel and Tower; the office building at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan; Trump World Tower, near the United Nations in New York; and other luxury residential real estate. Other Trump Organization assets include interests in a Florida resort, a skyscraper in Seoul, South Korea, a string of golf courses, and the Miss Universe Organization, which runs the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe beauty pageants. The Trump Organization also owns a 56 percent interest in the publicly traded company Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. This company owns and manages three casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as well as several other gaming establishments. Donald Trump established a high-profile business empire in the 1980s that almost collapsed under a mountain of debt during the 1990-91 recession. Although forced to divest himself of some properties, he remained an important presence in Manhattan real estate development. The star of a popular television reality show, "The Apprentice," in 2004, and author of hit business books, including The Art of the Deal and How to Get Rich, Donald Trump's public persona was a key element of his business empire. Even his critics agreed that having his name on a property added significantly to its value. His successful marketing earned him the nickname "the human logo."
Father Fred Trump's Career: 1927-74
Fred Trump represented his life as a climb from poverty to riches, but in his muckraking biography of Donald Trump, Wayne Barrett reported that the elder Trump's father also was engaged in the real estate business, and left a comfortable estate to his widow and children on his death in 1918. Fred Trump built about 300 houses in the New York City borough of Queens from 1927 to 1932, when the market dried up in the depths of the Great Depression. His career revived in 1934, when he was able to acquire a list of serviceable mortgages from a bankrupt Brooklyn realtor. Financing from the newly created Federal Housing Administration enabled Trump to build many more Brooklyn homes, typically selling for $6,000 apiece. During World War II he built FHA-backed housing for naval personnel and shipyard workers near Virginia and Pennsylvania shipyards.
Between 1947 and 1949 Trump completed Shore Haven, a 1,314-unit apartment complex of six-story apartment buildings on a 14-acre site in southern Brooklyn. An even larger development, 2,000-unit Beach Haven, followed. His biggest project was Trump Village in Coney Island. Consisting of 4,600 Brooklyn apartments in seven 23-story buildings--five of them cooperatives, two rental--it was completed in 1965. This one was constructed with state, rather than federal, funding and essentially ended Fred Trump's career as a builder. Previously said to have padded his costs to obtain excessive FHA mortgage money, he was now accused in public testimony of having fraudulently lined his pockets with state funds. Trump ultimately returned $1.2 million and, his reputation under a cloud, was unable to obtain funding for further large residential projects he had planned on the sites of former Coney Island amusement parks.
Donald Trump joined the family business in 1968 upon graduation from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. By 1974 he was president (with his father as chairman of the board) of an assortment of Trump entities, laying claim to the management of 48 privately held corporations and 15 family partnerships. His principal job was managing the apartments, whose number varied between 10,000 and 22,000, according to different estimates. The value of the Trump empire was estimated in the early 1970s at $200 million by Fred Trump and between $40 million and $100 million by other sources.
Acquiring Manhattan Real Estate: 1974-88
Donald Trump was determined to take the enterprise into Manhattan. As head of the Trump Organization--which at the time had no legal existence--he took out, in 1974, an option (with no money down) to purchase railyards along the Hudson River north and south of Midtown, which were owned by the bankrupt Penn Central Transportation Co. Trump planned to build a huge residential complex on the 76-acre northern segment, but opposition by West Side resident groups made the plan unfeasible until the 1990s. He persuaded the city to build a new convention center on the 44-acre southern segment. Although unable to win the construction contract, he collected a $500,000 broker's commission.
Trump also was interested in Penn Central's decaying Commodore Hotel, on East 42nd Street just east of Grand Central Station. Eventually a deal was reached in 1976 whereby a state agency received the property and leased it for 99 years to a Trump entity, which would share in the profits with the city. Trump, who obtained an unprecedented 40-year tax abatement from the city--the first ever granted for a commercial property--then lined up a construction loan guaranteed by his father and the Hyatt Corporation, which became the joint partner. The shell of the hotel was enclosed in a chrome-and-mirrored-glass facade. Completed in 1980, the rehabilitated structure opened as the 1,400-room Grand Hyatt Hotel.
Trump's signature building was the Trump Tower, built on the northeast corner of 56th Street and Fifth Avenue. Assembling lots, purchasing air rights, and securing rezoning enabled him to put up a 58-story office, retail, and residential complex with a six-story atrium shopping mall and a sawtooth exterior shape of 28 different surfaces, cascading in a bronze-and-dark-glass sheath. The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, which owned the land and helped obtain financing from Chase Manhattan Bank, was Trump's joint partner. Completed in 1983 at a cost of $201 million, the building was a hit. By 1986, 251 of the 268 condominium apartments had been sold for a total of $277 million. The partnership retained ownership of the retail and office space and won a ten-year tax abatement in court. Trump installed his family in a penthouse double triplex and bought out Equitable in 1986.
Following on Trump Tower's heels, the 36-story, Y-shaped Trump Plaza residential cooperative at Third Avenue and 61st Street was completed in 1984 at a cost of $125 million. More of a problem was 106 Central Park South, a 15-story apartment building Trump bought in 1981 along with the neighboring, 38-story Barbizon Plaza Hotel (for which he paid only $13 million but received a $65 million mortgage loan). He envisioned a huge condo on the combined sites, but was unable to oust the rent-regulated tenants, who were protected against eviction. When Trump offered to house homeless people in vacated apartments, he was slapped with a tenant harassment suit. In the end the tenants stayed, their building's facade harmonized next to that of the refurbished Barbizon, which became Trump Parc, with 340 condominium units advertised in 1986 at between $180,000 and $4 million. In 1985 Trump paid $72 million for the St. Moritz, the aging hotel across the street from Trump Parc that also faced Central Park.
Trump's last Manhattan hotel purchase was the Plaza, the French Renaissance landmark at the southeastern corner of Central Park, one block east of Trump Parc. He purchased it from the Bass Group in 1988 for a staggering $393 million, or $500,000 per room, making it the most expensive hotel purchase in history. Trump received a $409 million loan from Citibank, and personally guaranteed the $125 million equity portion. Simultaneously, he sold the St. Moritz to Australian magnate Alan Bond, reportedly for $100 million more than he had paid for it.
Trump's option on the northern segment of the Penn Yards had expired in 1979, but after other developers failed to build on the site, he purchased it in 1985 for $115 million. Trump's "Television City" plan for the site included an agglomeration of five buildings extending to a height of 150 stories and a landscaped platform supporting a collection of 8,000 apartments, two office buildings, open space, and parkland above television and film studios, a retail mall, and a massive parking garage. It died in 1987, when NBC decided to renew its quarters in Rockefeller Center. The successor, the 14 million-square-foot "Trump City" development project, did not win the needed city approval.
Atlantic City and Other Ventures: 1980-90
Trump's first investment in Atlantic City came in 1980, when he (with his father) purchased 98-year leases on properties bordering the Boardwalk. After the projected casino was licensed in 1982, Holiday Inns Inc.'s Harrah subsidiary agreed to invest $50 million in a partnership. Trump was responsible for the construction of Harrah's at Trump Plaza (soon shortened to simply Trump Plaza), a 39-story casino-hotel that opened in 1984. Harrah's originally managed it, but in 1986 Trump borrowed $250 million to buy out the company's interest. He had bought the Hilton Corp.'s casino-hotel for $320 million in 1985, which opened as Trump's Castle Casino Resort. An addition to the Castle, a 14-story Crystal Tower of luxury suites, was completed in 1990.
Even these deals paled beside his plan to take over Resorts International, the troubled casino company that was the largest landowner in Atlantic City, and its unfinished Taj Mahal, the world's largest casino. Outbid for voting control of the company in 1988 by television talk show host Merv Griffin, Trump nevertheless obtained his objective--the Taj--for $280 million. He issued $675 million in junk bonds to pay for the acquisition and completion of the casino, which opened in 1990. He spent another $115 million in 1989 to buy two more properties flanking Trump Plaza. One of these was the Atlantis, a 500-room hotel-casino without a gaming license. He renamed it the Trump Regency. The other consisted of the Penthouse, a half-built hotel-casino, and its parking garage site.
Trump indulged his lavish lifestyle by purchasing Mar-A-Lago, a 118-room Palm Beach mansion in 1984, and in 1988 acquiring the world's second largest yacht, a 282-foot-long craft that he renamed the Trump Princess. He docked the craft next to Trump's Castle to entertain high rollers. In partnership with Lee Iacocca, he also paid $41 million for a 32-story residential condominium, which he named Trump Plaza of the Palm Beaches, in West Palm Beach. In 1983 he purchased the New Jersey Generals, of the struggling U.S. Football League, as the opening gambit in a scheme to move the team into an indoor, publicly financed stadium in New York City to be called the "Trumpdome." The league and the stadium proposal folded in 1987. By his own estimates in court papers, Trump lost about $22 million on the venture.
Trump's interest in another glamour business--aircraft--resulted in his purchase of bankrupt Eastern Airlines' Boston-New York-Washington shuttle in 1989 for $365 million. He paid for this with a Citibank loan that accepted as collateral the airline's aging jets and $135 million in equity (backed only by Trump's personal guarantee). Renamed the Trump Shuttle, this venture required $85 million in capital and operating costs in its first year alone. By then he had also paid $23 million for a fleet of helicopters he dubbed Trump Air. Trump also moved ahead with the construction of the Trump Palace, a 55-story residential condominium building on a site at Third Avenue and 69th Street that he had bought in 1985.
When the U.S. economy fell into recession in 1990, Trump's highly leveraged business empire threatened to collapse. Entities of the Trump Organization, or Donald Trump personally, had incurred more than $5 billion in debt--$8.8 billion, according to one source--of which almost $1 billion had been drawn solely on Trump's personal guarantee. Big New York banks had financed $3.75 billion worth of debt. They reduced their risk and collected fees by syndicating the loans to some 70 other banks, including British, French, German, and Japanese institutions. Most of this money was recovered after subsequent restructurings, but some $600 million to $800 million may have been lost. Forbes magazine had estimated Trump's worth at $1.7 billion in 1989, making him the nation's 19th richest man. But two years later it assessed his worth at minus $900 million, making him a heavy contender in the world's poorest man category.
An August 1990 bailout pact allowed Trump to defer almost $1 billion in bank debt, but required him to make certain payments on more than $1 billion in additional bank debt. It also gave the banks second and third mortgages on nearly all of Trump's properties. In return for being released from his personal guarantee on about $960 million of debt, Trump gave up ownership of the Trump Shuttle and all but a small stake in the Plaza. Also lost was the West Palm Beach building and the Trump Princess. Trump Air was dissolved and its helicopters sold to pay debts. The Mar-A-Lago was turned into a club. Even Trump's Boeing 727 jet was repossessed (but later repurchased).
Temporarily unaffected was $1.3 billion in casino bonds, but in December 1990 the casinos and property group of the Trump Organization defaulted on a $50 million loan used to fund the Taj Mahal. Trump subsequently agreed to cede half of the casino to bondholders as part of a 1991 restructuring, known as a prepackaged bankruptcy, in which new credit agreements were legally authorized.
During the first part of 1991 the Trump Organization negotiated with creditors of the other casino holdings concerning a revision of the debt. A crucial, mysterious $3.3 million payment on the Trump's Castle debt was traced by a reporter to Fred Trump, who apparently auctioned some of his Brooklyn and Queens apartments to raise the funds. Otherwise, however, Trump could count for help in this quarter only on his own stake in his father's estate, which bankers estimated at a maximum of $150 million. Fred Trump had, according to a biography of Donald Trump by Harry Hurt, turned over the management of his estate to Donald's younger brother, Robert.
Like the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and Trump's Castle Casino Resort underwent prepackaged bankruptcies in 1992 to restructure their huge bond debts. Trump Plaza bonds and debt were converted to lower-interest bonds and four million shares of preferred stock for the creditors. In exchange for a reduction in the interest rate on the Trump's Castle bonds, the creditors received half the equity in the property.
Trump also lost the Penthouse and Trump Regency to banks but leased them with options to buy. He reopened the Penthouse--renamed the East Tower--in 1995. He also won a gambling license for the Regency, which was renamed Trump World's Fair. He then exercised his options and bought both properties back for in excess of $200 million. The Trump World's Fair and Plaza East (in the East Tower) casinos opened in 1997.
Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino went public in 1995 as Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc., selling ten million shares of common stock at $14 a share. A secondary stock offering in April 1996 sold 13.25 million shares at $32.50 a share. This company also included a subsidiary that opened, in 1996, a gambling riverboat, named Trump Indiana, on Lake Michigan at Gary, Indiana.
In April 1996 Trump Hotels & Casino acquired the Taj Mahal for $40.5 million, plus assumption of its debts. The company, through Trump Atlantic City Associates, issued more than $1.1 billion in new mortgage notes to redeem the Taj Mahal's $780 million in mortgage bonds due 1999 and the Trump Plaza's $340 million in mortgage notes due 2001. Five months later, Trump Hotels & Casino acquired the money-losing Trump's Castle (renamed Trump Marina in 1997) for about $490 million in stock, a transaction that included the assumption of about $314 million of the hotel-casino's debt. The acquisition raised Trump's stake in the public company to about 40 percent. Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts grew to six casinos with the integration of the World's Fair and East Tower properties into Trump Plaza in 1997.
Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts was now an awesome agglomeration of Atlantic City properties. Revenues reached $976 million in 1996, but the company lost $65.7 million, mostly because of an extraordinary $59.1 million charge for redemption of notes and the writeoff of deferred financing costs. The company's underlying weakness--a long-term debt that reached $1.7 billion in mid-1997--caused the stock to fall below $10 a share by the end of the year.
Trump's plan for the northern segment of the old Penn Central railyards received approval in 1992 in scaled-down form. The proposed development, renamed Riverside South, now was to consist of 5,700 apartments, 1.8 million square feet of office space, 350,000 square feet of retail space, and parking for 3,500 cars. Trump did not have the financing to develop the property, but in 1994 he signed a joint venture agreement with a consortium of Asian investors, led by two of Hong Kong's biggest developers. He was said to have received a 30 percent stake in the project, with responsibility for constructing and managing the 18 buildings and seeking regulatory approvals, while putting up no cash. According to one source, however, he had no actual equity in the project and would begin to get a share of the profits only after the developer syndicate recovered its investment, plus interest. The first two Riverside South buildings began to rise in 1997, and by 2004 eight of the projected sixteen buildings had been completed.
Again in 1994, Trump's relish for high-profile deals was evident when he formed a joint venture with two foreign investors who had paid $42 million for the Empire State Building. Trump became general partner, but his stake in the venture was unclear. In any case, other realtors had 81 years remaining on a lease of the landmark building that gave them almost complete independence from the owners, who would receive only an annual rental of under $2 million during the life of the lease. In 1995 Trump bought 40 Wall Street, a 72-story office building. He paid less than $8 million for the property, but it was 89 percent vacant, and the remodeling he envisioned would cost at least $100 million.
The Trump International Hotel & Tower, a slender 52-story structure at the north end of Columbus Circle that was formerly the Gulf & Western office building, was converted to luxury residential condominiums, with a Trumpian bronze-and-dark-glass outer skin. Trump Organization units were in charge of construction, sales, and management but provided little or no cash. Aside from fees for these services and the use of his name, Trump received a penthouse in the building and a stake in the hotel's restaurant and garage. Work began in 1995 and was completed in 1997.
In 1996 Trump bought the Miss USA, Miss Universe, and Miss Teen USA pageants from ITT Corp. and then sold half of the property to CBS, which was broadcasting the pageants. He said he wanted to create marketing tie-ins to raise their visibility, possibly including an agreement for a top modeling agency to hire the winners and a new line of Miss Universe cosmetics backed by a major beauty company. Trump sold his half-share in the Grand Hyatt Hotel to the Hyatt Corp. in 1996 for $142 million. This enabled him to extinguish the remainder of his personal indebtedness. Forbes estimated his worth at $1.4 billion in October 1997--up from $450 million the previous year.
On to New Heights: The 2000s
Through the late 1990s and early 2000s, Trump projects were rising in New York, sometimes despite protests. The Trump World Tower, on First Avenue in Manhattan between 47th and 48th Streets, was touted as the world's tallest residential structure. The 861-foot tall building dwarfed other residences in the neighborhood, to the dismay of some longtime area denizens. Trump prevailed in a lawsuit brought by the neighborhood association, and the $400 million structure went up. Trump World Tower consisted of 372 luxury apartments priced between $1 million and $11 million, though one sold for $38 million, a record for a New York apartment. Another Trump structure caused neighborhood ire, in a case that went all the way to the New York State Supreme Court. The 31-story sixth tower of Trump's Riverside South project was built only inches away from the historic Chatsworth, a landmarked 13-story apartment house on West 72nd Street. Residents of the Chatsworth tried to stop the sixth tower from going up, and in 2003 appealed the state supreme court's decision against them.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 that brought down the World Trade Center did not stop Trump and others from erecting conspicuous structures in New York. The terrorism issue did, however, force the Trump Organization to reconsider plans for a massive project in Chicago. The Trump Organization had thought of building the world's tallest building in the city, but instead planned Trump Tower Chicago as a more modest skyscraper, which would be the city's fourth tallest. Terrorism insurance also became a big issue after September 2001, complicating financing for high-profile buildings. In 2001, the Trump Organization hoped to swing a $950 million mortgage from Deutsche Banc Mortgage Capital in order to buy the 50 percent portion of the General Motors Building in Manhattan it did not already own. (Trump and Conseco, Inc. jointly bought the building in 1998, with Conseco putting up $211 million and Trump only $11 million.) The deal cooled over the issue of insurance risk in the wake of the attacks. A dispute with Conseco over profits from the General Motors Building led a court in 2003 to order Trump to sell his interest.
In the 2000s, the Trump Organization also moved in altogether new directions. Donald Trump was an avid golfer, and he became a golf mogul as well, building the spectacular Trump National Golf Course in Westchester County, New York, in 2000. Membership in the Trump National club cost $300,000, and the course was studded with lavish features, including a giant waterfall on the 13th hole. Trump also built luxury golf villas adjoining the course. Trump went on to build golf courses in West Palm Beach, Florida and in Bedminster, New Jersey. The Bedminster course, built on farmland formerly owned by automobile magnate John DeLorean, also accommodated 11 cottages and an equestrian center. The golf courses were a new approach to luxury housing, as well as recreation. A fourth course, Trump National Golf Course Los Angeles, was in the works in 2004.
Because the Trump Organization was a private company with no obligation to post financial information, and because many factors made the health of a real estate portfolio hard to evaluate, it was difficult to pin down concretely how well Trump's empire was doing in the early 2000s. Trump had clearly put behind him his missteps of the early 1990s. He had buildings named after him all over Manhattan, and he claimed in 2004 to own at least 50 percent of all the New York buildings with the Trump moniker. His net worth was estimated at between $2 billion and $6 billion, though this was unverified, and some real estate rivals put their own estimates of his worth much lower. Clearly, the Trump name had enormous strength. Sources quoted by Time magazine (April 12, 2004) acknowledged that the Trump logo added some $100 per square foot to the value of a building. Trump claimed that his name on his Westchester golf course brought him $300,000, while without the Trump stamp, membership would go for only $25,000. Donald Trump had long been known in the press as simply "The Donald," but by the early 2000s he had acquired another nickname, "the human logo." Akin to Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey, Trump was able to extend the cachet of his name into a far-reaching realm. He came out with a Trump Visa card in 2004, as well as his own brand of bottled water, Trump Ice. His biggest publicity coup was his starring role in the 2004 NBC reality show, "The Apprentice." Trump gave a gaggle of contestants business challenges, firing the worst performer every week, until the final contestant won a coveted job with the Trump Organization. This gave Trump huge media exposure, and helped earn him an estimated $5 million advance on his 2004 book, How to Get Rich.
Trump's wide exposure seemed like it could only help his branded real estate projects. On the other hand, Trump's publicly held casino and gaming company struggled all through the early 2000s. The company lost money year after year, and its stock sank to $2.50 in mid-2004, compared with a one-time high of more than $35 shortly after the company went public. The casinos were loaded with debt, and hampered by well-heeled competitors. Both Harrah's Entertainment and Park Place Entertainment Corp. owned Atlantic City casinos, and these companies spent lavishly to refurbish their properties, while some slot machines at Trump's casinos did not even have stools. Trump managed to restructure some debt on the casinos in 2001 to get more favorable terms. But by 2004, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts had a market value of only $41 million, down from more than $500 million in 1996, and it was possible that angry creditors would force the company into bankruptcy. Trump promised to pay more attention to the casino business once his television stint was over. If he managed to save the business, it would not be the first time he had emerged from a seemingly impossible situation. Meanwhile, he churned out real estate development projects. In 2004 these included the Trump Tower at City Center, in White Plains, New York, and a mixed hotel and condominium project in Toronto, the Trump International Hotel & Tower.
Principal Subsidiaries: Trump Sales & Leasing Residential Real Estate; Trump International Hotel & Tower; Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. (56%); Trump Golf; Miss Universe Organization (50%).
Principal Competitors: The Lefrak Organization; Harrah's Entertainment, Inc.; Tishman Realty & Construction Co. Inc.; Caesar's Entertainment Inc.
- Key Dates:
- 1934: Fred Trump revives the Brooklyn housing business.
- 1947: Fred Trump begins work on the huge Shore Haven complex in Brooklyn.
- 1968: Donald Trump joins the family business.
- 1974: Donald becomes president of The Trump Organization.
- 1983: Trump Tower is completed in Manhattan.
- 1988: The Organization buys Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
- 1990: The Trump empire temporarily collapses under $2 billion debt.
- 1995: The Trump casino business goes public.
- 2000: The Trump National Golf Course opens.
- 2004: Donald Trump stars in the hit reality television show, "The Apprentice."
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