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PLAYING THE TRUMP CARD - How did The Donald become The Donald? by Kaya Morgan


Want to be rich and successful? There's no better teacher than the master himself, Donald Trump. But let's cut to the chase. It will never be said that Donald Trump is your average role model. Although, it's hard to imagine him being anything other than The Donald, obviously, he wasn't born an icon of the rich and famous. Recently, Millionaire chatted with Trump in an attempt to penetrate his corporate persona to find out more about what makes Donald tick.

The fourth of five children, growing up in Queens, New York, Trump was a baseball-obsessed kid who was such a goof-off that his parents sent him to the New York Military Academy to try to straighten him out. The third generation in a family of businessmen, his father, Fred, a successful real estate developer, drilled one message into his son's head — work hard. And, somewhere between becoming a star athlete and student leader, it clicked, and Trump realized he wanted success. He buckled down and pulled up his grades, eventually studying finance at one of the best business colleges in the country – University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, followed by his own apprenticeship working for his father before packing up and taking on Manhattan.

With an innate eye for business, Trump knew that whatever he did with his life, it would be big. “Always do something that you like, always do something that you enjoy doing, or you will never be successful. You will never be good at it,” he says, oozing that famous Trump charisma. But, it was his do-whatever-it-takes attitude that has made him one of the most powerful men in the world today. Convinced of the economic opportunity of the big apple, Trump quickly learned the art of negotiation by targeting large building projects in Manhattan that offered the highest opportunities for profits while utilizing attractive architectural design, thereby winning public recognition. Even though he studied business, he often went against the basic principle behind economics. For instance, going against the rule of using lower prices to drive out competitors — when Trump had competitors, not only did he not lower prices, he even raised them.

But what makes Donald Trump truly ingenious is how he pulled off one of the most remarkable business turnarounds in history. “Owing 9.2 billion dollars when the real estate market crashed was somewhat of a frightening experience. Many of my friends went bankrupt and now you'll never hear from them again. Fortunately, I never had to choose that route,” he states with conviction. After accumulating a multi-billion dollar fortune, he saw most of it wiped away under massive loan payments, carrying billions in loses, only to regain it after some very clever business moves.

“Over the years I've watched people who are successful, and I've watched people who have failed. And, the one thing that I see more than any other trait in successful people is that they never give up. They never stop,” begins Trump. As he continues to tout the wisdom of Trump, this consummate politician clearly understands the key element in dealing with people, “It's always a great asset to be able to get along with people. Over the years, despite some very tricky deals, I've generally been able to get along with people. You always have to let the other side think that they are also getting something out of the transaction. And, it's often true that the best deals are the ones that everybody benefits from.”

Just how successful a businessman is he? The list of his accomplishments is enormous. He has accumulated numerous buildings, casinos, private clubs, golf courses and properties like a kid acquires baseball cards including the Taj Mahal, Trump Tower, Trump Plaza, Trump Park Avenue, the Plaza Hotel, Mar-a-Lago, a personal 727 jetliner, and a yacht allegedly worth $100 million for starters. Argued by some as a visionary, Trump truly understands the psychology of real estate speculation — proving time and again by turning bad real estate properties into gold mines. It's estimated that he probably saved close to 30% on construction costs alone by utilizing the glass skyscraper design of the Grand Hyatt, New York. And, it doesn't stop there. He also owns the Miss Universe, Miss Teen USA, Miss USA beauty pageants, and a modeling agency, not to mention authoring four books that have made the best-seller list with a new one, How to Get Rich, on the way.

Trump delights in the kind of elaborate negotiations and impenetrably complex deals that frustrate the most conscientious efforts to ascertain a person's true worth. “It's always good to do things nice and complicated,” he once said, “so that nobody can figure it out.” Certainly his blockbuster TV show, The Apprentice, #1 in the ratings, is more evidence of just the kind of gambit that really intrigues him. On the show, initially the women were pitted against the men. “I think women understand the rules of men's gamesmanship better than men do. When the women operated as a team, they were much more effective than when they became part of the men's team. Their energy was disbursed. They became much less effective.” Trump also knows that it takes a strong team to help you glide through the minefields of business. “I like to surround myself with people who are not afraid to tell me when they think I'm wrong,” he goes on to say. “But stupidity, or when someone steals from you is something I just can't stand.”

Yes, Trump is a player – but a real player; a high-roller who can win at any game. He negotiates with subcontractors himself instead of relying on the formality of a purchasing department, and isn't opposed to using his own celebrity to better the deal – like the time he agreed to call the subcontractor's mother and wish her a happy birthday. “I always feel that the details of a transaction are very important. Oftentimes, managers tend to gloss over the big picture. I would rather have a manager that pays attention to the details,” he says. A day in his shoes might prove the highlight of anyone's life. No one would hesitate to trade places with The Donald. Though not trendy, in the business world, he is as cool as they come. He stands as a beacon to the ordinary man still searching for the American Dream with his unfailing knack for identifying and eliminating waste, a memory like a Zip drive, and a grasp of archaic zoning laws so detailed that he routinely requires the city to close loopholes only he had the wherewithal to take advantage of.

Of course, inquiring minds want to know if Trump is heading for Las Vegas now that he has received his Nevada gaming license. It appears that he and Steve Wynn, developer of the Bellagio Hotel, have buried the hatchet since the days of bare-knuckled brawls between gaming titans. “Over the years, Steve and I have had our battles but overall we've been very good friends, and I'd like to think we won't be competitors,” quipped Trump. When asked what kind of development he might have in mind for a Trump property in the land of Oz, he replied, “I believe more in quality than in theme. Although I am a great believer in theme, I more believe in quality.” So, do we take that to mean that maybe we'll see a Trump high rise on the Las Vegas strip, more akin to what The Donald has done in his home town of Manhattan? Donald knows, but he's not talking just yet.

As likely to appear on the cover of Business Week as on the National Enquirer, Trump has been the subject of much tabloid fodder over the years. But who would expect that this real estate mogul, who can make any adversary quake in their boots, has a softer side and a genuinely warm heart. “You always have to believe that your family is your best personal accomplishment. Even though I'm the biggest developer in New York by far, I'm a nicer person than you might think. Though, on occasion, I am too trusting of people,” he admits. And yes, the story about Trump's limo breaking down on the side of the road, and the unemployed auto mechanic who stopped to help repair his car is true. But what most people don't know was the way Trump expressed his gratitude. He sent the mechanic's wife a bouquet of flowers — and then paid off the man's mortgage. How's that for demonstrating Trump's value for the more intrinsic qualities in life?

When asked, as one of the most fascinating men in the world, what three people he would choose to be stranded with on a South Sea island, without hesitation, he replied, ”My girlfriend, Melania, and my parents, were they still around.” So, what does Donald Trump really want? Simply put, the girl, the car and everything else that goes along with being The Donald.

To find more about Donald Trump, go to

More stories by journalist, Kaya Morgan, can be found by clicking the link. Contact us for reprint rights as most articles are available.

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