Trump bought a hotel at 400 million, sold at 325 million, and declared victory

Donald Trump always breezes by the fact that he declared bankruptcy not once or twice or three times, but four times.  No one has really looked into the circumstances of these bankruptcies until now, in a NYT article, where Trump's "brilliant" move to buy the Plaza Hotel in New York is described.  The Plaza Hotel is an extremely fancy hotel near Central Park that Trump coveted.

The article describe how Trump, hearing that the owner of the Plaza wanted to sell it, persuaded the owner to sell to him without putting it up for auction.  Trump did this by offering him the whopping sum of $400 million.

The only problem is that the Plaza Hotel wasn't worth 400 million dollars.

By 1990, the Plaza needed an operating profit of $40 million a year to break even, according to financial records that Mr. Trump disclosed at the time. The hotel had fallen well short of that goal, and with renovating expenses, in one year it burned through $74 million more than it brought in.

But Trump wanted a fancy hotel to make his portfolio look good, regardless of the cost.

Just a few years later, the Plaza wound up in bankruptcy protection, part of a vast and humiliating restructuring of some $900 million of personal debt that Mr. Trump owed to a consortium of banks. Never one for regrets, Mr. Trump today regards the purchase as a triumph.

"To me the Plaza was like a great painting," he said in an interview in late December. "It wasn't purely about the bottom line. I have many assets like that and the end result is that they are always much more valuable than what you paid for them."

These are the not the words of a smart businessman; these are the words of an irrational narcissist.

The updraft in the real estate market of the '80s turned into a headwind by the early '90s, and more than $3 billion in loans – $900 million of which were personally guaranteed – went into default. Dozens of banks came calling and, after lengthy negotiations, a meeting was held in a large conference room in the law offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, the firm that represented the largest lender, Citibank. There, some 50 bankers and lawyers watched Mr. Trump sign over nearly all of his properties – the Plaza, other buildings, the shuttle, the yacht, the jet – in exchange for more favorable terms on his personal guarantees.

The banks shopped the Plaza around, without success, for a few years before finally selling it in a deal that valued it at $325 million to a partnership between Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia and CDL Hotels International of Singapore in 1995. None of the proceeds went to Mr. Trump, according to several people involved.

Still, he told me that the sale was yet another victory. The terms were, to use one of his favorite words, fantastic[.]

This is what Trump does.  He makes colossal blunders and calls them fantastic.  He irresponsibly overpaid for a hotel (as well as other properties) and went into  bankruptcy as a result, and his assets were liquidated at a much lower price.  To Trump, that is a victory.

But what about all those billions he's worth?

According to a lengthy analysis by a correspondent for National Journal, real-estate-mogul-turned-Republican-presidential-candidate Donald Trump was always going to be a billionaire – whether he worked for it or not.

As reporter S.V. Dáte notes, Trump took over a $200 million real-estate-development business from his father, Fred Trump, in 1974.

Dáte estimates that Trump's share of the empire – he has three siblings – was $40 million.

"Had the celebrity busi­ness­man and Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate in­ves­ted his even­tu­al share of his fath­er's real-es­tate com­pany in­to a mu­tu­al fund of S&P 500 stocks in 1974, it would be worth nearly $3 bil­lion today," Dáte writes.

Though Trump says his net worth is $8.7 billion, Forbes puts it at $4 billion.

In 1982, however, Forbes estimated Trump's net worth to be $200 million, an amountDáte says could've grown to more than $8 billion by now had Trump dropped his fortune into an index fund.

Trump is simply a guy who inherited a lot of money.  Almost anyone starting with those resources could have done the same, except without the many bankruptcies, which robbed many innocent suppliers and creditors of money they were foolish enough to let Donald Trump promise them.

Trump has shown that he is not a great businessman, and if he becomes president, America may well become his fifth bankruptcy.

This article was written by Ed Straker, senior writer of, the conservative news site.

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