Whether you love or hate him, you can’t ignore Donald Trump and the decades of success he has had worldwide. He now runs a multi-billion dollar corporation and, while you may or may not want him to be President, he has some valuable lessons to share about success in New York City Real Estate. Every two months I feature an interview from The Real Deal‘s segment called “The Closing.” This month I thought it appropriate to feature Donald Trump’s June 2010 interview.
Donald Trump started his career working alongside his father, real estate developer Fred C. Trump, in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Today, his firm, the Trump Organization, is of course one of the most recognizable real estate brands in the world, with holdings like Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and Trump Park Avenue, as well as hotels, golf courses and casinos. Trump has authored several books, including the best seller “The Art of the Deal,” and is a partner in the Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageants. In 2004, he began producing and starring in the television reality show “The Apprentice.”
What is your name?
Donald John Trump.
How old are you?
63. (He is 69 as of April 2016)
Where did you grow up?
Jamaica Estates, Queens. My father lived there, in the same house on Midland Parkway, up until his death.
He amassed a fortune in his lifetime — why didn’t he ever move?
My father loved Queens and he loved Brooklyn, and that’s where he did his business. He never came to Manhattan.
You live here in Trump Tower. What other homes do you have?
I have a home in Bedford, NY; I have a home in Palm Beach, Fla. I have homes in other locations, but I generally split my time between Bedford, Palm Beach and Manhattan.
Which is your favorite?
Nothing can top, to me, Trump Tower. But Palm Beach is great. I stay at the Mar-a-Lago Club. That’s where I had my wedding [to third wife Melania Knauss in 2005].
Did you always know that you wanted to go into real estate?
I learned so much from my father. He enjoyed what he did so much, it made him happy. I saw that, and it rubbed off on me.
You’ve taken a very different path from the other old New York real estate families, like the LeFraks.
That’s true. It’s a very different track than probably has ever been taken in real estate. Richard LeFrak — who’s a great friend of mine — was a host recently on the Miss Universe Pageant, which I own. He [was] on “Celebrity Apprentice” and he did a fantastic job.
How has being a TV star changed your life?
I was well-known before “The Apprentice,” but certainly I’m much better known now. It’s very hard to walk outside, whereas before I was able to do that. When you have a major hit television show, it’s a different level than anything else.
You have five children, including a four-year-old son, Barron. How are you different as a parent this time around?
I think I appreciate it a little bit more. I think when you’re getting older and you have a young baby, it makes you appreciate all of them more.
Your daughter [Ivanka] was recently married [to real estate scion Jared Kushner]. How do you feel about her marrying into another prominent real estate family?
I thought it was great. She married a wonderful guy [and] I really like the family. Charlie Kushner is a fantastic guy.
Do you and Jared have bonding activities?
We have bonded. He’s very smart; he’s a very good person. I’m very happy with Ivanka’s choice.
Was it an issue that she converted to Judaism?
No, not for me it wasn’t. That was her decision.
When you look back at your career, what would you do differently?
You have to learn from your successes and your failures. And if you don’t learn from mistakes, then you’re a fool. Now, ideally you want to watch other people and learn from their mistakes, because that’s less costly and less traumatic. But… I wouldn’t want to do it much differently. For instance, I was told, “Don’t do ‘The Apprentice’ because it can never succeed on television, because very few shows do succeed.” And I did it against the wishes of many people… So you have to just sort of go by your wits.
Which of your decisions have gone the other way?
Many of the decisions don’t go well because of timing. You’ll buy a building, make a great deal on a building, and then the market crashes. All of a sudden your great deal isn’t so good. In the early ’90s, they changed the tax code. You bought stuff and they changed the rules of the game. It’s hard to blame yourself for that.
What lessons did you take from the recession of the early 1990s?
I think I became much more conservative. We’re sitting on a lot of cash and I’m looking to buy, whereas in the early ’90s I can honestly say it was the exact opposite. So I either learned something, or was luckier — maybe a combination of both.
What parts of your holdings are you the most worried about in the down market?
Frankly, if the market went down, I’d be extremely happy because we’re not sellers, we’re buyers. I think the market will stay at pretty low levels and then ultimately start getting better, but it could go down further. On a selfish basis, if it did, I wouldn’t be unhappy.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I think my image is a lot different than the fact. The image is a tough image. I’m actually a nice person that has a lot of compassion for people. I like doing the right thing. And I happen to be a very honest guy, sometimes too honest. My honesty gets me into trouble.
Did the “you’re fired” thing give people the wrong impression?
Actually, people like me better now that they see me on television and all I do is fire people. What does that tell you about my reputation before? It couldn’t have been so great.