This look back at Donald Trump’s one attempt at managing a publicly traded company raises yet another question about the presumptive Republican nominee’s sudden political ambitions: Could it be that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is just an elaborate bank heist?
Trump was the chairman of Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts in Atlantic City from 1995 to 2009, his only outing as the head of a major public company. During that time, the company lost more than $1 billion, financial records show. He also was chief executive from 2000 to 2005, during which time share prices plunged from a high of $35 to as low as 17 cents.
Trump may have helmed the company bearing his name to penny-stock status, but he himself did exceedingly well. He got $44 million in salary. He charged the company additional “fees” for his services. The company paid for the $2 million care and feeding of his personal jet, and so on, and so on.
To say Trump has no remorse about the cratering of the company he helmed would be, if anything, an understatement:
He expounded: “They say, ‘Why don’t you take the casinos public or something?’ You know, if you take them public, you make money on that. All I can say is I wasn’t representing the country. I wasn’t representing the banks. I wasn’t representing anybody but myself.”
All right, so Trump created a public company and then charged it exuberantly for his every involvement. That’s not terribly surprising. But the Washington Post piece hints at the serious possibility that the public company became a dumping ground for Trump’s other debt: Trump offloaded his failing efforts onto the stockholders, while he himself basked in stockholder-provided cash and perks.
When it debuted that year on the New York Stock Exchange, Trump’s company raised $140 million from investors, at $14 a share, and said the money would go toward expanding the Plaza and developing a riverboat casino in Indiana.But much of that money went to pay off tens of millions of dollars in loans Trump had personally guaranteed, filings show. Those loans were taken out before the company went public, but Trump’s private fortune could have been at risk if they went unpaid.
That was only the beginning:
In less than a year, the company paid premium prices for two of Trump’s deeply indebted, privately held casinos, the Trump Taj Mahal and the Trump Castle. In essence, he was both buyer and seller, able to set whatever price he wanted. The company bought his Castle for $100 million more than analysts said it was worth. Trump pocketed $880,000 in cash after arranging the deal, financial filings show.By the end of 1996, shareholders who had bet on a rosy Trump future were now investors in a company with $1.7 billion of Trump’s old debt. The company was forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on interest payments, more than the casinos brought in […]
And that, to make a short story shorter, was the beginning of the end. Trump had taken millions from the company and in exchange, his stockholders were saddled with two near-defunct Trump properties at inflated prices. The company would continue to pay Trump handsomely for the next decade while struggling under those debts and others—such as purchasing Trump-branded bottled water for their patrons and paying Trump $6 million in “entertainment” fees for hosting company clients on his jet and golf courses—before eventually having its stock frozen, then delisted.
So that is the story of how Donald Trump survived the collapse of his two privately held casinos, even if nobody else who invested in them could say the same. And yes, if you think the whole thing looks exceedingly crooked you wouldn’t be alone in thinking so.
What does this tell us about Donald Trump as presidential candidate? Well, the old pattern certainly seems to be playing out. Trump has been very good at looking out for himself, but has shown no interest whatsoever in helping other Republican candidates. He has no interest in the details of on-the-ground campaigning, and seems to believe that the RNC will do it for him. After first saying he’d self-finance, since he after all declares himself to be a multi-billionaire, he now is looking for outside investors to fund the effort instead.
It’s never been clear why Donald Trump, of all people, would want to be president. But have we been missing the obvious? Does he presume that the president gets, after his inauguration, his own keys to Fort Knox? You know, just in case he and the first lady want to go in one night for a surprise gold inspection?
Will the Trump administration issue a new rule that all federal meetings must now be held only in Trump-branded resort venues?
Will hurricane relief consist of delivering communities trucks full of Trump-branded bottled water?
Will failing Trump business ventures be declared national parks, the overdue loans turned over to the taxpayers? Can we expect a Trump Grand Canyon Casino, or a Washington Monument Hotel? Trump-branded slot machines in the Lincoln Memorial?
Does Trump perhaps believe that outgoing presidents have the right to claim “dibs” on whichever National Parks they like?
Have we been overthinking it this whole time? Does Donald Trump want to win the White House just so he can make off with the public silverware?