What you should know about Donald Trump

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 23: Donald Trump listens at the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C Groundbreaking Ceremony at Old Post Office on July 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)

Donald John Trump was born on June 14, 1946 in Queens, New York City. He is the fourth of five children born to Mary Anne (MacLeod) and Fredrick C.  Trump. Trump’s mother was a Scottish immigrant, born on the Isle of Lewis.

Fredrick’s father (Donald’s grandfather) was a barber who arrived from Kallstadt, Germany, in 1885 and joined the Alaska gold rush. By the turn of the century, he owned the White Horse Restaurant and Inn in White Horse, Alaska, while also supplying food and lumber to the miners.

When he was 15, Donald’s father decided to start his own construction business while continuing his high school education. He knew he was too young to build entire houses, so he built garages. Too young to sign checks, he became partners with his mother, Elizabeth: they called their company Elizabeth Trump & Son. His mother, who was a dynamo in her own right, was the partner who signed the checks.

As he grew older, Fred Trump began building single-family houses in the late 1920’s – most of them in Queens – which were sold for $3,990 each. The concept of supermarkets was new back then, too, and when Mr. Trump built Trump Market in Woodhaven in the middle of the Depression and advertised, ”Serve Yourself and Save!” it was an instant hit. About a year later, Mr. Trump sold the store for a profit to the King Kullen chain.

During World War II, Mr. Trump built barracks and garden apartments for the Navy in Chester, Pa., Newport News, and Norfolk, Va. When the fighting was over and apartments for returning servicemen and their families were in short supply, he branched out into middle-income housing; he built Shore Haven in Bensonhurst in 1949 and Beach Haven near Coney Island the next year for a total of 2,700 apartments.

Fredrick and Mary Anne had five children, three sons: Fredrick Jr., Donald and Robert, and two daughters: Maryanne and Elizabeth. Fredrick Jr. died in 1981.

Fredrick Trump was a great builder who left a lasting impact on the area, as well as a lasting impact on his son, Donald.

Donald attended the Kew-Forest school, a private school in Forest Hills, Queens, for his elementary school education and the early part of high school. Donald was an energetic and assertive child, and at age 13, his dad enrolled him in the New York Military Academy to finish out his high school education, hoping that the discipline of the school would channel his energy in a positive manner.

Trump did well at the academy, both socially and academically, rising to be a star athlete and student leader by the time he graduated in 1964.

He attended Fordham University in the Bronx for two years, before transferring to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The move was necessary because Trump wanted to concentrate on real estate and Wharton had one of the few real estate study programs in the nation at the time. He graduated in 1968, with a B.S. in economics.

While Trump came of age during the Vietnam War, he got student deferments for four years while attending college from 1964 through 1968. Based on a physical exam after graduation, he received a medical deferment for bone spurs in both heels.

In December 1969, a national draft lottery assigned draft numbers to young men born between 1946 and 1950. That year, young men with the same birthdate as Trump (June 14) were assigned draft number 356 (out of 366), almost the last to be called up. Anyone with 356 was almost guaranteed to avoid being drafted. As a result, Trump was never called.

Business Career

Trump seems to have been strongly influenced by his father in his decision to make a career in real estate development, but the younger man’s personal goals were much grander than those of his father.

Trump began his career at his father’s real estate company, Elizabeth Trump and Son, which focused on middle-class rental housing in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. One of Trump’s first projects, while he was still in college, was the revitalization of the foreclosed Swifton Village apartment complex in Cincinnati, Ohio, which his father had purchased for $5.7 million in 1962.

The Trumps became involved in the project and with a $500,000 investment, turned the 1,200-unit complex’s occupancy rate from 34% to 100%.

In 1971, Donald moved to Manhattan and became involved in larger projects and used attractive architectural design to win public recognition. He was given control of the Elizabeth Trump & Son company in 1971 and renamed it The Trump Organization.

In 1972, the Trump Organization sold Swifton Village for $6.75 million. Donald’s involvement with the project was minor, but he was on his way.

Trump initially came to public attention in 1973, when he was accused by the Justice Department of violations of the Fair Housing Act in the operation of 39 buildings. Trump in turn accused the Justice Department of targeting his company because it was a large one, and to force it to rent to welfare recipients. Trump settled the charges in 1975, saying he was satisfied that the agreement did not “compel the Trump organization to accept persons on welfare as tenants unless as qualified as any other tenant.”

When the Pennsylvania Central Railroad entered bankruptcy, Trump was able to obtain an option on the railroad’s yards on the west side of Manhattan. When initial plans for apartments proved unfeasible because of a poor economic climate, Trump promoted the property as the location of a city convention center, and the city government selected it over two other sites in 1978.

Trump’s offer to forego a fee if the center was named after his family, however, the offer was turned down, along with his bid to build the complex, which was ultimately named for Senator Jacob Javits. Trump estimated his company could have completed the project for $110 million, but the city rejected his offer and Trump received a broker’s fee on the sale of the property instead.

This is apparently about the time that Trump became enamored with seeing the Trump name on his enterprises.

In 1974 Trump obtained an option on one of the Penn Central’s hotels, the Commodore, which had been unprofitable, but had an excellent location adjacent to Grand Central Station.

The next year he signed a partnership agreement with the Hyatt Hotel Corporation, which at the time didn’t have a large downtown hotel. Trump then worked out a complex 40-year tax abatement deal with the New York City government, arranged financing, and completely renovated the building.

When the hotel reopened in 1980, as the Grand Hyatt, it was immediately popular and became an economic success, making Donald Trump the city’s best known and most controversial developer.

One of Trump’s flagship properties is the 58-story mixed-use skyscraper called the Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan. It was completed in 1983 with retail stores opening first, with apartments and offices following shortly thereafter. Controversy surrounded the construction of the Tower when it was learned that Trump used concrete supplied by a firm owned by two of the New York crime families (the Genovese and Gambino families). There was also a question regarding the use of undocumented Polish immigrants and a class-action lawsuit was filed over unpaid union pension funding and medical obligations in 1983. The case lingered on for several years and was finally settled in 1999, with the records sealed.

In 1988, Trump acquired the Taj Mahal Casino in a transaction with Merv Griffin and Resorts International. This expansion, both personal and business, led to mounting debt.

By 1989, poor business decisions left Trump unable to meet loan payments. Trump had financed the construction of his third casino, the $1 billion Taj Mahal, primarily with high-interest junk bonds. Although he shored up his businesses with additional loans and postponed interest payments, by 1991, increasing debt brought Trump to Chapter 11 business bankruptcy and to the brink of personal bankruptcy.

Even though banks and bond holders had lost hundreds of millions of dollars, they opted to restructure his debt to avoid the risk of losing more money in court. The Taj Mahal emerged from bankruptcy on October 5, 1991, with Trump ceding 50 percent ownership in the casino to the original bondholders in exchange for lowered interest rates on the debt and more time to pay it off.

The late 1990s saw a resurgence in Trump’s financial situation. The will of Trump’s father, who died in 1999, divided an estate estimated at $250–$300 million equally among his four surviving children (although the will was disputed by heirs of Trump’s late brother).

His Real Estate Holdings

In New York City, the Trump signature is synonymous with the most prestigious of addresses, among them the world-renowned Fifth Avenue skyscraper, the Trump Tower, the Trump International Hotel & Tower, Trump World Tower at the United Nations Plaza, 40 Wall Street, and Trump Park Avenue.

His portfolio includes the historic Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida and his ever expanding collection of award-winning golf courses (seventeen thus far) which span the U.S from Los Angeles to New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Florida, and internationally from Scotland and Ireland to Dubai. He recently added the iconic golf resorts of Turnberry, Scotland, and Doonbeg, Ireland, to his portfolio and Trump National Golf Club Washington, DC, has been highly acclaimed.

The Trump Hotel Collection has grown to include properties in Chicago, Las Vegas, Waikiki, Panama and Toronto in addition to Trump SoHo/New York and the acclaimed Trump International Hotel & Tower on Central Park West which once again won the coveted Mobil Five-Star Award as well as the Five Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. The Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago was awarded the #1 Hotel in the US and Canada by Travel & Leisure Magazine. Recent acquisitions include the iconic Doral Hotel & Country Club (800 acres) in Miami, and the historic Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. which is being developed into a world class luxury hotel. Seen as a generational asset by the Trump family, the redevelopment plan will infuse the building with new life. Groundbreaking was in July of 2014.

Trump in the World of Entertainment

Wanting to diversify his holdings, Trump bought the Miss USA pageant in 1996 and the Miss Universe pageant in 1998 and promoted both extensively.

In 2003, Trump became the executive producer and host of the NBC reality show called “The Apprentice.” By the second year of the show, Trump was reportedly paid $3 million per episode, making his one of the highest paid TV personalities. He reported in his personal financial disclosure statement with the Federal Election Commission that NBC had paid him over $213 million for his 14 seasons of hosting the show.

Trump is a known World Wrestling Entertainment fan and friend of WWE owner Vince McMahon. He has appeared five times on WrestleMania events. During one of which he and McMahon made a bet on the two opponents in an upcoming match. It was called “The Battle of the Billionaires” and the loser billionaire would have his head shaved. Trump’s wrestler won and Trump shaved McMahon’s head bald.

Recently, Trump filed a $500 million lawsuit against Univision in 2015 for ending their broadcast arrangement because of a statement he made during his 2016 presidential campaign kickoff “demeaning undocumented immigrants.” He still owns both pageants.

His Personal Life

In 1977, Trump married model Ivana Zelnichova, a  native of the Czech Republic. They have three children: Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric. Ivana is credited with using the nickname “The Donald” for the first time.

By early 1990, Trump’s troubled marriage and long-running affair with actress Marla Maples became public knowledge and the couple divorced in 1991.

Trump married Maples in December of 1993, two months after the birth of their daughter, Tiffany. They divorced in June of 1999.

Trump again married in January of 2005; this time, to Melania Knauss, a native of Slovenia. Melania gave birth to Trump’s fifth child, Barron in 2006.

The Donald has seven grandchildren, five from his son Donald Jr. and two from his daughter Ivanka.

Trump is a Presbyterian. He has said, “I’m a Protestant, I’m a Presbyterian. And you know I’ve had a good relationship with the church over the years. I think religion is a wonderful thing. I think my religion is a wonderful religion.

Asked in 2015 at an Algemeiner Journal awards ceremony about having Jewish grandchildren, Trump said: “Not only do I have Jewish grandchildren, I have a Jewish daughter (Ivanka, who converted before her marriage to Jared Kushner) and I am very honored by that … it wasn’t in the plan but I am very glad it happened.


In 1990, the real estate market declined, reducing the value of and income from Trump’s empire; his own net worth plummeted from an estimated $1.7 billion to $500 million. The Trump Organization required a massive infusion of loans to keep it from collapsing; a situation which raised questions as to whether the corporation could survive bankruptcy. Some observers saw Trump’s decline as symbolic of many of the business, economic and social excesses that had arisen in the 1980s.

Yet, he climbed back from nearly $900 million in the red: Donald Trump was reported to be worth somewhere between $4 billion and $10 billion today (estimates vary).

Four Trump businesses have declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They included: the Taj Mahal in 1991, the Trump Plaza Hotel in 1992, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts in 2004, and Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009.

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows a business that is unable to service its debt or pay its creditors to retain its control of the business, but under the oversight and jurisdiction of a bankruptcy court. Businesses may “emerge” from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy by developing a plan that satisfies the concerns of the ownership, creditors, and the bankruptcy court.

In general, Trump’s restructuring of the bankruptcies involved his relinquishing control to varying degrees and agreeing on terms for repayment of debt (sometimes at pennies on the dollar).


Over the course of his career, Trump has initiated or been the target of “hundreds” of civil lawsuits, which Trump lawyer Alan Garten said in 2015 was “a natural part of doing business in this country.”

He’s been sued by the U.S. Department of Justice over racial discrimination, the Securities and Exchange Commission over “misleading statements” in financial reporting, a Financial Analyst for defamation, investors in the Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico for being little more than a spokesperson for the venture, by New York’s Attorney General accusing Trump of defrauding more than 5,000 people in a real estate training scheme involving “Trump University.” Trump was admonished by the court and forced to stop using the word “University” in describing the investment school. In a separate class action suit, a San Diego federal judge allowed claimants in California, Florida, and New York to proceed.

And, as one might expect, Trump filed numerous lawsuits himself, many of them countersuits to suits filed against him. A few notable ones include a suit against the author of TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald wherein Trump complained that the author had underestimated his wealth. He sued comedian Bill Maher for comments he made on the Tonight Show and he sued former 2012 Miss Pennsylvania who alleged that the Miss USA pageant results were rigged. He also sued Palm Beach County, Florida to redirect air traffic heading into Palm Beach International Airport because the noise disrupted the ambience of his Mar-A-Lago estate.


Trump has made noises about running for president going all the way back to 1988, but never got serious until this year. He did make one feeble try in 2000 when he ran briefly as the Reform Party’s candidate and won the California primary, but that’s been it … until now.

Trump formally announced his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015 and has been on the rise ever since. The latest Real Clear Politics average shows Trump with a sizeable lead over all other candidates with 30.5% of respondents (that’s an average of four polls taken in September by four different polling groups). With the exception of Ben Carson (20%), no other candidate is over 7.8%.

For information on Donald Trump’s position on issues, here’s a link: Donald Trump On the Issues.


Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to What you should know about Donald Trump

  1. Kathy says:

    This is a good read, Garnet, and it gives you a some insight to why Trump is an entrepreneur – it’s in his blood.

    His political opponents bring up his bankruptcies at every opportunity and he’s quick to say HE didn’t go bankrupt, those companies did, but isn’t it basically the same thing? With his name on it, that makes it his responsibility, I’d think.

    He’s still not the best candidate for president, but we could do worse, in fact, we are doing worse right now, much worse.

  2. Garnet92 says:

    Thanks Kathy, I know it’s a long read, but quite a bit shorter than his Wikipedia bit.

    I explained the difference between a Chapter 7 and 11 bankruptcies in an email I sent to you. In a word, the difference is that 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy wherein you close down the business and lose everything while a Chapter 11 continues the business operation and allows the business to negotiate with debtors to restructure debts.

    Trump’s businesses were corporations and he was an employee – NOT an OWNER. He is right to differentiate. Those Chapter 11 bankruptcies reduced his personal net worth but otherwise didn’t affect him personally.

    Right, I don’t think that any of us, even forewarned with knowledge of Obama, could have forecast just how bad he would be – ALMOST ANYONE would be better.

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks for the explanation – that helps. Him being an employee of the corporations – that’s the part I didn’t know and it answers a lot of questions.

      Those opponents still see it as a reflection on him, I think, and it’s one of the few shots they have to fire at him so they use it often.

      • Garnet92 says:

        And he plays into their hand when he talks about the businesses he “owns.” He may actually “own” the business if he owns ALL of the shares, otherwise he is one of the owners. But technically a corporation is “owned” by its shareholders. He does bring it on himself. And you’re right, it’s one thing that they can shout about that sounds bad so they’ll continue.

  3. Hardnox says:

    Thanks for posting this. O-Shithead and Hildabeast don’t have enough of a resume to create a paragraph. Ditto with most of the other candidates.

  4. tannngl says:

    This is truly important information. It gives insight into Donald Trump’s person, what makes him tick. Seems it was genetic! Long familial line of entrepreneurship. Also seems he wasn’t as successful as he touts. But he has always stayed in the game.

    Thanks for this, Garnet. Very very helpful! I’ll be reading it again as well.

  5. vonmesser says:

    Fairly impressive resume. But would rather see him as Labor or Commerce than as Prez.