Donald Trump is either the most brilliant businessman in U.S. history to ever pull himself up by the bootstraps, or a wannabe billionaire con artist cashing in on his famous last name.
What isn’t in dispute? The Trump name can be found on casinos, hotels, golf courses, campaign signs, and skyscrapers around the world, and the Trump Organization operates everything from restaurants and modeling agencies to quality fashion apparel and bath accessories. Trump himself has said, and repeatedly, that he’s worth $10 billion, while his political rivals have said, also repeatedly, that he’s little more than a con artist trading on the fading Trump brand.
According to the Washington Post, which Trump recently called a “terrible” newspaper that writes “purposely negative and horrible and false articles,” the truth about Trump “appears to be somewhere in between. His business decisions over the years show that Trump is a mix of braggadocio, business failures, and real success.”
Donald Trump has been a genuine real estate mogul for 45 years, while also serving as an executive for more than 500 companies. Considering that a quarter of all businesses will fail in their first year, while 50% will fail by year four, Trump’s four Atlantic City bankruptcy cases can seem quite modest when compared to his long record in the business world.
In one debate, Trump said of his history with bankruptcy, “Almost every hotel in Atlantic City has either been in bankruptcy or will be in bankruptcy,” and that he used bankruptcy laws to his advantage.
Even so, Trump’s many opponents have lately taken to attacking him with a long line of failed business ventures. In 1988 he bought Eastern Air Shuttle for $365 million, rebranding it — what else? — Trump Airlines. The business ceased operation in 1992. Other failed ventures include Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks, and the extremely controversial Trump University. The latter was just name dropped by the former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a recent speech attacking Trump.
“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Romney said. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”
Of course, Donald Trump’s most valuable asset may be his own name, Trump. One need only look to his success on the campaign trail to see how much power the Trump name still commands. While no one but Trump may know for certain just how much he’s really worth, Forbes recently estimated his net worth at $4.5 billion, somewhere in between “worthless” and “$10 billion.”