Donald Trump Biography

Born: 1946
New York, New York

American businessman and real estate developer

An American real estate developer, Donald Trump became one of the best known and most controversial businessmen of the 1980s and 1990s.

Donald Trump. Reproduced by permission of Archive Photos, Inc.
Donald Trump.
Reproduced by permission of
Archive Photos, Inc.

Privileged childhood

Donald John Trump was born in 1946 in Queens, New York City, the fourth of five children of Frederick C. and Mary MacLeod Trump. Frederick Trump was a builder and real estate developer who specialized in constructing and operating middle income apartments in the Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn sections of New York. Donald Trump was an energetic and bright child, and his parents sent him to the New York Military Academy at age thirteen, hoping 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.

During the summers, Trump worked for his father's company at the construction sites. He entered Fordham University and then transferred to the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1968 with a degree in economics.

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. After graduating college, Trump joined the family business, the Trump Organization. In 1971 Trump moved his residence to Manhattan, where he became familiar with many influential people. Convinced of the economic opportunity in the city, Trump became involved in large building projects in Manhattan that would offer opportunities for earning high profits, utilizing attractive architectural design, and winning public recognition.

Building an empire

When the Pennsylvania Central Railroad entered bankruptcy, Trump was able to obtain an option (a contract that gives a person the authority to sell something for a specific price during a limited time frame) on the railroad's yards on the west side of Manhattan. When plans for apartments were refused 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 drop a fee if the center were named after his family, however, was turned down, along with his bid to build the complex.

In 1974 Trump obtained an option on one of the Penn Central's hotels, the Commodore, which was unprofitable but in an excellent location near Grand Central Station. The next year he signed a partnership agreement with the Hyatt Hotel Corporation, which did not have a large downtown hotel. Trump then worked out a complicated deal with the city to revamp the hotel. Renamed the Grand Hyatt, the hotel was popular and an economic success, making Trump the city's best known and most controversial developer.

In 1977 Trump married Ivana Zelnickova Winklmayr, a New York fashion model who had been an alternate on the 1968 Czech Olympic Ski Team. After the birth of the first of the couple's three children in 1978, Donald John Trump, Jr., Ivana Trump was named vice president in charge of design in the Trump Organization and played a major role in supervising the renovation of the Commodore.

In 1979 Trump rented a site on Fifth Avenue next to the famous Tiffany & Company as the location for a monumental $200 million apartment-retail complex designed by Der Scutt. It was named Trump Tower when it opened in 1982. The fifty-eight-story building featured a six-story courtyard lined with pink marble and included an eighty-foot waterfall. The luxurious building attracted well-known retail stores and celebrity renters and brought Trump national attention.

Atlantic City

Meanwhile Trump was investigating the profitable casino gambling business, which was approved in New Jersey in 1977. In 1980 he was able to acquire a piece of property in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He brought in his younger brother Robert to head up the complex project of acquiring the land, winning a gambling license, and obtaining permits and financing. Holiday Inns Corporation, the parent company of Harrah's casino hotels, offered a partnership, and the $250 million complex opened in 1982 as Harrah's at Trump Plaza. Trump bought out Holiday Inns in 1986 and renamed the facility Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. Trump also purchased a Hilton Hotels casino-hotel in Atlantic City when the corporation failed to obtain a gambling license and renamed the $320 million complex Trump's Castle. Later, while it was under construction, he was able to acquire the largest hotel-casino in the world, the Taj Mahal at Atlantic City, which opened in 1990.

Back in New York City, Trump had purchased an apartment building and the Barbizon-Plaza Hotel in New York City, which faced Central Park, with plans to build a large condominium tower on the site. The tenants of the apartment building, however, who were protected by the city's rent control and rent stabilization programs, fought Trump's plans and won. Trump then renovated the Barbizon, renaming it Trump Parc. In 1985 Trump purchased seventy-six acres on the west side of Manhattan for $88 million to build a complex to be called Television City, which was to consist of a dozen skyscrapers, a mall, and a riverfront park. The huge development was to stress television production and feature the world's tallest building, but community opposition and a long city approval process delayed construction of the project. In 1988 he acquired the Plaza Hotel for $407 million and spent $50 million renovating it under his wife Ivana's direction.

Declining wealth

It was in 1990, however, that 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 massive loans to keep it from collapsing, a situation that 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 from the 1980s.

Yet Trump climbed back and was reported to be worth close to $2 billion in 1997. Donald Trump's image was tarnished by the publicity surrounding his controversial separation and the later divorce from his wife, Ivana. But Trump married again, this time to Marla Maples, a fledgling actress. The couple had a daughter two months before their marriage in 1993. He filed for a highly publicized divorce from Maples in 1997, which became final in June 1999.

On October 7, 1999, Trump announced the formation of an exploratory committee to inform his decision of whether or not he should seek the Reform Party's nomination for the presidential race of 2000, but backed out because of problems within the party.

A state appeals court ruled on August 3, 2000, that Trump had the right to finish an 856-foot-tall condominium on New York City's east side. The Coalition for Responsible Development had sued the city, charging it with violation of zoning laws by letting the building reach heights that towered over everything in the neighborhood. The city has since moved to revise its rules to prevent more of such projects. The failure of Trump's opponents to obtain an injunction (a court order to stop) allowed him to continue construction.

For More Information

Blair, Gwenda. The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Hurt, Harry, III. The Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump. New York : W. W. Norton, 1993.

O'Donnell, John R., with James Rutherford. Trumped!: The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.

Tucille, Jerome. Trump: The Saga of America's Master Builder. New York: D. I. Fine, 1985.

User Contributions:

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Dec 26, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
good article, very good article, very very good article
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Apr 28, 2011 @ 10:22 pm
Wow - this country is going down the tubes. Anyone who can seriously consider voting for Trump must get of their perspective on life from watching reality TV, infomercials and the Home Shopping Network all day.
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Aug 22, 2015 @ 10:10 am
Sure would be nice if folks would listen and not filter through their prejudices. It would be nice to have an "American" who is not beholden to anyone when they come into office and will just 'hire' people who are actually qualified for their positions. Trump has a history of doing exactly that. We need this country cleaned up before we can help others. Too much dishonesty in government is killing us. We are not respected. If we want other countries to 'love' us again, they need to respect us first and fear us.
marie bellin
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Nov 2, 2015 @ 5:17 pm
D. Trump is crude, rude and would be a disaster as President. His ego will eventually choke him and his arrogance will bring him down. He has
no humility and thinks he is better than anyone else. He will exit out of this world just like all the rest of us. Why not be humble, kind and not
full of himself. Listen to others and don't think he knows it all and his money makes him better that others.
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Dec 13, 2015 @ 9:21 pm
Donald Trump Raised in NY, June 14, 1946 born in Canada, how come no one is talking about that. This man cannot talk without lying. At Any time in history of our United States of America. We must not fail to elect a President that understands the task at hand, with integrity that put GOD an country an her citizens at the forefront . We need A
( President )with character that wonts what is best for America . Instead of someone that, Quote" ( Has nothing better to do.) "Donald Trump" unquote this man has not answered one question out wright, it"s always controversy he gets frustrated when it"s over his head or he don"t have a answer.Smoke and Mirrors he honed these skills in his youth A.C. mayby
p,s, it may have been Donald Duck that was born in Canada.
GOD bless
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Jan 20, 2016 @ 10:10 am
donald trump is my man also hannah and aidreann are my besties
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Jan 20, 2016 @ 5:17 pm
Donald Trump is a megalomaniac and anybody in thier right mind would not even begin to consider supporting this idiot. He's self centered, arrogant, brutal and foolish. If he he were to become US President, I doubt it would last three weeks. He can't help but his foot in his mouth and his tongue up his a--. He would be expected to deal with leaders of other countries, what a joke.
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Jan 22, 2016 @ 10:10 am
Steve Schwartz
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Jan 22, 2016 @ 6:18 pm
Trump as the best boss. Ask just about anyone who worked for him. Always thought of safety first, always paid overtime, a lot, always spoke to you, friendly and sincere. When he had his tv programs, which I didn't watch, it was not the real guy we knew. I wouldn't be adverse to him being president. That said, I hope to vote for Bernie!
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Jan 27, 2016 @ 10:10 am
Donald Trump is a perpetual spoiled child! How should a child throwing a tantrum, you ignore him/her! Anyone who believes he will not behave the same way "IF" he should become president should at least take an intro psychology course.
Judy Heidzig
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Jan 27, 2016 @ 12:12 pm
TLDukes: This article says he was born in Queens. What makes you think he was born in Canada? I would like to hear from more of the people who have worked for him.
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Jan 28, 2016 @ 11:11 am
It shouldnt matter what people say its up to what you believe and who you want to vote for
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Jan 28, 2016 @ 3:15 pm
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Jan 29, 2016 @ 8:08 am
I love Donald trump so much. Thank you for this article
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Jan 31, 2016 @ 3:15 pm
The rest of the world will never respect him. He will bring us down. WWIII may happen with the rest of the world united against us. He will be the worst thing to ever happen to planet earth. I live in Mexico. Do you know how many Americans live here illegally because they cannot afford to live there? Foreign relations will not exists and someone will take him down if his own country does not remove him from office quickly.He is the most pumped up egotistical, lying, noncaring, nongentleman, creep I have ever seen.I hope someone is digging up his dirt.
Essie Marie Johnson
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Jan 31, 2016 @ 6:18 pm
I absolutely love Donald Trumps egocentric ism. I hope he doesn't fizzle out and he just keeps it coming. Our country needs a voice, and he cares. When he was on with Bill O'Reiley Friday, I wanted Mr. Trump to just say let's move on and get on problems at hand, quit worrying about Megan. Our nation is truly sick of how one another looks.
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Feb 1, 2016 @ 9:09 am
The article is very good type another one out. I just wish there was another one right now because it
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Feb 4, 2016 @ 9:09 am
A leader must portrays a high level of discipline,not arrogant or egocentric but one who suppose to be allocentric in his/her exhibitions and dispositions.If you are dreaming on top tommorrow,learn how to be humble on time,good name is better than riches.Being affluent does not make any one special or superior but wisdom makes a person and bestablish his empire.I will support and promote anyone with unassuming and courteous life-style.
Emma Reyes
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Feb 4, 2016 @ 10:22 pm
I love Donald Trump. I'm sure he'll be the next president of the United States.
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Feb 5, 2016 @ 8:08 am
Funny people say Donald trumps going to bring war on us soil it's already coming your just to blind and dumb to see it

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