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
Ariane Dolgah
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Feb 23, 2016 @ 1:01 am
I am so glad Donald Trump is running for President. I do not care if he has a big ego. I do not care if he offends you. If he is not "correct ".
At least he is not a traitor like the two Cubans like Rubio the hispanic Obama who will provide a free pass to million of illegals or Cruz the Bible liar or Hillary the pathetic candidate of the past or expect to win because she is a woman or Bernie the communist.
I despise all those politicians that want to step on Trump planing to destroy him on his path to the white house and who criticize people who choose Trump LIKE I DO.
This is the land of the free and I am free to choose Trump. And all of you jerks that want to judge my choice talk to my lower back !
Patty N
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Feb 23, 2016 @ 10:10 am
I agree with Ariane D that it does not matter if someone has a big ego, or if someone offends, or even if someone is a hole. It does not even matter what a man says, even if his words are hate-filled, vitriolic tirades. What matters is what a man does, and this is critical to the future of our country. l truly understand people wanting to back Trump, because he is screaming that something is wrong here in our country. Many, many, many people: Democrats, Republicans, undecideds, agnostics, Christians, Moslems, Cuban-Americans, Asians, and others of us agree, I think, on that point. So, Trump is right about that. What we must consider is who the person will be to take our country forward, and we must base that on how we think that person will do that. We must read between the lines as we choose. We must recognize also that evil does exist, and that we must always be aware and wary when choosing our leaders.
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Feb 23, 2016 @ 9:21 pm
I have had no doubt about TRUMP as being the best choice for a president. He cares about America and Americans. He's no ones puppet and have climbed amazing mountains to accomplish the things he has. I laugh when people call him stupid or and idiot. With a brilliant mind and an IQ of almost 160 hardly should be called that lol perhaps the people calling him that better take a look at themselves and their accomplisments. No politicians.! Haven't they caused enough. And supporting a wicked muslim like Obama to destroy our country to accomplish a new world order. TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP is the answer to turn our wonderful country on it's way back to the country good Americans respect. IT'S our only job to stand up for and beside him. Get out and vote. This is the most important election this country has ever faced
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Feb 24, 2016 @ 12:00 am
I am highly motivated by this biography and wonder how on earth such immense success would be under the care of such an arrogant Trump. On the contrary, I blame the origin of Trumps grandparents (German) that I believe without doubt carry the Hitler genes. my verdict: Donald Trump is a good stand alone character. Venomous to a republic, arrogant, careless, and simply foolish. He will die never having attained self actualization and head home to Hitler his ancestor.
Obed gonzalez
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Feb 24, 2016 @ 9:09 am
Though it is refresning to see a non politician running for public office, we need to evaluate his true intentions. That is, is he running for president to help the country in it's national as well as foreign policy or is he doing it as another goal he set for himself to reach in his life time. We must all remember that his relationship with Congress is extremely important for changing any policy issues. Should he become President his business acumen may help him. However, the cabinet he's chooses as his advisors will be the key to his successes and failures.
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Mar 2, 2016 @ 1:13 pm
Donald Trumps know how of making money will never make him a credible Presidential candidate. He did not even study political science! His ideologies are based on assumptions of cultures, because he is too lazy to look up the facts! America's safety in his hands is a very scary thought; as the only thing I read in this biography is an early sending away to a military school for discipline, not REAL military training! We are living in a day and age where America requires a president who has un- questionable skills, but not even skills are enough, and he demonstrates a lack of empathy for human beings. He feels that respect can be bought respect must be earned, and the same as trust. Based on the way he speaks in his debates, the skills he possesses are rudeness, and racist!
Toni Gee
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Mar 3, 2016 @ 5:05 am
It's all so interesting as to what's happening. Trump has been called him every name in the book. Please tell me why Hillery's past doings are not talked about as much? Why are people wanting another Obama by voting for her. Why do people want to vote for either one of two men who are not born in the U.S.? All the nit picking going on it tells me the Republicans are more afraid of Mr. Trump than the Democrats. It's all so obvious if you have speck of grey matter.. I'm offended at the Republican party they must think we are some kind of stupid.I am curious as to why the Republican party wants to see our country fall apart. It makes no sense. Mr.Trump I wish you the best, and thank you for being here for us!
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Mar 6, 2016 @ 11:23 pm
I am 16 and honestly trump is a good candid but how do we know , hes going to actually put forth his ideas in reality, I do not want another dictator and i just want everything to go back to peace. I am not old enough to vote i just want to know someone will make a change in society. IM READY FOR CHANGE. i dont like it when he is ignorent and his ego because the world needs another honest Abe .
Valerie Handelsman
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Mar 27, 2016 @ 3:15 pm
Watching the rise of Donald Trump has been interesting to say the least. I am sort of reluctant to help give this man complete power over the free world, but on the other hand he has unusual gifts to offer this country. Donald Trump is a solid American with much to lose if our country doesn't do well, assuming he takes office. That's sort of an insurance policy the American people can bank on. Business deals within the Middle East, (the area I find to be the most explosive) are calculating, undermining, raw and certainly not "All American". Someone like Donald Trump, as crass as people may find him, I see as having the ability to abruptly negotiate with our adversaries. Dealing in this world can not be done with a "Casper Milk Toast" mentality. Donald Trump's wife has a certain elegance about her; sort of royalty. America could use some royalty, fashion and elegance.
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Mar 29, 2016 @ 10:10 am
it is true that donald trump is a good business man but a country is not ran like a business that is why he would be a terrible president. when running a business you are looking on how much you gain in the end. being a president isn't about making things for yourself its about making things good for the people of this country, and people should realize that respect is far from fear if some one tried to make me fear them and think they would gain respect, that is delusional. (to all supporters of trump he has called you dim in many occasions what makes you still respect him he is cruel to so many and he truly hurts people and until this is realized this country is doomed.)
Jane Doe
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May 25, 2016 @ 12:12 pm
Donald Trump, that crooked, twisted fiend. He is as racist as a Klansmen, dipped in dump misguide zeal. And actually, ego does matter, and to be honest, I don't think he can fill his big head with more hot air than it already is. I get it, honestly none of the political candidates are good, most are a bunch of criminals, and this government leadership, is going down faster than the Titanic. But really people? Trump as president?!?! That's a death wish to our country. He came from humble beginnings I admit, but he surely doesn't know how to run a country, give that man power, and we all go down. And you know, I'm pretty sure that more than half of us have received a basic level of education, so let me say this, remember in history class how your teachers taught to you about another crooked loone? Yes Hitler, most of what Trump talks about doing when he is sworn into office resembles almost everything Hitler stood for. And no I am not the only one who sees this. So honestly people, if you support Trump and a couple of the comments above do, you must quite racist as well. So hopefully you are actually educated enough to know that Trump is the worst choice for America.
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May 25, 2016 @ 1:13 pm
I agree with Jane Doe, Trump is a messed up man. I mean, do you hear half the things he says? He says muslims are uncontrolled, he "claims" that they cheered on 9/11 and because of that he wants to ban them all. He hates mexicans and wants to build a FREAKING WALL!!! Is he out of his mind?!?! I have many friends who are proper hispanic americans and they are telling me that if Trump becomes president then they have to leave, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE LEGAL AMERICANS!! I also have friends who are muslims and they are some of the smartest and kind people you will ever meet! They have perfect records and are very grateful people. Trump has got everything all wrong. He also mocks disable reporters and also is a sexiest stooge. I mean what is wrong with him? To all of you who think that what Trump wants to do is not wrong, you clearly are racist as heck. Yes I get it, this is America and we are allowed to think whatever we want, but we can't be cruel and monsters to people just because they are of a different color or religion. And you can't put all people in one division, just because someone is black doesn't mean they do drugs, just because someone is muslim doesn't mean they're apart of Isis, and just because someone is mexican doesn't mean that they are an illegal immigrant. You people who are like that SERIOUSLY need a life check, honestly. Trump is a businessman, and by the way, AMERICA IS NOT A BUSINESS!! We are a country that many look up to because we are an example of freedom, that's why many people wish to come here, to be apart of something so amazing as america. If Trump is president he is bound to ruin that image.
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May 26, 2016 @ 8:08 am
MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN huge wall ilove donald trump i want him inside me
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May 27, 2016 @ 6:06 am
Wow! Amazing biography, wonderful businessman, but for now I did not know Trump had such an impeccable business empire. However, I think the world would be better of with Trump as a businessman than the president of the United States of America

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