In the peach- and white-veined marble lobby of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, tourists can shop for items from Donald Trump’s clothing line and buy his best-selling book, “Trump: the Art of the Deal.” In the Trump Organization’s offices on the 26th floor, the walls are decorated with images of “The Apprentice” star on the covers of magazines, from Esquire to Playboy. And at the top of the building lies Trump’s personal residence, a gold- and marble-clad Louis XIV–style penthouse spread over three floors, where the 67-year-old real estate developer lives with his wife Melania, a former model, and their seven-year-old son, Barron (a child who is reportedly swabbed with caviar-enhanced moisturizer each night before bed).
It’s easy to see how life behind those gold-plated doors could lead to an inflated sense of self, and even in an industry full of billionaires, the outspoken Trump is known for his ego.
An example of his trademark bravado: In an interview at Trump Tower last month, Trump told The Real Deal that he’s only interested in acquiring one-of-a-kind, über-luxury properties.
“Unless it’s going to be iconic, I have no interest,” he said. “The word ‘trophy’ is not even good enough.”
In addition, he said: “I would not be surprised if my cash position was stronger than anyone in the [real estate] industry.”
But many are skeptical of such claims of grandiose wealth, and over the years, the question of Trump’s actual net worth has become a controversial one. Trump has accused both Forbes magazine and “TrumpNation” author Timothy O’Brien of under-estimating his wealth. (He filed a defamation suit in 2006 against O’Brien, who had estimated Trump’s net worth at between $150 and $250 million, claiming that the assertions in his book were inaccurate and had cost the Trump Organization deals. The suit was eventually dismissed.)
Among the most outspoken skeptics of Trump’s claims are those in the New York City real estate industry, who note that he no longer owns many property assets here. Trump is well known for building Trump Tower, of course, and for developing a number of residential high-rises, such as Trump Park Avenue at 502 Park Avenue and Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza, from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. But most of those properties have long since been sold to individual unit owners. And Trump hasn’t bought or developed any New York City buildings in recent years.
Meanwhile, a Trump Organization spokesperson confirmed that Trump also no longer owns the properties he inherited from his late father, Fred, who started the family real estate business in outer-borough neighborhoods like Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay and Flushing. The Trump Organization sold most of those buildings in 2004, according to a spokesperson.
“Donald Trump is not a major player in New York City real estate,” said Jordan Barowitz, director of external affairs at the Durst Organization. “My guess is [that he owns] about 1.5 million square feet total. For comparison, the Durst Organization owns 13 million square feet in Manhattan.” (In fact, Trump owns more than 2 million square feet of commercial space in New York City.) Or as Michael T. Cohen, president of the tri-state region at Colliers International, put it: “Trump casts a very large image on the real estate scene considering that he only has [a few large] assets.”
But others noted that Trump has an asset most developers don’t: fame.
“Consumers know his name,” said fellow billionaire and New York real estate titan Richard LeFrak. “That’s what sets him apart.”
And Trump has an uncanny knack for parlaying that fame into various money-making opportunities.
Trump “understands people,” said Steve Roth, chairman of real estate giant Vornado Realty Trust. “He understands what they want to buy, and what they don’t want to buy.”
The Trump Organization concedes that there’s an air of mystery surrounding its portfolio, which includes core real estate assets in New York and internationally as well as an array of unrelated enterprises, such as the Miss Universe pageant and “The Apprentice” television franchise. Much of the confusion stems from the fact that Trump frequently licenses his name to products — and buildings — he has not developed and does not own, such as the hotel and condominium Trump Soho in Manhattan and the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Dubai.
Forbes’ most recent assessment put Trump’s total net worth at $3.2 billion, but the Trump Organization said the true figure, including the value of the Trump brand, is around $8.6 billion. In an attempt to prove it, the company provided TRD with a 2012 financial report prepared for Trump by his accountant, WeiserMazars, a major national firm. The report puts Trump’s total net worth at approximately $4.56 billion, including $1.38 billion worth of New York City commercial real estate; $351.55 million in New York residential properties; $1.57 billion in golf courses, resorts and related facilities across the world; and $823 million in interests in joint ventures. He also has some $451.7 million in debt and other commitments, plus personal cash and marketable securities in the amount of $169.7 million, according to WeiserMazars. In addition, and most controversially, the company said it believes the Trump brand is worth some $4 billion.
Using the WeiserMazars report and public records, as well as information provided by industry sources, TRD has inventoried Trump’s most significant real estate assets. The Trump Organization declined to provide the net operating income or the estimated dollar value of any of its individual properties to The Real Deal. The WeiserMazars report didn’t provide values for each individual asset, but instead grouped assets into categories and then provided figures for those categories. (As a sidenote, several assets straddled different categories.) Finally, we also asked industry insiders to estimate what individual assets are worth. Read on for a closer look.
The Trump Brand
Trump’s estimated value: $4 billion
In the Trump Organization’s eyes, its most valuable asset is the Trump name itself. For decades, Donald Trump has diligently cultivated his brand, and he’s now a TV star in his own right due to the ongoing success of “The Apprentice,” which is now in its 13th season.
It’s not all theoretical. Trump has found numerous ways to monetize his brand. Most notably, he’s licensed his name to no less than 17 different kinds of products, from clothing and perfume to vodka and mattresses, as well as glassy high-rise towers as far afield as Istanbul and the Philippines.
At projects such as the Trump Soho hotel/condominium at 246 Spring Street (developed by a partnership between the Bayrock Group and New York City developer Tamir Sapir) Trump is paid for the use of his name, but does not invest any of his own capital. Trump sometimes manages these projects, as he did in the case of Trump Soho, and always takes a licensing fee of $5 to $10 million, according to news reports. In some cases, he also takes a portion of potential future sales at the building.
Trump’s most recent licensing deal, announced last month, is for a hotel and condo tower in downtown Vancouver.
Terms of the agreements made with the developers of Trump-branded properties vary, and the Trump Organization declined to provide details of all the specific arrangements. But the company did say it has some $74.14 million worth of real estate licensing deals. And publicly available court records reveal that Trump pocketed more than $3.2 million in royalties for his clothing line, which is sold at Macy’s, between 2005 and 2007.
Sources agreed that these licensing deals are likely very profitable.
“If you can make licensing deals work, it’s a beautiful thing,” said developer Izak Senbahar of New York–based Alexico Group, which is currently developing the condo 56 Leonard, which will be the tallest building in Tribeca. “You’re not taking the risk, you’re only giving your name and taking a fee plus upside.”
He added: “You have to give [Trump] credit for creating such a brand. Who else can go to Panama City or Istanbul and license their name that way?”
LeFrak compared the licensing deals to “going to the box office and taking [a share of] the gross.”
“He’s using something he has to his best advantage,” LeFrak said. “It’s very clever what he’s been able to do.”
But Trump has faced criticism for these licensing deals, which have occasionally landed him in legal trouble with buyers. In 2011, for instance, buyers at three separate Trump-branded properties, including the Trump International Hotel and Tower Fort Lauderdale, sued the mogul for allegedly misleading them into believing he was the developer and later pulling his name from the projects once they went belly-up. The Trump Organizations denies those claims. Some of those lawsuits, however, are still ongoing.
And Trump has not put his name on a U.S. property since his Soho project began construction in 2007, leading some branding experts to speculate that it no longer holds the same weight it once did in the U.S.
James Fox, CEO of the strategy firm Red Peak Branding, which does work for large companies such as Intel and American Express, said the Trump Organization’s brand estimate of $4 billion “seems like a very high number given that, certainly in the U.S., his brand has been in pretty steady decline.”
The Trump brand likely had the most cachet in the 1980s and 1990s, he said, when “American capitalism was on the rise, and he was its poster boy. He acted kind of like a rock star, with beautiful women and beautiful cars. People aspired towards that, because all of culture was moving in that direction.”
Since the recession, however, American consumers are gravitating towards more humble, “authentic” brands, Fox said. In part, he said, that’s why Trump has started targeting consumers in other markets, which are more susceptible to what he called “the Trump idea of materialistic success.”
“All developing markets go through a period of conspicuous consumption,” Fox said. “There’s an emerging middle class, and people want to show and wear the wealth.” In response, Trump told The Real Deal that while he was “hot” in the 1980s, he was only “hotter” now, thanks in part to “The Apprentice.” The reason he does not do so many licensing deals in the U.S., he said, is because the economy is weak here and he’s focused on buying assets rather than licensing his name.
And the Trump Organization stands by its estimate of $4 billion for the brand, which came from a valuation the company commissioned six years ago from the brand strategy firm Predictiv. Predictiv pegged the value of Trump’s brand at $3 billion, and the Trump Organization estimated that it has increased to $4 billion since then.
Jon Low, a partner at Predictiv, said his analysis found that Trump-branded projects generally commanded prices and rents between 9 and 17 percent above the average for the areas in which they’re located.
“There are people who will pay a premium to stay at a Trump-branded property, even when other accommodations are available at a lower price,” Low said.
Office buildings and residential real estate
Trump’s estimated value: $2.9 billion
Donald Trump started out as a real estate developer, and property holdings do make up the lion’s share of his holdings (aside from his brand). The Trump Organization said it has a total of $2.9 billion worth of commercial and residential real estate. In addition to more than $74 million in real estate licensing deals, that includes $1.38 billion in New York City commercial buildings, $351.55 million in New York residential buildings and $823.3 million worth of real estate in joint ventures.
According to TRD’s research, however, these estimates may be slightly high. For example, while the Trump Organization values its combined interests in Trump Tower, Niketown, 40 Wall Street, 1290 Sixth Avenue and 555 California Street, located in San Francisco, at some $2.13 billion, industry experts said the total is likely closer to $1.86 billion.
Commercial real estate
Trump’s best-known — and likely most valuable — commercial real estate asset is his headquarters, Trump Tower, a 68-story mixed-use tower at 725 Fifth Avenue. The building, which is now 100 percent leased, was developed by a partnership of Trump and the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States in 1983, but Trump now has full control of the commercial and retail components of the tower, records show.
Robert Von Ancken, chairman of Landauer Appraisal Services, a division of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, estimated the total value of Trump Tower’s commercial and retail spaces at $460 million. The Trump Organization said the building was refinanced for $100 million in August 2012, allowing Trump to take a cash distribution of over $73 million. The loan, with an interest rate of 4.2 percent, matures in 2022.
Another one of Trump’s major commercial assets is 40 Wall Street, a 1.3 million-square-foot office building where Trump has had the leasehold since 1995. Michael Cohen, in-house counsel at the Trump Organization, said the mogul had paid $1 million for the leasehold; other reports say $10 million.
Either way, the value of the leasehold has increased exponentially since Trump bought it; experts said it’s now worth $350 to $400 million. And the pre-tax net operating income at the building as of 2011 was $20.89 million, according to the Department of Finance, while expenses totaled $14.4 million. However, Trump has a $160 million mortgage attached to the property with an interest rate of 5.71 percent, according to WeiserMazars.
Tenants in the building include Countrywide Insurance, Walgreens/Duane Reade and the American Precious Metals Exchange. Industry insiders said that due to generous tenant incentives, some tenants are paying as little as $30 per square foot, despite official asking rents of roughly $50 a foot. Trump’s son Donald Trump, Jr., who heads commercial leasing at the property, told TRD that some tenants in the lower portions of the building are paying in the $30s per square foot but the overall average for the building is between $40 and $60 a foot.
Trump also has the leasehold at the Niketown building at 6 East 57th Street. The eight-story retail building, which abuts Trump tower, is the national flagship of sports brand Nike.
Von Ancken said Trump’s leasehold is likely worth some $200 million, taking into consideration the fact that Nike’s lease in the building expires in 2017. While there does not appear to be a mortgage on the property, the building serves as collateral for bonds held by Trump to the tune of $46.4 million, according to WeiserMazars.
Trump acquired the last two significant pieces of his commercial real estate holdings, 1290 Sixth Avenue and San Francisco’s 555 California Street, in an unusual way: through a property swap.
It all started in 1994, when Trump was facing foreclosure on the Riverside South residential high-rises he’d developed on Manhattan’s far West Side. He sold a majority interest in the buildings to a consortium of Hong Kong investors, who then made a deal to swap the properties with Extell Development and the Carlyle Group in exchange for 1290 Sixth Avenue and 555 California Street. Trump objected to the exchange, thinking it undervalued the Riverside South properties, but as a minority owner, he had no legal way to stop it. His name still adorns many of the Riverside South properties, for which he also has a management contract.
Today, Trump owns a 30 percent stake in both 1290 Sixth Avenue and 555 California Street. A 43-story trophy office tower, 1290 Sixth is worth $1.5 billion, Von Ancken said, with Trump’s stake worth around $450 million (without considering taxes or liabilities).
And 555 California Street, a 2 million-square-foot building with tenants such as Microsoft and AXA Equitable, would likely sell for around $800 per foot, or $1.36 billion, San Francisco brokers said. That makes Trump’s interest worth in excess of $400 million.
Residential real estate
The Trump Organization values its holdings in New York City residential properties at more than $350 million, according to WeiserMazars. But just as in commercial real estate, industry experts said that figure may be too high.
For example, Trump in 1995 paid $7.5 million for a 213-acre estate just outside the town of Bedford in Westchester County. Called Seven Springs, the property features a 13-bedroom mansion, but is also zoned to allow for the construction of 13 additional homes at the site.
Local brokers put the property’s value at around $40 million, noting that Westchester County’s highest-ever home price was the December sale of the 100-acre Devonshire estate for $21 million. The Trump Organization declined to give a specific figure but it said it believes the estate is worth more than seven times that, based on the projected cash flow it would derive from the sale of the 13 properties on the site.
Trump originally planned to build a golf club on the site, but revised those plans in the face of opposition from local authorities. The company has no immediate plans to build the houses, the company said, but may bring in a third party to develop them eventually. A mortgage on the property has an outstanding balance of $7.52 million, according to WeiserMazars.
Another significant part of Trump’s residential portfolio is the plethora of New York residential high-rises with the Trump name. There’s Trump Park Avenue, Trump World Tower, Trump Palace on East 69th Street, Trump Parc at 106 Central Park South, Trump Parc East at 100 Central Park South, Trump Plaza on 61st Street and Trump International Hotel & Tower at 1 Central Park West.
Upon seeing these buildings, passersby could be forgiven for thinking that Trump owns a huge swath of New York City. But most of the apartments in the properties are no longer owned by Trump: The majority are co-ops and condos that have long since sold out.
Trump does still own 23 apartments at Trump Park Avenue, which he rents for rates as high as $100,000 per month, and 19 units at Trump Parc.
And he also maintains ownership of most of the commercial and retail spaces in the buildings bearing his name. At Trump International, for example, Trump manages the hotel and condo portions of the building and owns the commercial elements of the property, including a garage facility and retail space, which currently houses the restaurant Jean Georges. Trump also retains rights to the rooftops of most of his buildings and leases the spaces to cell network providers such as Verizon for a fee.
The Trump Organization does have some debt on these properties, including a $22.2 million loan on the developer’s interest in Trump Park Avenue and an $8.3 million loan related to the commercial and retained residential portions of Trump Plaza.
Another major contributor to Trump’s wealth are his sprawling personal homes, each worth millions. Most significant of these is his personal apartment at Trump Tower. Occupying the 66th to 68th floors of the building, the triplex penthouse is decorated in diamond, 24-carat gold and marble, and features an interior fountain and a massive Italianate-style painting on the ceilings. Asked by The Real Deal what the apartment might be worth, Trump said only that if he were to put the property up for sale, it would most certainly be the priciest apartment on the market in New York City.
Douglas Elliman Chairman Howard Lorber estimated that the unit could sell for upwards of $100 million if it came on the market today, thanks to its location on Fifth Avenue and its likely appeal to foreign investors.
Trump’s other homes include a Beverly Hills mansion on Rodeo Drive. Lee Ziff, a Beverly Hills broker with Keller Williams, told TRD that the house is likely worth $8.5 to $10 million, though he said he has not seen the inside.
But the mogul also owns residential properties as investments rather than vacation spots. For example, he owns two private houses in Palm Beach, Fla., adjacent to his Mar-a-Lago country club. The houses, which are 4,643 square feet and 1,950 square feet, according to real estate website Zillow.com, are worth around $6.5 million and $3 million, estimated Jonathan Harris, an agent at Valore Group Real Estate in Palm Beach.
And a slick business maneuver recently allowed him to nab a major residential asset for a major discount: the 2,000-acre Kluge estate in Charlottesville, Va.
Formerly owned by media billionaire John Kluge and his wife, Patricia, the property features a 23,000-square-foot mansion but is also a functioning commercial winery and vineyard.
Facing default following her husband’s death, Patricia Kluge put the estate on the market for $100 million about four years ago. Her lender, Bank of America, seized the property before she could unload it.
Trump bought the property out of foreclosure in 2011, paying only $7.9 million for the vineyard, winery and its equipment, and the land surrounding the house; those assets alone were valued by the bank at $60 million.
The 45-room mansion, meanwhile, was on the market for $16 million. In a bid to get it for far less, Trump let the property’s grounds become overgrown so they’d be unappealing to buyers. Eventually, he convinced the bank to sell him the house — for just $6.5 million. Ultimately, Trump paid a total $14.4 million for the entire property, now known as Trump Vineyard Estates and managed by Eric Trump.
Resorts, country clubs and golf courses
Trump’s estimated value: $1.57 billion
In recent years, Trump has invested heavily in “lifestyle properties” such as golf courses, resorts and country clubs. He owns at least 13 golf courses across the globe, including the 1,200-acre Trump International Golf Links in Scotland.
Putting a dollar figure on the value of these assets is tricky, however, because many of them come with development rights or the potential for other uses. The Trump Organization values its combined interests in these club facilities and related lifestyle properties at roughly $1.57 billion, according to WeiserMazars.
Among the most valuable of these assets is the Doral Resort & Spa in South Florida, which Trump bought out of bankruptcy for $150 million last year in another fire sale acquisition. The 800-acre property includes five golf courses, 700 hotel rooms, meeting and conference space, a 50,000-square-foot spa and an extensive retail component. Based on current prices in the Miami area, where land has been trading at close to $20 per square foot, real estate experts said the current value of the land alone at Doral could exceed $1 billion. Trump has a $125 million loan on the property, according to WeiserMazars.
Another significant holding is the oceanfront Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles at Palos Verdes, where Trump has development rights to build 75 homes adjacent to the course. Trump told The Real Deal that he’d already sold five of the lots for up to $5 million apiece but was not actively looking to sell more.
At Trump National Golf Club Westchester in Briarcliff Manor, Trump has rights to develop 87 luxury condos. Sixteen of those have already sold for $1.5 million to $2.45 million, according to the Trump Organization, which said it has no immediate plans to build the remaining properties.
While golf courses seem to be one of Trump’s primary interests right now, he also has interests in other kinds of lifestyle properties. For example, in Florida he owns the Mar-a-Lago country club, a 17-acre property with a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, which has played host to celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and Oprah. Commercial real estate brokers said it was difficult to determine a value for such an idiosyncratic asset, for which there are few comparables. Taking a stab, Harris said the property could ask as much as $250 million if it came on the market today.
Some of the properties in this category haven’t always been positive additions to Trump’s balance sheet.
In Nevada, Trump owns a 50 percent interest in Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, which he developed alongside real estate and casino mogul Phil Ruffin. Originally designed as a condominium, the property now operates primarily as a hotel; when it opened in 2008, the units sold rapidly but buyers couldn’t close once the crisis hit. Trump and Ruffin ended up high and dry with 900 units they couldn’t sell, Ruffin told The Real Deal.
“It was negative for a while,” Ruffin said in a phone interview last month. “Without the [Trump] brand, we probably would have let it go.”
Trump and Ruffin are close to closing a deal for 300 of the building’s units with a division of Hilton, which will use them as timeshare properties, Ruffin said. Hilton will pay around $100 million, he said. Ruffin said the deal would eradicate most of the partnership’s debt on the building, and that he and Trump will then be left with between 500 and 600 units, which will continue to be operated as a hotel.
And in Atlantic City, a portfolio of properties along the boardwalk that bear the Trump name are the source of the widespread misconception that Trump at one point went personally bankrupt.
Trump bought the portfolio, now known as Trump Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino, in 1987. The property’s ownership entity, Trump Entertainment Resorts, filed for bankruptcy four times between 1991 and 2009. After the first bankruptcy, the company went public and Trump began reducing his stake in it, from 36.6 percent in 1991 to just 5 percent today, the Trump Organization said. He is also no longer chairman of the company’s board.
Entertainment and other assets
Trump’s estimated value: $317.6 million
Trump also owns a wide variety of other enterprises outside the realm of real estate. For example, the real estate magnate owns the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants, which the Trump Organization said are collectively worth a total of $15 million.
In addition, he owns a talent and modeling agency, Trump Model Management, and 50 percent of the value of the rights to “The Apprentice,” which he shares with producer Mark Burnett and on which he’s been focusing much of his time and attention of late. He also owns several airplanes, including a Boeing 757 and a Cessna Citation X.
But regardless of how many planes or buildings he has, Trump has made one thing clear over the years, which accounts for a significant portion of his wealth: he knows how to stay in the spotlight.