Trump builds big and lavish
When asked the three rules for making money in real estate, most promoters answer with the hackneyed "Location, location, location." To that formula, Donald Trump, 37, adds timing and targeting. Trump has built a $1 billion empire in what he regards as the world's most important location: New York City. His company's umbrella covers hotels, condominiums, shopping centers and more than 25,000 apartments. He bought properties when prices were low and turned them into moneymakers by selling to the super rich.
Now Trump is going after another interest of some of those same people: gambling. Next month Trump and Harrah's, the Nevada-based hotel/casino company, will open a fun-and-games palace in Atlantic City. It will be Harrah's second one there and its first on the famous Boardwalk. The hotel will have 614 rooms, and its 39 stories will make it the tallest building so far in the construction boom that began there in the late 1970s.
At 60,000 sq. ft., the gaming center will be one of the largest in the world. There will be a 750-seat nightclub and seven restaurants, including one named Ivana, after Trump's Vienna-born wife. The former model and competitive skier is a vice president of the Trump organization.
The Atlantic City project is not Trump's only undertaking in New Jersey. Last September he bought the Generals of the new United States Football League. A loser during its first season in 1983, the team has won five and lost one so far this year. His Generals, says Trump, have "now become the No. 1 story in the whole of sports." Hyperbole like that is part of the Trump style. He is dreaming of the ultimate contest, a "Galaxy Bowl," mightier than the Super Bowl, that would pit the top N.F.L. team against the best U.S.F.L. one.
Donald Trump followed the lead of his father Fred, who built apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. But Trump the younger focused on the borough of Manhattan. In the mid 1970s, when real estate prices there were depressed by a recession and the city's financial problems, Trump astonished people by buying the old Commodore Hotel from the bankrupt Perm Central. He gutted it, put in lots of glass and chrome, and reopened it as the Grand Hyatt. Says he: "We expected to get an average of $38 a night. Now we get $150."
His plushest project so far is Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street. Its 68 stories of bronze and glass encase 263 condominiums that cost from $600,000 to $10 million each. Among the buyers: Johnny Carson, Sophia Loren, Director Steven Spielberg. Footmen in Buckingham Palace-style uniforms open doors to a lobby that is really a six-story atrium with an 80-ft. waterfall. The Trumps, including their three children, preside over a three-story penthouse, an exception to his longstanding rule of not living where tenants can nag him.