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Out in the happier world of glitz and gossip columns, Trump attracted a lot of attention when he bought the New Jersey Generals football team in 1983 for a reported $8 million (Trump says he paid only $4 million) and tried to spur the fledgling U.S. Football League into full competition with the powerful National Football League. Trump not only invested heavily in college stars like Herschel Walker and Doug Flutie (who cost him $5 million or more) but also persuaded the league to sue the N.F.L. for antitrust violations. One league member recalls Trump saying that "everything he had been involved with had been successful, and he would be damned if the U.S.F.L. was going to be his first failure." Trump's league sued the N.F.L. for $1.7 billion, won the verdict but received only a symbolic $3 in damages. Trump called that a moral victory even as the "victorious" league disintegrated.
Litigation is an important part of the Trump style. He has ten different legal firms tending his affairs. His attorneys include his brother-in-law, John Barry, whose wife, Trump's elder sister Maryanne, is a federal judge in Newark. (Trump's only surviving brother, Robert, works for him as an executive vice president. His other sister, Elizabeth, is an administrative assistant for Chase Manhattan Bank.)
Trump filed a libel suit in 1985 against the Chicago Tribune's architecture critic, Paul Gapp, for having written that his plan to build the world's highest building portended "an atrocious, ugly monstrosity, one of the silliest things anyone could inflict on New York or any other city." The judge ruled for the critic. Trump even sued Eddie and Julius Trump, two South Africans unrelated to him, who had run a small conglomerate for 20 years before expanding into the U.S. in the 1970s. "They're trying to use my name," said Donald, who lost a preliminary suit. Another is pending.
Architect Richard Hayden of Swanke Hayden Connell, one of the designers of Trump Tower, calls Trump "a wonderful guy to work for," but he found himself sued for various Trump dissatisfactions and spent more than two years trying to collect his fees. "That's the way he finishes his jobs," says Hayden. Trump has even less decorous ways of being difficult. Architect Scutt recalls & that when Trump Tower once fell 15 days behind schedule, Trump kicked a chair all the way across a conference room. "He ruined a new pair of Gucci loafers," says Scutt. "He always has to have his way."
Trump's latest and biggest and most complicated controversy centers on Manhattan's largest remaining piece of undeveloped land, the 76-acre principality bordering the Hudson River from 59 Street to 72 Street. Once a Penn Central railroad yard, it is now mostly weeds and debris. Trump, who bought it for $90 million in 1984, touts it as a $5 billion Trump City, "a concept that is going to be spectacular." It would feature a 150-story building, the world's tallest ("The city of New York should have the world's tallest building"), plus 7,600 luxury apartments in a dozen skyscrapers, a huge shopping mall, a 9,000-car underground-parking garage, a nine-acre riverfront park and various odds and ends.