Let Them Eat Trump Steaks

Ambulatory bag of floor shavings, narcissism, and mendacity Donald Trump once ran a public company, did you know that? It sold stock and everything! CNN takes us back to those heady days of 1995, when Michael Jordan came out of retirement, Mel Gibson painted himself blue and seriously insisted you can still have freedom after they take your life, and the DVD was born. And a sharp New York real estate mogul raised $140 million in an initial public offering for stock in "Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts," with the humble ticker symbol "DJT." The company lasted all of a decade, lost money every year it was public, and was bankrupt by 2005. Many of us have pets with longer and happier lives, and certainly good old Snickers the cat never bilked investors out of a ton of money before he went to the animal hospital for his final gentle (not extreme) vetting.

How terrific an investment was Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts? Just look at this pretty chart of its stock value!

Chart via CNN

Poor Donald Trump. It must have broken his heart to see his beloved self-initialed stock tank like that. Fortunately, he was able to cushion the pain somewhat, mostly by falling back into an enormous pile of money:

DJT paid Trump handsomely each year. His salary, bonus and options totaled about $20 million.

An additional $18.5 million came from what the filings called "other" compensation. That includes a web of inventive deals:

-- complex consulting contracts that paid Trump for consulting with his own company;

-- licensing deals under which DJT paid Trump to use the Trump name;

-- reimbursement for the times the company used his personal jet or golf courses for VIPs.

In other words, a company that Trump controlled was paying Trump to use other stuff he owned, including his name.

"Huh!" said the sidekick in any generic detective story. "Sounds like the same M.O. as in the Campaign Fundraising Scheme!" Why yes, Skippy, it does. It sure does. And best of all, it appears to have been perfectly legal. Maybe!

As a f'rinstance, CNN notes that from 1999 and 2002, DJT paid out $10.2 million to a company called "TCI-II," which listed Donald Trump as sole director and shareholder. TCI-II did marketing, advertising, and promotions for "Castle Associates," the partnership that owned the Trump Marina Hotel. In other words, Donald Trump got a nice consulting gig to help promote his very own hotel. We bet he got excellent feedback from his client, too. Similarly,

In 1995, Trump earned $1.7 million for providing consulting services to Taj Associates. That group owned the Trump Taj Mahal casino, which at the time was majority owned by Trump. Translation: The public company paid Trump for providing expertise to a casino that he owned a stake in.

We're picturing Donald Trump playing Monopoly with himself, and cheering every time he lands on Boardwalk with a hotel, because the bank is actually money from stockholders.

Just as Trump's presidential campaign has paid a perfectly fair price for campaign events held at Trump properties, Trump also chose -- conveniently enough -- his own jet and facilities to "entertain high-end customers":

DJT explained: "Management believes that the ability to utilize these facilities enhances" its revenue. The "management" here meant Trump himself, since he was the chairman.

In 2002, DJT paid Trump $300,000 for the services of a pilot who flew Trump's personal airplane for VIP customers. And in 2005, the company incurred $337,000 for using Trump's plane as well as his golf courses.

That appears to have worked out well for everyone involved.

Drexel University finance professor David Becher told CNN it's not unheard of for public companies to make such deals with a major stockholder, as long as they're "scrutinized very carefully" to avoid conflicts of interest. And indeed, DJT had a committee to screen all such deals between DJT the company and Donald J. Trump the consultant/contractor/airplane renter. Trump himself wasn't even on that committee, so it had to be above board. CNN didn't mention whether any members of the committee were named John Barron, John Miller, or John Bigboote.

All in all, it was a pretty terrific ride, and insanely successful, except maybe for the investors, who lost money like some poor schlub who set up an unstoppable Trump Campaign auto donation:

Filings show that someone who invested $100 in DJT in 1995 would have lost 90% of their money by 2000 -- and been left with just $8.72.

By comparison, the same amount invested in the S&P 500 would have risen to $232.

DJT filed for bankruptcy in 2004, wiping out the holdings of all shareholders, including Trump.

Ah, but there was at least a happy ending for one of those investors who lost it all: When the company reorganized as "Trump Entertainment Resorts," Donald Trump managed to make another $6.1 million before it, too, went tits up in 2009.

Just think how rich he'll make us all when he's in charge of the entire U.S. economy!


Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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