This excellent article from
The field Negro education series continues:
“Dust swirled and jackhammers pounded outside the Bonwit Teller building in Manhattan as undocumented immigrants tore apart the façade. It was June 5, 1980, and a sense of bitterness hung over the work site that afternoon; paychecks were often weeks late, but since the Poles didn’t have legal status in the United States, there was little they could do about it.
The exterior they were destroying was an architectural masterpiece—bronze, platinum, hammered aluminum, glazed ceramic and tinted glass that shimmered like jewelry. Many New Yorkers had hoped the grandest portion would survive; curators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art had asked the developer to carefully remove the two bas-relief sculpture panels so they could be restored and put on public display. But that afternoon, the laborers, acting on orders from the developer, smashed the 50-year-old art deco panels into a rubble of stone, pebble and dirt.
The desecration horrified Manhattan’s art community, but the developer, a brash 34-year-old named Donald Trump, dismissed the criticism—pretending to be his own spokesman, “John Barron,” as he talked to reporters by phone. Saving the panels would have cost him $32,000 each, he said, and delayed work for a few days on his $100 million project, Trump Tower. Besides, he declared, he knew more than the curators—the panels had no artistic merit and little financial value.
This incident from long before Trump became a household name is an ideal exemplar for his business career, in which he has repeatedly left bitterness and ruin in his wake. His destructive behavior—spurred by recklessness, arrogance and an unslakable thirst for vengeance—has victimized cities, businesses, investors, partners, even members of his family.
Trump is now completing his biggest and most astonishing demolition: tearing down the Republican Party. Since the disclosure of a recording earlier this month in which Trump demeans women and boasts of sexually assaulting them, the GOP presidential nominee has vowed to make his campaign a scorched-earth mission. He now speaks of vast conspiracies against him involving bankers, the media and politicians, while raging against Republicans who have pulled away from his toxic campaign, ripping open chasms between his zealous supporters and the GOP. Win or lose on November 8, Trump, whose campaign did not respond to Newsweek requests for comment about this article, will leave the Republican Party as damaged as those art deco panels were 36 years ago.
To anyone who has watched Trump over the past four decades, none of this is a surprise. His presidential campaign is built on the claim that he’s a brilliant businessman worth $10 billion who turns every challenge into success, but Trump is none of those things. Instead, he was born into an exceedingly wealthy family and tried to build upon his father’s success with ever-riskier ventures, and by any rational measure, he failed again and again.
He’d have done better if he’d never gone into business. In 1982, Trump reported to New Jersey regulators a personal net worth of $321 million, built largely on his father’s connections, as well as loans and guarantees for bank credit. Two years later, a Trump lieutenant testified that his worth had not changed much. In 2004, in reviewing his application for a loan, Deutsche Bank concluded he was worth $788 million. Trump now makes the highly dubious claim that he is worth $10 billion; Forbes estimates that the real number is $3.7 billion. That’s a lot of money, to be sure, but suppose Trump had never done any deals and instead sold all of his assets back in 1982 and invested them in a fund based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. With dividends reinvested, he would have increased his wealth to $535 million by 1985. By 2004, his personal wealth would have increased to $5.9 billion. And three years ago, he would have exceeded what he claims to be worth now by more than $1 billion; today, he would be worth more than $13 billion, just under three times the Forbes estimate.
In other words, if the Republican nominee had done nothing but mow his lawn for the past 35 years, he would be a dramatically wealthier man than he is today. The huge bonus in that scenario: Thousands of people would not have been ridiculed, ripped off or otherwise have suffered from encounters with Donald J. Trump.
Donald Trump loves to put his name on buildings, but there are no hospital wings named for him. No museums have a piece of artwork with a plaque reading “A Gift of Donald J. Trump.” No buildings at the University of Pennsylvania bear his name, even though he constantly cites his graduation from its Wharton School as a sign of his intelligence. (Contrary to Trump’s suggestion, he attended the school for only two years as an undergraduate and did not obtain a degree from Wharton’s far more prestigious graduate business program.)
Trump bears little resemblance to prominent billionaires such as Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg or Charles Francis Feeney, who have dedicated huge sums of their wealth to aiding the less fortunate. There is no evidence that Trump has done much of anything to make the world a better place; what he has left behind is some buildings, along with a lot of wreckage and rancor.
Trump regularly cheats at golf, even revising his scorecard after a match to transform defeat into victory, according to two people who have played with him. He persuaded an elderly couple who ran a Florida antique store to let him “try out” two valuable pieces, then refused to return or pay for them, according to someone close to the Trump family. He bought expensive jewelry at Bulgari on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, then colluded with the store to have empty boxes supposedly containing his purchase shipped out of state so he could dodge New York sales tax, court records show. After dragging a buddy through years of litigation, Trump told the man he had filed the suit only because he was angry the friend had not given him enough public credit for his success, according to a person who witnessed the conversation.
When business executives came to his office, Trump bragged about his current wife, Melania, and showed them nude photographs from her modeling days, two bankers say. Trump encourages staff at the Trump Organization to tell him the faults of co-workers who are standing there, creating a vicious corporate environment, a former executive says. His niece and nephew sued him, alleging Trump used his influence over his then-demented father to rewrite his will and cut out his brother’s side of the family. Enraged by the suit, Trump reneged on a family commitment to pay the medical bills for his nephew’s sick baby. (They settled under confidential terms.)
There are no names attached to those stories because the sources all know the Republican nominee strikes out viciously over any perceived criticism. They all asked to remain anonymous for fear that Trump would drag them to court or try to damage their careers. They know that is one of Trump’s greatest skills : bullying, threatening and suing anyone who criticizes him and cowing most of them into silence.
He showed his willingness to harm others for his personal benefit early in his career. Using those undocumented Polish workers in 1980 for the razing of the Bonwit Teller building, for example, was deemed part of a civil conspiracy to defraud a union pension fund, a federal judge in New York later ruled.
Another example emerged the following year. Trump purchased an old hotel and adjacent apartment building for redevelopment on Central Park South, one of the toniest streets in Manhattan. A little more than 100 tenants occupied the rent-controlled apartments, but Trump launched a campaign to drive them out, according to court documents filed by city and state officials. He filed a barrage of what the city called “nuisance suits” against the residents. He cut off their heat and hot water. He tried to move homeless people into empty apartments to annoy or even frighten the residents. He decreased security for the building, and over those 18 months, the number of burglaries in the building skyrocketed.
Trump scoffed at complaints from residents and the government, publicly disparaging occupants of the apartments as pampered millionaires—a claim he made with no information to back it up. Instead, the court proceedings showed that many of the residents were elderly or middle class. In 1986, with the legal proceedings dragging on, Trump finally abandoned his plans to tear down the apartment building, and the residents were allowed to remain.
During that five-year battle, Trump also destroyed a football league. He had been unable to purchase an NFL team—it’s unclear exactly why—so he bought one in the fledgling United States Football League. The idea for the USFL was simple: America had a passion for football and the NFL didn’t play in the spring, so that’s when the USFL would stage its games.
The USFL got off the ground in 1983. The timing could hardly have been better. The NFL was still recovering from a players’ strike in the fall of 1982 , and ESPN, a cable sports network, had recently launched, creating a demand for more programming, one that industry analysts expected would grow dramatically. There were 12 teams in the upstart USFL. ABC Sports and the USFL agreed to a two-year broadcast contract worth about $20 million; that was followed by a contract with ESPN. John Bassett, an owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits who gained a reputation as the USFL’s visionary, said he planned to have the league grow slowly. The owners would take losses for a while—as they would from investing in any promising startup—but in seven or eight years, Bassett said, the USFL would be on par with the NFL and have the money to compete for the best players.
After the first USFL season, Trump purchased the New Jersey Generals from an Oklahoma oilman. And with that, Bassett’s plan unraveled. Trump proclaimed that spring football was stupid. Bassett cautioned that competing against the NFL in the same season would kill the fledgling league, but Trump dismissed Bassett’s warning. “If God wanted football in the spring,” he said, “he wouldn’t have created baseball.”
Rather than holding down costs, Trump began spending wildly for star players, offering so much money that he set off a salary spiral in the NFL and the USFL, one that eventually drove up the price of tickets to cover the massive expense. Trump also decided to add cheerleaders, holding tryouts in the basement of Trump Tower and selecting a number of underage girls for the job.
In 1986, Bassett was dying of brain cancer and struggled to control the brash new owner. Through browbeating, cajoling and intimidation, Trump persuaded the other teams to abandon the spring league concept and play in the fall. He and his supporters sent lawyers into court, arguing that the NFL operated an illegal monopoly. A jury eventually agreed but awarded the USFL just $1 in damages—an amount that, under antitrust rules, had to be trebled to $3.
The USFL appealed and, as part of its legal strategy, did not start playing again that spring. When the Supreme Court let the judgment stand, the USFL collapsed. Hundreds of people—players, announcers, executives, cheerleaders and others—lost their jobs.
Ugly, Incomprehensible Fights
“I love to have enemies,” Trump once said. “I fight my enemies. I like beating my enemies to the ground.”
He uttered these words in 1989, about the same time he was in a series of pointless battles: with other billionaires, with midlevel executives, with nobodies whose lives he destroyed just because he could.
The ugliest—and most incomprehensible—fight involved a New York billionaire named Leonard Stern, who had turned a pet supply company into a real estate and media empire. The two men had been friendly enough until the spring of 1988, when one of Stern’s magazines, 7 Days, published a fairly innocuous article about Trump Tower, which contained a comment that resale prices on apartments were not as strong as their marketing suggested. This was hardly a surprise, as former Trump Tower residents had already publicly stated they had lost money on their resales.
Although the comment was true, it infuriated Trump, who wrote to Stern, saying, “I just read a highly inaccurate and biased story in 7 Days by an obvious Trump hater—it is a disgrace.” Trump soon followed up with a note to David Schneiderman, president of Stern Publishing, which owned 7 Days, announcing a mass-plaintiff lawsuit brought by virtually everyone living in every Trump property, all of whom (he claimed) were outraged by the little-noticed comment in a little-read publication. While he was not keen on bringing litigation, Trump wrote, he could not hold back the hordes of apartment owners eager to sue and so decided to join them.
Trump dropped the threat when he read a subsequent 7 Days article that included a compliment for his then-wife, Ivana, and the role she had played in redecorating his Plaza Hotel. He never explained why the infuriated (and unnamed) Trump apartment owners no longer cared about the damage supposedly done by the first piece.” [More here]
America, this is your president. *shakes head*
See the article here: