Before Trump was elected President of the United States he was a businessman and TV personality. As president of The Trump Organization, he oversaw an estimated 500 businesses under its umbrella. Trump has been involved in a variety of ventures over the years, including Manhattan real estate projects, casinos, and golf courses. Some of his projects have been massively successful while others failed spectacularly. But did you know he tried to profit by selling steak through a catalog? Or that he owned a football team? Check out some of Trump’s lesser-known business deals…
He Was A Co-Producer For A Broadway Show, Which Flopped
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In 1970, Trump was 23-years-old and a recent graduate of Wharton. His father, a real estate developer, gave him some money, and he spontaneously decided to visit Broadway producer David Black. He asked Black about the theater business and offered to finance his next play if he got equal billing in Playbill.
Trump invested $70,000 in the project and became the co-producer of the Broadway comedy Paris Is Out!, starring Molly Picon. It was a commercial flop and was Trump’s only credit on Broadway. Later, there were rumblings about making a show about Trump’s life, but they never transpired.
He Billed ‘Trump Ice’ As ‘The Purest, Best-Tasting Water’
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Trump Ice was a bottled water brand that was originally only available at Trump-owned casinos and a few other outlets. He expanded the product to supermarkets and specialty food stores beginning in 2003. During an episode of The Apprentice, he described the product as “the purest, best-tasting water you can imagine.”
Mountain Spring Water distributed Trump Ice, which was featured on season one of The Apprentice. The contestants were tasked with marketing and selling the bottled water during one of the challenges. Season two winner Kelly Perdew was executive vice president of Trump Ice before the brand was discontinued.
He Owned The Football Team The New Jersey Generals
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Trump bought the New Jersey Generals football team in 1983. He hired former New York Jets coach Walt Michaels, and in 1985 signed Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Doug Flutie with a $7 million, 5-year contract, making the athlete the highest-paid pro football player and the highest-paid rookie.
The Generals, part of the United States Football League (USFL) franchise, merged with the Houston Gamblers, and Trump owned 50 percent of the new team, which stayed in New Jersey and kept its name. The 1985 season was its last. The 1986 season was canceled due to an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, and eventually, the USFL folded.
His Sentient Jet, AKA Trump Jets, Is Geared Towards High-Net-Worth Individuals
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Sentient Jet, also known as Trump Jets, is a service that offers private flights to consumers. The website boasts that clients have access to “all-inclusive fixed rates, guaranteed availability with 10 hours notice, seamless booking, jet card hours that never expire, and more.”
Clients have a private jet card and can use it to purchase travel by jet by the hour, and it’s reportedly 30 percent cheaper than the competition. The service is geared towards high-net-worth individuals, who get the privacy and luxury they desire without having to purchase their own private jets. Consumers make reservations through a client management team.
Israelis Really Liked Trump Vodka, But It Still Failed
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In 2005, Trump partnered with Drinks America to promote Trump Vodka with the tagline: “Success Distilled.” He boasted that it would outsell Grey Goose vodka, and by 2007, 50,000 cases were being exported each year to Russia. The brand was discontinued in 2011, partially because Trump himself didn’t imbibe. It was also costly to produce because the bottle featured gold leaf labels.
Bruni Glass sued Drinks America and burned 500,000 of Trump Vodka mini-bottles over nonpayment. Trump also sued the company over unpaid royalties. Interestingly, the brand was popular in Israel. Orthodox Jews liked to drink it during Passover (it was made with potatoes, not grain, making it kosher.)
Sales Of Trump’s ‘Success’ Fragrance Jumped During His Presidential Campaign
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Trump has more than one fragrance, including Success eau de toilette spray, which launched in 2012. It’s described as containing the following scents: juniper, red currant, coriander, and frozen ginger. Sales of Success and another fragrance, Empire, rose sharply in 2016 while he was campaigning for president.
In fact, Success was fragrance retailer Fragrance.com’s best-selling fragrance at the time. Sales of the cologne increased 52 percent in October 2016, according to Fragrance.com president Jason Apfel. Sales also increased on Perfume.com, with a rep for the company saying, “Sales of Donald Trump colognes have been OK in the past but now they’ve increased substantially.”
He Was Boxer Mike Tyson’s Financial Adviser
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In 1988, Trump organized a boxing match between Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks to promote his Trump Plaza Hotel And Casino. Tyson then hired Trump to be his financial adviser. Trump told the New York Times: “Mike Tyson has asked me and I have agreed, to serve jointly, with regard to future decisions about Mike Tyson’s career, including but not limited to the lawsuits going back and forth between Mike and his current manager, Bill Cayton.”
It’s unclear how much Tyson paid Trump for the work. The relationship didn’t last, partially due to rumors that Trump had an affair with Tyson’s wife, Robin Givens.
Macy’s Dumped Trump’s Line Of Menswear After Controversial Comments
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In 2004, Macy’s began selling Trump’s menswear line, which featured $70 dress shirts, $65 ties, and items such as watches and cufflinks. Trump also appeared in many of the department store’s commercials. While the items are still available on the Trump website and Amazon, Macy’s dumped the clothing line in 2015 after the then-presidential candidate called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers.
Macy’s said in a statement: “Macy’s is a company that stands for diversity and inclusion. We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico.” Macy’s did, however, continues to sell items from his daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion line.
Trump Home Products Also Experienced Upheaval During His Presidential Campaign
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Trump Home is an offshoot of the Trump Organization that features furniture and a collection of items for the home. The company’s first two lines of furniture launched in 2007. In 2009, Trump Home teamed up with Serta to create a line of mattresses. Trump Home has also produced tabletop crystal pieces, light fixtures, rugs, candles, and bath and bedding collections.
Serta also ended its partnership with Trump after he called Mexican immigrants murderers and rapists during his presidential campaign in 2016. Other retailers also disconnected from Trump Home products during his campaign and subsequent election as U.S president.
Consumers Didn’t Want His Trump Steaks
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Trump launched Trump Steaks in 2007 through The Sharper Image catalog, stores, and website. Several contestants from his reality TV show The Apprentice also promoted the product. The USDA Angus-certified steaks sold in packages of four, ranging in price from $199 to $999.
Trump also appeared on QVC to peddle the steaks, but his efforts didn’t pay off. Despite being marketed as “The World’s Greatest Steaks,” they didn’t make an impression on consumers, and Sharper Image discontinued the line within two months. Jerry W. Levin, CEO of Sharper Image noted, “The net of all that was we literally sold almost no steaks.”
His Production Company Makes Various TV Shows, Including The Apprentice
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Trump is the chairman and CEO of Trump Productions, which is based in Los Angeles. He founded the TV production company in 2004, and it is the entertainment business arm of the much bigger Trump Organization. The company produces a variety of TV shows, including The Apprentice, The Celebrity Apprentice, Pageant Palace, and Donald J. Trump Presents The Ultimate Merger.
Trump Productions was also involved with producing the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants until 2015. During Trump’s presidential campaign, Trump Productions was valued at $15 million and had a revenue of over $4 million in 2015 alone.
Trump Model Management Thrived For Nearly Two Decades
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Trump founded the New York City-based modeling agency Trump Model Management (formerly known as “T Models”) in 1999. News that the agency, which Trump owns an 85 percent stake in, was shutting down surfaced in 2017. Model Alexia Palmer sued Trump Model Management in 2014, claiming the agency took 80 percent of her wages for “expenses.” The lawsuit was dismissed two years later.
The agency requested visas for 250 international fashion models in 2015, and the following year several former Trump models said they worked for the company without proper documentation. A U.S. senator later called for an investigation into the practice.
Trump University Was Embroiled In Scandal
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Trump founded Trump University (also known as the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative) with Michael Sexton and Jonathan Spitalny in 2004. The for-profit institution featured courses on asset management, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation as part of its real estate training program. The program was not accredited and did not deliver degrees or college credits.
The venture was shut down in 2010 and was steeped in a scandal over illegal business practices. The New York Attorney General’s office filed a $40 million lawsuit against the organization in 2013. A judge found Trump guilty of the charges, and the then-President Elect settled three lawsuits in 2016 totaling $25 million even though he vowed that he would not settle.
Trump Shuttle Airline Struggled During The Recession
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Trump owned an airline named Trump Shuttle, Inc., from 1989 to 1992. The airline featured Boeing 727 aircraft with hourly flights from New York City to Boston and Washington, D.C. The airline also offered charter service to other destinations. An economic recession, an increase in jet fuel prices, and a cut in travel budgets for corporate customers led to its downfall.
Trump was simultaneously dealing with financial difficulties involving his casino business, and eventually, the airline ran out of money, putting it in debt. USAir took operational control of the Trump Shuttle, and it was discontinued after it merged with a new company, Shuttle, Inc. (USAir Shuttle).
Trump Sponsored A Cycling Race But Quit Due To Financial Strain
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Trump allowed his name to be used for the Tour de Trump cycling stage race from 1989 to 1990. The aim was to create a race in the United States that was similar to European cycling races, such as the Tour de France. Not everyone was thrilled with Trump’s cycling race, including anti-Trump protestors in New Paltz, New York.
New York City mayor Ed Koch, who considered Trump a “huckster,” also boycotted the race. Trump elected not to sponsor a third iteration of the competition because at the time he was struggling with some financial issues. The race continued, however, only under a new name — the Tour DuPont.
He Owned Miss Universe, Miss USA & Miss Teen USA For Nearly 20 Years
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Trump owned part or all of the Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015. Miss Universe originally aired on CBS but moved to NBC along with Miss USA in 2002. In 2012, a contestant claimed the show was manipulated, but a $5 million arbitration came out in favor of Trump.
When Trump started his presidential campaign in 2015, NBC and Univision discontinued their business relationships with the Miss Universe Organization. Not long after, Trump revealed he purchased NBC’s stake in the company, making him the sole owner of the Miss Universe organization. He then sold it to WME/IMG.
The Charitable Donald J. Trump Foundation Was Investigated For Legal & Ethical Violations
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Trump founded the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 1988 with the aim of donating proceeds from his book, Trump: The Art of the Deal (co-written with Tony Schwartz). Money for the foundation came mostly from donors; Trump has not contributed to the organization since 2008.
After Trump appeared at WrestleMania in 2007, he received $5 million for the foundation from Linda and Vince McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment. The foundation has donated to sports-related charities, healthcare, and conservative groups. It was investigated in 2016 for legal and ethical violations and told to stop its fundraising activities in New York state.
Trump Lends His Name To Properties He Doesn’t Even Own
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Trump is a brand, and he has lent his name to various building projects, commercial products, and services. He’s achieved mixed financial results for himself, investors, and other partners. The Trump brand was estimated to be worth $200 million by Forbes back in 2011, although Trump claimed the brand was worth $3 billion.
Trump may be the public face of several projects (and is paid well for the marketing) but he does not own many of the buildings that feature his name. His children run this part of his business, and it was once valued at $562 million before retailers such as Macy’s and Serta mattresses dumped his products during his presidential campaign.
Harrah’s Trump, Trump Castle, The Taj Mahal & Other Casino Deals
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In 1984, the hotel/casino Harrah’s at Trump Plaza opened in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He also bought another building in the city from Hilton Corp. for $320 million and turned it into Trump Castle, which his then-wife, Ivana, managed. In 1988 he acquired the Taj Mahal Casino, which cost $1.1 billion to build.
The Taj Mahal filed for bankruptcy but was saved in 1991, with Trump giving 50 percent ownership to bondholders. It was restructured into Trump Hotel & Casino Resorts in 1996, but the property went bankrupt again in 2004. Eventually, Trump was left with just 10 percent of ownership of the Trump Taj Mahal and other Trump casino properties.
He Owns Several Golf Courses & Resorts All Over The World
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Trump manages around 18 golf courses and resorts under The Trump Organization. It’s estimated that his revenue from golf and resorts was $382 million in 2015. He was the subject of a 2011 documentary about building a golf resort in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He butted heads with locals over its construction and created only 200 jobs despite promising 6,000.
He bought another property in Scotland in 2014, the Turnberry hotel and golf resort in Ayrshire, which is regularly used during the British Open. He attempted to build an offshore wind farm in the area but was thwarted. Trump is an avid golfer with a 2.8 handicap.