New York Times business reporter O'Brien gets down and dirty—in the most good-natured way—to craft a myth-busting biography of the real-estate developer.
The author has been following Donald Trump’s story for the past 15 years, watching him rise, fall and rise again on a self-generated tide of publicity and endless hyperbolic statements. While Trump’s business trajectory isn’t in dispute, O’Brien takes issue with the financial specifics. He punctures decades’ worth of bluster and offers his own take on Trump’s career and the “kitten’s skein of holdings Donald had woven together” by the time The Apprentice anointed him the nation’s most successful developer. Highlights O’Brien explores include Trump’s early battles with Mayor Ed Koch, his business dealings with known Mafia associates and the bailout by his much-less-famous siblings that kept him from going bankrupt. The Donald’s character is almost too colorful; the business deals based on braggadocio, the creative reporting on personal wealth and the trophy wives eventually blend together in a glittering haze. O’Brien keeps coming back to the numbers, however. The book’s essence can be discerned in his analysis of the Forbes 400; for each year that the magazine reported Trump’s personal wealth, the author has done his own reporting. For example, in 1982, Forbes said Donald had an undefined share of the Trump family’s $200 million, “at a time when all [he] owned personally was a half interest in the Grand Hyatt and a share of the yet to be completed Trump Tower.” O’Brien also mentions that New Jersey regulators assessed Donald as being “short on cash and in debt up to his eyeballs.” It’s no shock that Trump is a self-promoter, but it is surprising that he appears to have cooperated with the author, despite having declared O’Brien a “whack job” to the press.
A bemused, entertaining portrait of a gold-toned incarnation of the American dream, plus some believable financials for anyone who wants to know the real fiscal story.