Donald Trump likes to talk about his business “success” but the ugly truth is he would be much richer if he had just invested his massive inheritance in an index fund rather than waste his father’s hard earned money on failed business dealings.
Sure, Trump is worth somewhere in the $4 billion area, but analysis shows he’d be worth $10 billion more if he just invested his money in an old timey index fund.
How did Trump fail at his business dealings to the tune of $10 billion? Here is a (probably incomplete) list of his many, many failed businesses that didn’t just go under but went under spectacularly.
A real estate financing firm that went under within less than two years.
If foresight is the key to good business, this venture more than any other shows Trump’s failure as an investor.
Trump launched Trump Mortgage in 2006, as real estate market prices were already starting to fall ahead of the complete market collapse in 2007-08.
Trump told CNBC that it was “a great time to start a mortgage company.”
“I’ve been hearing about this bubble for so many years from you and everybody else in the world, but I haven’t seen it.”
“I will let you know when I see it.”
Trump finally saw it a year and a half later as the company was shut down after it failed to hit any of its financial targets.
The New Jersey Generals/USFL
A USFL football team Trump bought after the NFL wouldn’t let him buy a real team.
The National Football League blocked Trump from buying into any of their teams so he bought a team in the upstart United States Football League.
He then sold the team – only to buy them back again that same year.
According to Business Insider, “The team folded one year later, in 1985, along with the entire USFL. People blamed Trump for the demise of not only the team, but the entire league. Allegedly, he was trying to pull the Generals into the NFL — and made poor investment decisions in the process.”
Trump ultimately sued the NFL over their monopoly for $1.7 billion – and won! Except instead of $1.7 billion, the damages awarded to Trump and the USFL totaled a whopping $3. You read that right, three dollars.
Tour de Trump
Trump tried to rip off the Tour de France by creating an American bicycle race called, naturally, Tour de Trump.
The first race saw cyclists race from Albany to Atlantic City, a scenic route for sure.
A year later, Trump was forced to sell his race to the DuPont Corporation which quickly changed the name and scrubbed the race clean of Trump.
As Deadspin explains, “Alas, Trump’s sponsorship only lasted one more year until his funds got tight and he pulled out… The DuPont Corporation took over sponsorship from Trump after he left, and they continued the tradition of giving the race a wacky name, rechristening it the Tour DuPont.”
The Trump Network was a get-rich-quick scheme Trump launched in 2009, that soon folded like his many other ventures.
After purchasing nutritional supplement company Ideal Health Inc., Trump created a vitamin pyramid scheme called Trump Network.
“When I did The Apprentice, it was a long shot,” Trump said when the venture launched. “This is not a long shot. We are going to be the biggest in the industry.”
As Gawker explains, it was not and soon folded in 2011:
In addition to the supplements, though, Trump also offered the PrivaTest, which Trump’s site described as “a scientific window into your personal biochemistry.” A test that the Trump Network recommended be repeated every nine months for $100 a pop, which would be outrageous even if the test actually worked. But as Dr. Stephen Barrett, of health watchdog site Quackwatch, noted, “No single test can provide a rational basis for dietary supplement recommendations.”
What’s more, the company didn’t even deliver on its promised scam. A FOIA by Quackwatch in 2004 turned up the following complaint on Ideal Health filed in 2001:
The consumer states that she was working for this company trying to sell their dietary supplement products. The consumer states that she paid the company $5,412.50 for promotional leads, and marketing programs. The consumer states that the company never did the promotional leads, and took the consumers [sic] money and ran.
Starting in 2004, Trump had a radio “show” which was actually just a 90-second segment of Trump ranting sponsored by Office Depot.
Trump called it “the biggest launch in radio history” and “bigger than Rush Limbaugh.”
As Buzzfeed explains, “his radio show apparently failed to meet these lofty expectations and was ultimately discontinued, ending in 2008.”
Though little audio of the segments exist, the topics ranged from “No more Viagra for rapists” to “Stay out of the tabloids and, for goodness sake, don’t say hello to those little boys.” (In reference to Michael Jackson)
Trump New Media
A high-speed internet and video-on-demand business that literally ended before it began.
In 1998, Trump announced his new venture would “wire his 20,000 residential apartments with high speed $30 monthly access.”
As Gawker explains:
Trump could have gone with something vaguely within his realm of expertise—but why break with tradition? A local announcement at the time wrote that “Trump admits he’s hardly the man to head a new media firm. ‘I’ll tell you what I know about it: Absolutely nothing.’” He partnered with Freelinq Communications to launch the firm, but after getting shut out by his more competent competition, the endeavor failed to ever take off.
A travel search engine that existed for an entire year in 2006.
If you wanted to find a good airline deal but websites like Expedia and Priceline didn’t provide enough photos of Trump on their pages, GoTrump was the site for you.
In the site’s About section, Trump said, “I only put my name on the best, and at GoTrump.com you will get the best information and the best online rate available.”
A financial analyst told The Washington Post at the time of the site’s launched that it looked like a “vanity site” that “won’t make much money.”
Trump should hire that guy, because the site was shuttered within a year.
Trump on the Ocean
A gigantic catering hall in Jones Beach, Long Island that lasted four months before Hurricane Sandy destroyed the boardwalk where it was located.
As Eater explains:
Trump and state parks officials agreed that the oceanfront 80,000-square-foot project, and especially its 14,000-square-feet of basement space, was maybe kind of a terrible idea given the danger posed by more storms like Hurricane Sandy.
More than anything, this sounds like the state and The Donald washing their hands of what had been a six-year-long headache. The state shot down Trump’s plans for the massive project four times after he initially proposed back in 2006, leading to lawsuits that the state won.
In June, Trump and the state finally reached an agreement on the 400-seat restaurant and enormous events space, four months to the day before Sandy destroyed the boardwalk.
Neighbors were also pretty pissed about the massive building blocking views of the ocean.
Trump: The Game
In 1989, Trump decided, “Hey, why not rip off Monopoly?”
“It’s not whether you win or lose,” the tag line said, “but whether you win!”
He somehow got Milton Bradley to release the game in which players buy and sell real estate.
The game sold 800,000 units, 1.2 million short of the 2 million units Trump projected.
The game was discontinued a year later.
The Daily Beast points out, “The game was, alas, an abysmal failure commercially, and an unopened copy can be had via eBay for less than $10. Yet this didn’t dissuade the billionaire from rebooting it a decade and a half later, with some updates and his Apprentice catchphrase “You’re Fired!” on the front of the box.”
An hourly flight service between New York City, Washington DC, and Boston.
In 1989, Trump bought Eastern Air Lines Shuttle, which had already provided the service since 1961.
As Gawker explains, “The airline had succeeded largely because of its no-frills service—you didn’t need a reservation ahead of time, there were no seat assignments, no check-ins, and no boarding passes. You’d show up and hop on a plane for relatively cheap. When Trump bought 17 of the company’s Boeing 727s for $365 million in 1988, “he added maple-wood veneer to the floors, chrome seat-belt latches and gold-colored bathroom fixtures.”
With fuel prices rising, Trump Airlines never turned a profit.
As Time explains: “The high debt forced Trump to default on his loans, and ownership of the company was turned over to creditors. The Trump Shuttle ceased to exist in 1992 when it was merged into a new corporation, Shuttle Inc. No word on whether the gold-plated faucets survived the merger.”
A magazine for luxury enthusiasts launched in 2007, that survived a whole 10 editions.
Launched in 2007, as the luxury market was crippled by the ensuing financial collapse (which the Donald must have seen by then after his mortgage company folded), Trump Magazine sought to “cash in on the booming advertising market for yachts and other high-end commodities.”
As it turns out those aren’t items people are looking for as their pension burns in a financial holocaust. The magazine folded in 2009.
A non-accredited “school” offering wealth-building seminars that costs as much as $34,995.
As Rolling Stone explains, “Instead of the hand-picked instructors Trump promised, the seminars were delivered by motivational speakers, often without degrees, and sometimes with criminal records. According to his FEC filings, Trump brought in $11,819 from the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative last year; he’s now the subject of two class-action lawsuits in California related to Trump University, and a third suit, for $40 million, brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.”
A “premium” vodka company.
Labeled as “Success Distilled,” the vodka was billed as a liquor that would “demand the same respect and inspire the same awe as the international legacy and brand of Donald Trump himself.”
Trump continually claimed that the T&T (Trump and Tonic) would become the biggest drink in America.
According to Gothamist, the US company that made the vodka stopped production due to lack of interest and “because the company failed to meet the threshold requirements.”
A steak company that sold meat exclusively through… the Sharper Image catalog. Well, not so much sold, but advertised.
“When it comes to great steaks, I’ve just raised the stakes!” Trump declared in a commercial for the meat.
As ThinkProgress reports, Sharper Image CEO Jerry “Levin described the licensing agreement as “unique,” noting that it lacked the kinds of things he had seen in traditional agreements, like minimums, which would have required the Sharper Image to pay the Trump Organization a set amount regardless of how many steaks they sold.”
For $999, you could get 24 burgers and 16 steaks. What could go wrong?
“The net of all that was we literally sold almost no steaks,” Levin told ThinkProgress.
Featured image via screengrab