Donald Trump has spent his entire life in affluent conditions. The house he lived in with his parents after he was born on June 14, 1946 was an elegant, two-story residence in New York’s Queens borough, boasting a style reminiscent of British Tudor times. The house made a statement about the success his father Fred had enjoyed, who had made it to great wealth as the son of German immigrants with the virtues of great effort, hard work and inventiveness. It is said that when Fred died, he had amassed a fortune amounting to $250 million.
Donald was the fourth of five children of Fred and Mary Anne Trump. He was sent to a private school, but had to leave it at the age of 13 because he had repeatedly caused trouble. The parents responded to these problems by sending the boy to a military academy, where not only discipline is taught, but where also leadership qualities are being worked on. Subsequently, he went to college in New York City and then attended the Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania, graduating in 1968 with a bachelor degree in economics with a focus on the real estate business. Trump successfully avoided being drafted for the Vietnam War, first because of his status as a student, later for medical reasons.
This was what made it possible for Donald Trump to start his career in business immediately upon graduation. Even when he was a student, he had worked in his father’s real estate company and by that had already accumulated a certain wealth. Having obtained the degree, he entered the realty business full-time. He also invested a substantial sum in a Broadway show which flopped and brought him heavy losses. In contrast, he proved to be much more skilled and successful in upgrading and selling apartments, even though he was temporarily accused of blocking welfare recipients from renting apartments in one of the buildings owned by the company with dirty tricks. Soon enough, the projects grew bigger and costlier and Trump made an increasingly big name for himself as an entrepreneur in the city. In 1971, he succeeded his father in managing the company.
Trump made the biggest profits with the same deal model that had made his father rich. He purchased real estate and vacant lots when there were good opportunities, such as foreclosures, upgraded them and then sold them again. But meanwhile, his business also pursues other avenues. The Trump Organization, which are managed by Trump’s children since he took office, owns and rents numerous residential and office buildings, primarily in Manhattan; it operates several golf courses and it is active in the financial market. In addition hotels, a TV production company, an ice rink in Central Park, a model management agency and a winery in Virginia are parts of the enterprise. Since 2015, Trump no longer holds the rights to the “Miss Universe” pageants. But not everything that bears Trump’s name is indeed a project of the billionaire: there are a lot of realty objects that work with Trump’s name in exchange for a licensing fee, but the President’s companies do not own them. One of Donald Trump’s ventures, the investment in an Atlantic City casino resort in 1988, attracted a lot of attention. The project, being financed by a large bank loan, was not able to withstand the decline in tourism numbers and went into bankruptcy only a year later. At about the same time, the airline project “Trump Shuttle” also failed. In those years, the career of the success-spoiled experienced setbacks for the first time. In fact, four Trump businesses went into controlled insolvency under Chapter 11. The Trump University, which had gained notoriety during campaigning, has been in existence from 2005 to 2010 and has not been an actual university, but consisted of courses offered in subjects such as real estate management and asset management, with each class carrying fees.
All of these businesses - and surely also the million dollars startup aid received from his father - have made Trump a billionaire, that much is clear. But how many billions there are cannot be reliably assessed, due to differing asset evaluation methods. Trump himself had talked about more than 10 billion dollars in a press statement in July 2015. A good part of this assessment is based on the brand name “Trump”. That background makes it more feasible that there a people who are concerned that Trump’s presidency will have an impact on his business interests, too.
Contrary to what many people believe, Trump is no stranger to politics, although so far, he was not tied to a general political position or party. For decades, he has stated his opinions on political issues in America and in the early 1980s he positioned himself as a supporter of Republican President Ronald Reagan. When Reagan’s second term ended in 1989, Trump briefly considered running for the Republican nomination, but then decided against it. Instead, he entered the race in 2000 on the ticket of the Reform Party, which didn’t have a chance on the national level back then, but had achieved a number of respectable results locally in elections before. Trump’s slogan “The America we deserve” worked so well that he managed to win the first two primaries, but his opponent within the party, the arch-conservative Pat Buchanan, gave Trump such a heated, rancorous fight that polarized the party and in the end made Trump abandon his candidacy. In 2004, he stated in an interview that he shared the positions of the Democratic party in many things and in the course of time, he made signifcant donations to both big parties. In 2012, he considered running again, this time on the Republican ticket, but that had remained only an idea, although polls conducted before the primaries saw him with a big lead over other candidates. On June 15, 2015 Donald Trump then officially announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election, which he won against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on November 8, 2016. The campaigning phase, starting with the primaries within the Republican Party and to an even greater degree in the fight against Clinton, had been marked by extremely aggressive attacks and had developed to campaigning that was unprecedented in US history.
Trump had attracted a lot of attention in the election campaign, particularly with his ideas about immigration and border protection. The wall that he intended to be built along the Mexican border had become a hallmark of his campaign. Trump’s calls for an entry ban for Muslims proved to be equally controversial; those had come after the Paris terror acts in November 2015 and expressively included war refugees from Syria. Trump repeated these statements numerous times later on, although they drew a lot of criticism both from wothin the country and from abroad.
During the Republican primaries Trump quickly became one of the favorites despite the particularly large number of competitors (initially 17) and managed to achieve many convincing victories already in the early stages. In large parts, voters seemed to appreciate the fact that the candidate Trump usually didn’t care much for diplomacy and political correctness; even Trump’s bragging about his wealth and successful business career or his hinting at conspiracy theories were applauded by his supporters. In his campaign, Trump put great emphasis on the fact that he wasn’t one of those politicians who had marked Washington politics for years and decades, forming an alleged “establishment” there. Instead, he styled and presented himself as someone capable of acting without obligations and restrictions.
Trump labels himself as a conservative Republican, while others often see him primarily as a populist. On many political issues, his positions remained unclear even after his victory and he backed away from some statements he had previously made. His foreign policies remained unclear after the elections, although he already caused stirs in that regard, for example by his praise for Russian President Putin, by his confrontational course against China and by his telephone conversations with several foreign politicians without consulting the career diplomats at the Department of State; including a highly controversial phone call with the President of Taiwan, a country the US do not recognize.
Donald Trump has married the former model Melania, originally from Slovenia, in 2005; his third marriage. They have one son together, Barron, born in 2006. From his previous marriages with Czech Ivana and the actress Marla Maples, there are four more children: Donald Jr. (1977), Eric (1984) and Ivanka (1981) today are Vice Presidents of the Trump Organization and in charge of running it while Trump holds office. In addition, there is his daughter Tiffany, born in 1993. Donald Trump has eight grandchildren.