In December of 1997, the Times published the first chapter of Trump’s book “The Art Of The Comeback” in which the real estate mogul discusses the financial woes he had experienced during the housing crash of the early 90’s and his subsequent comeback.
One day, while walking down Fifth Avenue, hand in hand with Marla, I pointed across the street to a man holding a cup and with a Seeing Eye dog. I asked, “Do you know who that is?”
Marla said to me: “Yes, Donald. He’s a beggar. Isn’t it too bad? He looks so sad!”
I said, “You’re right. He’s a beggar, but he’s worth about $900 million more than me.” She looked at me and said, “What do you mean, Donald? How could he possibly be worth $900 million more than you?”
I said, “Let’s assume he’s worth nothing (only from the standpoint of dollars)–I’m worth minus $900 million.”
Trump continues, explaining that his empire began “hemorrhaging value” due to federal intervention in the housing market:
My net worth had been in the billions. By the spring of 1990 I was deeply in the red; my empire was hemorrhaging value. When the Supreme Court upheld the retroactivity provisions in 1992, I knew that not only for me, but for my colleagues as well, prospects were grim. Even for the awesome Olympia & York, headed by the powerful Reichmann family, the future looked bleak.
In 1989, with approximately the same debt, I had a net worth of almost $2 billion, maybe more. By the end of 1990 I had the same debt levels, but I was in the red. The problem: property values had plummeted so dramatically that many of my projects were worthless. In retrospect, it all seems easy to understand. Nevertheless, at the time, it was one of the toughest meetings I’ve ever had.
Finally, Trump details his comeback:
By 1993 I began to feel more like Chavez than like Taylor. My personal debt of $975 million had been reduced to $115 million, and I had two years to finish cleaning it up. There was no way to deny that things were going really great. Piece by piece, deal by deal, a beautiful picture was beginning to emerge. What my people and I had already achieved was astonishing.
The details of Trump’s losses in the 90’s were right there in Black and White the whole time. Declaring such losses would have been standard practice for any business.