Everyone wants to know what President Donald Trump's net worth is, and the truth behind it may surprise you.
It’s the question that no one seems to have the answer to: what on Earth is President Donald Trump’s net worth? If you ask the man himself, he’ll tell you he’s worth north of $10 billion. But as we all know, The Donald is prone to embellishment.
The real answer is actually pretty surprising, and very difficult to unravel. Forbes has made the biggest effort to solve the mystery, publishing an article titled “The Definitive Net Worth of Donald Trump.” In the piece, they argue that Trump’s net worth is about a third of what Trump himself claims at $3.5 billion.
What’s shocking about that is not really the total amount of Donald Trump’s net worth, but where it all falls. While we all know Trump made a lot of his money in real estate, we tend to think of the Trump brand as more valuable than it is. But as the constant failures of Trump-branded products like Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, and the widely ridiculed Tour de Trump tell us, his brand is a lot of bark and not nearly as much bite. That’s why just $230 million of his $3.5 billion — less than tenth of his net worth — comes from brand businesses.
He actually has slightly more money from just cash and personal assets than he does from the Trump brand at $270 million. And his golf clubs and resorts make up $620 million. The vast majority of his remaining net worth, more than $2.3 billion, come his real estate holdings. Which means as much as Trump wants to bill himself as an expert businessman who knows how to create products that make money, at the end of the day he’s just a guy who owns a lot of real estate.
Of course, Trump has often bragged about his wealth. “It’s very simple. If I call five guys about Trump Tower, [and tell them] I want $2 billion,” he once said according to Forbes, “I’d have checks on my desk in ten minutes.”
Another interest fact about Donald Trump’s net worth is that although he likes to trumpet his worldwide holdings, nearly half his wealth — and the vast majority of his real estate holdings — are in New York City. Just $630 million, or a little more than a fifth of his wealth, comes from Trump properties outside of his home city.
Of course, this is just Forbes’ estimation of Trump’s net worth via their research of what they know he owns and assume he makes from them. The Federal Election Commission gave us a peak into his finances back in July 201 when Trump filed a 92-page financial disclosure form for his campaign.
The problem with the FEC forms, however, is that they aren’t really intended to handle the complexity of Trump’s wealth and business holdings, so the insight they provide is limited. Trumpm listed 23 assets as being over $50 million, but left 30 other entities off because their value wasn’t “readily ascertainable.” This listed his net worth at $1.4 billion, but the figure is undoubtedly much lower than his actual net worth.
Trump’s debt is also tough to pin down. He listed four of 15 sources of debt as more than $50 million, with the total appearing to exceed $260 million, but again the actual number is tough to determine. And based on his unwillingness to release tax returns, Trump isn’t interested in revealing the true number anytime soon, leaving us to guess.
In fact, some are making the argument that Trump may not even be a billionaire. A 2016 Fortune article examined a defamation lawsuit that Trump filed against a write rand publisher back in 2007. Trump claimed that Tim O’Brein, who authored “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” damaged his brand illegally by saying that he was exaggerating his net worth. Trump wanted $5 billion in damages, and the courts ultimately dismissed the lawsuit a few years later.
But that case did result in a deposition where Trump detailed how he determined his net worth. The two-day, 740-page deposition is chock full of all sorts of interesting details. In it, Trump famously claimed that his net worth is based on his “general attitude at the time that question may be asked,” and that “it’s very subjective, sometimes you’ll have someone who will pay five times more or substantially more than someone else would pay.”
In 2004, Trump claimed a net worth of $3.5 billion in a 2004 financial statement provided to North Fork Bank. However, the bank conducted its own analysis and pegged Donald Trump’s net worth at $1.2 billion, which Trump disputed.
But Deutsche Bank went even lower. Its credit team decided that Trump wasn’t even a billionaire, setting his net worth at $788 million. Trump slammed that analysis, claiming they had no idea what his assets were worth and were severely undervaluing them.
Trump claims you won’t learn anything new by getting a hold of his tax returns. He’s said in the past that tax returns have nothing to do with net worth. “With a tax return you take depreciation, you take this, you take that, you take contributions,” he once said.
Forbes’ $3.5 billion valuation of Donald Trump’s net worth is much lower than compared to what Trump himself has claimed. And even when they rated him $1 billion higher a couple years back, it made Trump fume.
Forbes’ Randall Lane wrote the 2015 piece, in which he interviewed more than 80 sources to ascertain Trump’s true value, arriving at a figure of $4.5 billion.
“I’m running for president,” Trump told Forbes. “I’m worth much more than you have me down [for]. I don’t look good, to be honest. I mean, I look better if I’m worth $10 billion than if I’m worth $4 billion.”
Trump, as he often does, ripped Forbes as incompetent and even “bankrupt.”
“And look, all I can say is Forbes is a bankrupt magazine, doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. “That’s all I’m gonna say. ‘Cause it’s embarrassing to me.”
Ask why Trump thought that Forbes applied a different methodology to value him than every other real estate titans on their Forbes 400 list, he had quite a bizarre and meandering answer.
“Because I’m famous, and they’re not. Because when [Richard] LeFrak had dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab, he calls me up and he says, ‘Could you help me get a reservation?'” he reportedly said.
Here are 10 of Donald Trump’s most famous quotes about himself and business in general:
1. “Remember the five billion dollar website? We spend $5 billion on a website. And to this day it doesn’t work. A five billion dollar website. I have so many websites, I have them all over the place. I hire people, I do a website, it costs me $3.”
2. “I don’t hire a lot of number-crunchers, and I don’t trust fancy marketing surveys. I do my own surveys and draw my own conclusions.”
3. “I mean, there’s no arguing. There is no anything. There is no beating around the bush. “You’re fired” is a very strong term.”
4. “These are stupid people that say, `Oh didn’t Trump declare bankruptcy? Didn’t he go bankrupt?’ I didn’t go bankrupt.”
5. “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I will bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places. I’ll bring back our jobs and I’ll bring back our money.”
6. “I always had big plans, even when I was very young. I would build skyscrapers with my building blocks.”
7. “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”
8. “When I build something for somebody, I always add $50 million or $60 million onto the price. My guys come in, they say it’s going to cost $75 million. I say it’s going to cost $125 million, and I build it for $100 million. Basically, I did a lousy job. But they think I did a great job.”
9. “I know the smartest negotiators in the world. I know the good ones, I know the bad ones, I know the overrated ones. You got a lot of them that are overrated. They’re not good, they think they are, they get good stories, cause the newspapers get buffaloed. But they’re not good. But I know the best negotiators in the world. I’d put them one for each country. Believe me, folks, we’d do very well.”
10. “I’m proud of my net worth, I’ve done an amazing job … The total is $8,737,540,000 US. I’m not doing that to brag, because you know what, I don’t have to brag.”
Here’s a few quotes from Art of the Deal, which Trump did not write but is largely based on how he lives his life, that explain the thought process behind this enigmatic figure:
“I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open. You can’t be imaginative or entrepreneurial if you’ve got too much structure. I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops.”
“One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better. It’s in the nature of the job, and I understand that. The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.”
“The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration, and a very effective form of promotion.”
“[W]hen people treat me badly or unfairly or try to take advantage of me, my general attitude, all my life, has been to fight back very hard. The risk is you’ll make a bad situation worse, and I certainly don’t recommend this approach to everyone. But my experience is that if you’re fighting for something you believe in — even if it means alienating some people along the way — things usually work out for the best in the end.”
“You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.”
“I’m the first to admit that I am very competitive and that I’ll do nearly anything within legal bounds to win. Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.”