Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, October 4th, 2016.

Media Feeding Frenzy, and Donald Is Chum

Bad Hair

The staffs of both the New York Times and the Washington Post are working overtime to dig deeper into Donald Trump’s business affairs. And it’s getting juicier and juicier, mostly because the known facts are not adding up. WaPo explains:

In 1995, Donald Trump was in the midst of a spending spree. He had recently bought a 727 jet for personal use, added a skyscraper to his Manhattan real estate portfolio and snapped up properties in Telluride, Colo., and Palm Beach, Fla., financial records show.

That same year, he said he had negative $916 million in “federal adjusted gross income,” a claim that gave him the prospect of avoiding federal income taxes for years to come.

So how could he be thriving and avoiding taxes at the same time?

That’s the central mystery behind the state tax documents filed in New York by Trump for 1995 and disclosed this weekend by the New York Times.

Hmm. Well, another WaPo story says this:

Trump’s bid for the White House relies heavily on his ability to sell himself as a master businessman, a standout performer in real estate and reality TV.

But interviews with former shareholders and analysts as well as years of financial filings reveal a striking characteristic of his business record: Even when his endeavors failed and other people lost money, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee found a way to make money for himself, to market his Trump-branded products and to pay for his expensive lifestyle. …

… Trump’s campaign did not make him available to respond to specific questions about the company, but in a recent Washington Post interview, Trump said he “made a lot of money in Atlantic City,” adding, “I make great deals for myself.”

Josh Marshall explains:

He avoided personal ruin in part by getting the banks who backed him to forgive a lot of the debt. But he also tricked members of the public into taking over his failed businesses….

… the gist is that Trump set up his first major public company Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts. It was listed on the NYSE and members of the public, including quite a few individual investors, bought the stock. It was an IPO of a mature, indeed already failing company. But Trump used the allure of the Trump name to entice people in.

Over the next several years the businesses swirled down the drain and Trump was able to sell his other distressed casinos to the public company. In other words, he was both the buyer and the seller. So he sold the deeply indebted and already failing Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Castle to the company at a price of his choosing. While he was doing this he continued to pay himself tens of millions of dollars a year as the company’s CEO in addition to using the company to help out his other businesses. By all these machinations he managed to have the company’s major expenditures be paying off or at least servicing the debts he had racked up before the public company came into existence. At the end of the day basically everyone who invested in Trump company lost everything.

The company launched in 1995, the same year Trump claimed almost a $1 billion in losses on his tax return. Clearly these two things were related. Indeed, the Casino business was the essence of Trump’s business empire at that point. We just don’t know precisely how it all fits together because unlike the public company which had to make all the filings every public does, Trump’s personal finances are private and remain that way because he’s refused to release his tax returns.

The Times has more details about Trump’s bad investments. At one point, when he was about to go belly up, his father gave him a “loan” by sending “a lawyer to the Castle casino to buy $3.3 million in chips and leave without cashing them.”

Now, I don’t know if any of this is illegal, but it certainly isn’t good.

Oh, and Julian Assange’s big announcement was a bust. He had nothin’. I’m guessing Vladimir decided Trump was a lost cause and stopped feeding him leaks.

Update: From September, but related — Trump’s Riches and the Real-Estate Tax Racket.

Update: Fortune magazine says that Trump’s presidential campaign is destroying his “brand.”

Over the past 12 months Trump has almost certainly been devaluing his brand among the customers who are most important to his businesses – high-income individuals plus the corporations that rent space in his office buildings and hold conferences and meetings in his hotels or hotels that have licensed his name.

Trump’s supporters in the election tend to be less educated and poorer than voters overall; they’re not his customers. By contrast, he’s losing heavily among college-educated voters, a group that includes most of his individual customers. Corporate customers find it increasingly difficult to associate themselves with Trump-branded real estate because of his astonishing ability to offend assorted groups – Latinos, Muslims, women, the disabled. No mainstream corporation wants to offend those groups by occupying space with Trump’s name in shiny gold capital letters on the front.

There’s evidence that Trump’s brand devaluation is happening. Bloomberg cites research showing that among consumers earning over $150,000 a year, the Trump brand’s value had plummeted by the end of last year. Other research finds that the market share of Trump casinos, hotels, and golf course plunged 14% from July 2015 to July 2016.

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