Trump's Kardashian-Like Business Model, Without The Honesty

Never in a million years could I ever imagine writing about Kim Kardashian (pictured) and her sister Kourtney going global; but here I am. - Link

Donald Trump's decision to play the "I may run for President" publicity card and amp it up to 11 this year is doing serious damage to the Trump brand. This is significant to the Trump business interests as the reality is the myth of of Donald Trump, Master Builder, business genius, is a fabrication. Donald Trump has successfully built a licensing business - he licenses the Trump name. In that sense, Trump is a business genius the way Kim Kardashian is - though in fairness to the Kardashians, they did not start out with a family fortune, just some vague celebutante status. Today, the New York Times reports:

“I have made myself very rich,” [Trump said] recently, sitting in his palatial suite at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. “And I would make this country very rich.” But regardless of whether Mr. Trump ultimately seeks the presidency, his attempt to promote himself as a savvy financial manager who can lead America out of its economic rut is bringing new scrutiny to his own business practices.

This scrutiny is revealing that Trump is a flim flam man. More on the flip.

The Times reports:

Mr. Trump, 64, has taken an expansive approach to putting his name on products big and small. There are Trump mattresses, Trump ties, Trump video games, Trump bottled water and Trump chocolates (designed to resemble bars of gold, silver and copper.) But it is Mr. Trump’s real estate and education products that have enticed many Americans to invest life savings and dreams of quick riches. And it is with these products, according to a string of lawsuits and complaints filed around the country, that Mr. Trump has disappointed his fans most deeply.

[. . .] Selling the Name

Even as his empire has expanded into reality television and the clothing aisle, Mr. Trump remains, at least in the public imagination, primarily a real estate developer. But to a remarkable degree over the last five years, Mr. Trump has retreated from that role, becoming, instead, a highly-paid licensor, who leases his five-letter brand name to other developers in Toronto, Honolulu, Dubai and even his own backyard, New York City.

[. . .] “When things got over-inflated in the world,” Mr. Trump’s son Donald Jr., said in an interview, “we removed ourselves from the ground-up development world, where we are risking a lot more. We switched more to a license model,” he said, describing several of the projects, including the Honolulu building, as “big successes.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Trump is a flim flam man who fooled middle America into believing he was a great businessman. And in his own way, he is - a good con man is, at heart, a good businessman. Consider this from the Times article:

John Robbins, 62, a retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army who is among those suing Mr. Trump[. . .] The most important amenity of all, though, was the name on the side of the building. “With the Trump name,” Mr. Robbins said of his $756,000 unit, “we thought it would be a quality building and address.”

The marketing materials left little doubt that Mr. Trump was a driving force behind the 52-story tower: “We are developing a signature landmark property,” Mr. Trump declared in a news release unveiling it, which described him as a partner. In a marketing video, Mr. Trump called it “my first project on the Gulf of Mexico,” and even showed up to mingle with potential buyers at a lavish, catered event. “I love to build buildings,” Mr. Robbins recalled Mr. Trump telling the audience.

A confidential agreement, later made public in court filings, told a different story: Mr. Trump was not one of the developers or builders. For $4 million, plus a share of any profits, he had licensed his name. As for the mingling with buyers? He was required to do it, up to two times, in the agreement, which spelled out that the appearances last “for no more than six (6) working hours each.” According to the document, the very existence of the license agreement was to be kept confidential. And it remained that way, buyers said, long after they bought their units. “If at any point I had known this, I would have walked away,” said Mr. Robbins, who put down a deposit of about $150,000 — half of which, under Florida law, the developer could use for construction costs.

That is the Donald Trump business model. Maybe Kim Kardashian inspired him. But, to be fair to Ms. Kardashian, she does not appear to be engaging in a wholesale scheme of deception.

Speaking for me only.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Maybe they should have asked to see the (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by steviez314 on Fri May 13, 2011 at 12:21:46 PM EST
    long form license agreement.

    The way he freaks out (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by andgarden on Fri May 13, 2011 at 12:33:21 PM EST
    at anyone who suggests he isn't a godzillionaire just proves that he's a sham.

    It isn't a hard-and-fast rule, but my experience is that people who are in to ostentatious displays of wealth don't have nearly so much as they'd like you to think. It's sort of the corollary to the political point that people with three million dollars tend to want lower taxes, but people will three billion tend to want the opposite.

    Or, that he has gone bankrupt in the past (none / 0) (#14)
    by MKS on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:21:58 PM EST
    That really drives him crazy.

    Why tarnish Kim K's name by associating it (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 13, 2011 at 12:49:46 PM EST
    with Trump's?

    Fair criticism (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:01:16 PM EST
    Too good to pass up. (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:06:59 PM EST
    It's the blog equivalent of (none / 0) (#19)
    by scribe on Fri May 13, 2011 at 02:35:29 PM EST
    a hanfing curve ball.

    Should be "hanging curve ball". (none / 0) (#20)
    by scribe on Fri May 13, 2011 at 02:36:07 PM EST

    What reputation? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Demi Moaned on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:03:19 PM EST
    I never heard of her.

    How about January Jones? (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:26:06 PM EST
    What does she have to do with (none / 0) (#18)
    by scribe on Fri May 13, 2011 at 02:25:53 PM EST

    Other than being mind-paralyzingly hot, of course.


    I kept reading headlines stating Ms. (none / 0) (#35)
    by oculus on Fri May 13, 2011 at 08:58:45 PM EST
    Jones is pregnant but didn't know who she is or why I should care.  

    I feel much better (none / 0) (#39)
    by sj on Sat May 14, 2011 at 02:32:56 AM EST
    I don't know who she is.

    Do you think (none / 0) (#21)
    by sj on Fri May 13, 2011 at 02:36:56 PM EST
    you're representative of a large section of the public?  I'm genuinely curious.  I've never watched a Kardashian show and I don't watch things like Entertainment Tonight.

    But I do read the occasional People magazine and watch some TV.  I know who the Kardashians are.  I'm not sure which is which, but I've got the general idea.  

    I've never seen an episode of Jersey Shore, but I know who Snookie and The Situation are.

    How did you get to today not having heard of her?  And do you think there is a large segment of the population like you?  

    Because, in answer to your question, KK has a lot to lose if she gets a bad reputation.  

    Ask Lindsey Lohan.  Or have you not heard of her either? :)


    Not particularly (none / 0) (#24)
    by Demi Moaned on Fri May 13, 2011 at 02:54:26 PM EST
    But, like you, I know who Snookie is. I've heard of Lindsay Lohan, too, though I have no idea what she does. Now I've heard of Kim Kardashian, but still know almost nothing about her.

    hmm... Interesting. (none / 0) (#25)
    by sj on Fri May 13, 2011 at 03:10:44 PM EST
    But how did you get there?  "there" being your level of awareness?  I guess my question is: what's your exposure to popular culture?

    Demi Moaned (at least on blogs) (none / 0) (#36)
    by oculus on Fri May 13, 2011 at 09:00:49 PM EST
    is very knowledgeable about classical music, politics, current events.  But I'll bet he doesn't watch TV much and never reads People mag.

    Kim Kardashian is the daughter of the (none / 0) (#27)
    by Anne on Fri May 13, 2011 at 04:33:55 PM EST
    late Robert Kardashian - member of the OJ Simpson legal defense team; her mom has been married for some time to Bruce "I have my plastic surgeon on speed dial" Jenner, of Olympics fame (his face scares me looking at it on the TV - I can only imagine how much worse it is in person).

    I don't actually watch Kim's show, but my daughter does, and sometimes I can't help but take a look.


    Thanks (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by sj on Fri May 13, 2011 at 05:08:36 PM EST
    I didn't know all that either :)

    Here are some pics of Jenner (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Anne on Fri May 13, 2011 at 07:30:31 PM EST
    you be the judge...

    I think it's downright scary.


    And some of those later (none / 0) (#33)
    by brodie on Fri May 13, 2011 at 08:09:06 PM EST
    post-nose work pictures don't adequately do justice to the face you see when you see it up close and personal, at least when I did ca 2004 or so.

    Now see what I mean by the original Jenner v 1.0 from the 70s -- sort of ruggedly handsome, nothing about the nose, imo, that mars the looks.  But the hair back then -- that's what he should have changed with a simple visit to a decent Beverly Hills stylist -- not surgery on the nose ferchrissakes.


    Looks just the same in person. (none / 0) (#28)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 13, 2011 at 04:34:58 PM EST
    Speaking as the fairly rare (none / 0) (#30)
    by brodie on Fri May 13, 2011 at 06:17:49 PM EST
    American who's never seen much réalité téevée, let alone the show Jenner is on, I actually saw him in person 7-8 yrs ago at a local eatery, w/n a few feet of him, probably the first time I'd seen or thought about him since the glory days of Montréal.  

    Sorry, but the first thing that struck me -- shocked is closer to the word -- was the obvious gross rhinoplasty, and I remember thinking how feminine it looked, and how unnecessary it was, especially for a guy and athlete who looked perfectly fine and suitable for posterizing on a Wheaties® box in his Olympic days.  


    I'm with Demi (none / 0) (#31)
    by brodie on Fri May 13, 2011 at 06:23:42 PM EST
    Moaned on this Kardashian thing (a name I've had to look up a few times when it gets mentioned here).  Heard the name, have to be reminded who she is.

    And I don't think, sj, you need to ask Demi about how much she represents the public, as her very punning name gives you your answer -- namely, half the world.  And where, you ask, does she come by her knowledge of popular culture?  With her wanderings and immersion in the demi-monde of course ...


    Oh, I'm sure... (none / 0) (#38)
    by sj on Sat May 14, 2011 at 02:30:59 AM EST
    ... that far more than just half the world is unaware of American popular culture :)

    I have no idea how much she represents the public.  That's why I'm asking.  Frankly, I couldn't tell  you how I know half of what I know about pop culture.  To be sure, the TV is necessary for an awful lot of it -- which is a little unnerving.

    For many years the only TV I had was a small portable black and white (much to the chagrin of my son).  Upgrading sure changed my awareness of what used to be called "water cooler talk".  I guess it happened so gradually I didn't notice.


    I know I'm not representative of (none / 0) (#34)
    by MO Blue on Fri May 13, 2011 at 08:25:56 PM EST
    of a large section of the public since I didn't know who the Kardashians were either. I got to today without knowing this information because I don't own or watch TV and only read People magazine when I'm at the doctor's office.

    Have heard of Lindsey Lohan mainly because of her various legal problems.

    Must be be a character defeat on my part because I've never been real interested in the lives of the "rich and famous" even in my younger days. Although I do admit that there are a few male stars that I enjoy looking at. ;o)

    Now I will reverse myself by saying that I stumbled upon a picture of Jane Fonda at the Cannes Film Festival and I agree with this assessment. She does look great.

    Proving that you can look chic at every age, the 73-year-old was draped in a white, floor-length Emilio Pucci dress with embellished panels on the sides and back for the "Sleeping Beauty" premiere. A gold, shimmery clutch and perfectly tousled hair finished her look. link



    Supermarket check-out shocker (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by gyrfalcon on Sat May 14, 2011 at 10:57:33 AM EST
    What gets me is how often I'm waiting to pay for my groceries at the supermarket, scanning the magazine covers to pass the time, and I've literally never heard of the names of most of the "celebrities" whose travails are headlined.  "So-and-So Divorce Shocker!!" and I've never heard of whoever it is, never mind give a rat's patootie about his/her love life.

    There's a whole world of these people out there that's just passed me by.

    I know vaguely about the Kardashians because they keep showing up on Larry King (or Piers Morgan) or other interview programs, and a business/personal finance show I watch occasionally ripped into some credit card or debit card or something they were marketing, but that's pretty much it.


    Donald Trump speaks honestly (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Demi Moaned on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:04:32 PM EST
    I have made myself a rich man, which is no big deal since I started as a very rich man.

    Gold, Pure Gold... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by ScottW714 on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:46:31 PM EST
    For $4 million, plus a share of any profits, he had licensed his name. As for the mingling with buyers? He was required to do it, up to two times, in the agreement, which spelled out that the appearances last "for no more than six (6) working hours each."

    $333,333/hr, unbelievable.  I want in, I got no problem lending my name to a developer at those rates.  What is the adage about a fool and his money...

    Something has to be said for any idiot that drops $150k because of a name, Trump or Gandhi, that's a lot of cash to stake on one reputation.  No wonder the republicans want him.

    I always though he was slippery, but apparently the fact that one is rich or rather appears to be rich, seems to equate to honesty, for a lot of folks.

    The thing is, Trump is pretty much (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by scribe on Fri May 13, 2011 at 02:42:48 PM EST
    the businessman and business of today, distilled to its core essence.  

    In licensing his name to others, he is no different than the many companies which move their factory to some Third World hellhole where some local company makes a product and, as the last step in the process, slaps the licensor's logo and name on it.  The licensor has built the name and repute of the product, be it boots, bedsheets or whatever, and now is getting out of the risky, dirty business of actually employing people who make a product and into the much less risky business of clipping coupons and cashing checks between tennis/golf and drinks before dinner.  

    The company makes and sells plastic crap made in China and when it breaks (the employee) the licensor has both already been paid and has no responsibility for any of the downside(s).  

    It's just that The Donald is doing it with real estate.  So, in that regard, The Donald has innovated something - how to use his overstuffed ego, big mouth and ridiculous combover to make money without doing a damned thing.  

    All that said, this article only scratches the surface.

    mr. trump's signature success (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by cpinva on Sat May 14, 2011 at 02:23:24 AM EST
    has been in self-promotion. he's never, to my knowledge, ever made a profit from any real estate transaction he's been directly involved in, because they're all leveraged to the hilt (and sometimes beyond); he basically lives on borrowed funds, and pretty much always has.

    on the other hand, he's very flamboyant, marries exotic, very attractive women and plays to the ignorant, "entertainment today" style press. try finding any serious, business type article or paper he's ever authored. "The Art of the Deal" came closest, and it was a crock, written for stupid people, who have no actual clue of how business really works.

    don't count him out though, regardless of how the president thing works out (of course he isn't actually running!), it ginned up billions in free advertizing for him.

    Next to last in my Trump series (none / 0) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri May 13, 2011 at 12:24:02 PM EST
    To be honest with you, this is the article I was waiting for.

    But I will definitely be chortling and ridiculing when Trump announces his non-candidacy.

    A labor-saving article, for sure. (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by oculus on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:05:35 PM EST
    Seeing the headline, I thought,hope BTD sees this.  All is explained and you were correct.

    Trump will give up running (5.00 / 4) (#26)
    by Warren Terrer on Fri May 13, 2011 at 03:28:56 PM EST
    when he finds the right candidate to whom he can license his name.

    I think Gingrich is the same thing (none / 0) (#9)
    by ruffian on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:05:15 PM EST
    only his business is politics flim flam.

    I don't think he expects to win but running seems to him a good way to make a living for a couple of years.

    and keep his brand alive (none / 0) (#11)
    by ruffian on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:05:39 PM EST
    rephrase - I don't think he even CARES if he wins (none / 0) (#13)
    by ruffian on Fri May 13, 2011 at 01:06:59 PM EST
    Trump is highly entertaining (none / 0) (#17)
    by ZtoA on Fri May 13, 2011 at 02:11:58 PM EST
    and this culture loves being entertained. He's wandered into the political arena -our blood sport- rather stupidly and he was outplayed. Now is judgment time and as I look around at my fellow spectators all are "Thumbs Down!". Good comparison to the Kardashians (never watched them tho) as this is cheap and highly entertaining. Trump will be destroyed. Both political parties will destroy him, his reputation and finances. He might make some money back by selling the screenplay about his downfall.

    That "Trump Water" stuff exists... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Fri May 13, 2011 at 02:46:37 PM EST
    outside of Trump casinos?  Ya mean somebody pays to drink Trump-branded h2o?  Say it ain't so...

    Even a comp bottle at the Taj is hard to swallow...I can not believe it is available outside those Taj Chapter 11 walls.