In late spring 2009, a Wall Street Journal reporter was trying to find out how much President Donald Trump was now worth. The never-shy real estate developer passed on that his fortune was at least $ 5 billion, not to mention the value of the Trump brand.
A month later, Trump’s accountant prepared a financial statement, which was later included in Trump’s attempt to run a long-neglected municipal golf course in the Bronx. The document included a different estimate of Trump’s net worth: “greater than $ 3 billion”.
ProPublica obtained the financial statement through a request for registrations open to New York City. (Check the documents.)
Trump’s estimates of its value vary widely. He boasted during his Comedy Central Roast in 2011, he was worth $ 7 billion. Last May, he said in a press release following federal ethics disclosure forms that it is worth more than $ 10 billion.
What is remarkable about this case is that the two estimates – a public and a private one – were offered at almost the same time.
“With Trump, following the Art of the Deal approach, you are dealing with real hyperbole. So you don’t know where the truth is with these two numbers,” said Steve Rosenthal, senior member of Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center at Urban Institute and tax attorney in Washington, DC, who reviewed ProPublica documents.
The Trump Organization and the White House did not respond to ProPublica’s requests for comment.
There are reasons to be skeptical even with the numbers that Trump gave New York City. They are self-reported and are not analyzed by the auditors.
A few months after Trump offered these numbers, Forbes magazine estimated it was worth it $ 1 billion less than what he claimed from New York City officials.
Author and journalist Timothy O’Brien, who was sued by Trump after publishing much lower equity estimates in 2005, told ProPublica that he would not take Trump’s equity values to New York at face value.
“Just to begin with, this is about half of what he said publicly and is self-contradictory,” said O’Brien. “And, in general, he never fully discloses his debts and increases the value of his assets.”
ProPublica also obtained another old New York City document in which Trump listed his net worth. The August 2001 document puts the value at $ 2.4 billion. It was part of a Trump Organization offer for a contract to run skating rinks in New York’s Central Park. The company sent a detailed questionnaire to the city, which claimed that Trump had assets of more than $ 2.7 billion, liabilities of $ 325 million and $ 5 million in cash. Making a false statement on the city bid form can result in criminal charges.
In recommending that Trump be selected as the winning bid, the selection committee of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department said that “Trump Corporation’s unquestionable financial capacity … was the deciding factor.”
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In the previous year, Trump told Forbes magazine that it was worth $ 5 billion.
Trump’s estimates for New York City are also lower than what he said in a sworn deposition in the December 2007 lawsuit against O’Brien. Trump then said it was worth more than $ 4 billion – “a very conservative, in my opinion, Trump offered.
Trump sued O’Brien for defamation after the journalist wrote in his book “TrumpNation: The Art of Being Donald” that Trump’s net worth was between $ 150 million and $ 250 million. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
During the 2007 testimony for the case, a lawyer asked Trump if his “net worth goes up and down based on his own feelings?” Trump said yes.
“Yes, even my own feelings, about where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change quickly from day to day.” Trump replied. “So you have 9/11 and you don’t feel so good about yourself and you don’t feel so good about the world and you don’t feel so good about New York City. So you have a year later, and the city is so hot as a pistol. Even months after that, it was a different feeling. So yes, even my own feelings affect my worth to me.
Trump can clear up confusion about his value by publishing an audited assessment of his net worth. The president has so far refused to do so.
Al Shaw contributed to this report.