The Trump Tax Saga continues, this time with the NY Times zeroing in on Trump's years on NBC's "The Apprentice" and Trump monetizing his fame as a businessman while being hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.
By analyzing the tax records, The New York Times was able to place a value on Mr. Trump’s celebrity. While the returns show that he earned some $197 million directly from “The Apprentice” over 16 years — roughly in line with what he has claimed — they also reveal that an additional $230 million flowed from the fame associated with it.
The show’s big ratings meant that everyone wanted a piece of the Trump brand, and he grabbed at the opportunity to rent it out. There was $500,000 to pitch Double Stuf Oreos, another half-million to sell Domino’s Pizza and $850,000 to push laundry detergent.
There were seven-figure licensing deals with hotel builders, some with murky backgrounds, in former Soviet republics and other developing countries. And there were schemes that exploited misplaced trust in the TV version of Mr. Trump, who, off camera, peddled worthless get-rich-quick nostrums like “Donald Trump Way to Wealth” seminars that promised initiation into “the secrets and strategies that have made Donald Trump a billionaire.”
Just as, years before, the money Mr. Trump secretly received from his father allowed him to assemble a wobbly collection of Atlantic City casinos and other disparate enterprises that then collapsed around him, the new influx of cash helped finance a buying spree that saw him snap up golf resorts, a business not known for easy profits. Indeed, the tax records show that his golf properties have been hemorrhaging millions of dollars for years.
In response to a request for comment, a White House spokesman, Judd Deere, did not dispute any specific facts. Instead, he delivered a broad attack, calling the article “fake news” and “yet another politically motivated hit piece full of inaccurate smears” appearing “before a presidential debate.”
Unlocking the mysteries of Mr. Trump’s wealth has been attempted many times with varying degrees of success — an exercise made difficult by the opaque nature of his businesses, his penchant for exaggerations and lies, and his willingness to threaten or sue those who question his rosy narratives. He has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain secrecy, most notably his refusal to honor 40 years of presidential tradition and release his tax returns.
This article is based on an examination of data from those returns, which include personal and business tax filings for Mr. Trump and his companies spanning more than two decades. Every dollar is disclosed for the first time: $8,768,330 paid to him by ACN, a multilevel marketing company that was accused of taking advantage of vulnerable investors; $50,000 from the Lifetime channel for a “juicy nighttime soap” that never materialized; $5,026 in net income from a short-lived mortgage business; and $15,286,244 from licensing his name to a line of mattresses.
In addition, it draws on interviews and previously unreported material from other sources, including hundreds of internal documents from Bayrock Group, an influential early licensing partner whose ties to Russia would come back to haunt the president as questions swirled about his own dealings there.
Together, the new information provides the most authoritative look yet at a critical period in Mr. Trump’s business career that laid the foundation, and provided something of a preview, of his personality-based and fact-bending presidency.