Donald Trump’s first book, “Trump: The Art of the Deal“, was a major best seller for good reason. It both entertained and informed. It was an integral part of Donald Trump’s emergence as not only a real estate mogul, but a brand. Accordingly, it mixes together real estate chutzpah, big scale drama, and gossipy name dropping.
For real estate investing aficionados, there are plenty of high stakes, educational, and big dollar examples interspersed throughout the book. While certainly not on the level of the average single family residential flipper, the bravado and “think big” approach can be inspiring in its own right. This book is not necessarily a “how to” book in any way, and many of his techniques only work because of his unique approach and persona. So it is not as though they could be extrapolated to the rest of the investing world. But, nonetheless, there are many interesting tidbits to walk away with.
He summarizes and discusses his main tenets for success in real estate:
- Think big
- Protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself
- Maximize your options
- Know your market
- Use your leverage
- Enhance your location
- Get the word out
- Fight back
- Deliver the goods
- Contain the costs
- Have fun
To his and co-author Tony Schwartz’s credit, they follow through on providing examples of how he applied all of those principles, frequently in concert with each other.
He starts off with a “week in the life of” play-by-play, created from short scenes originating out of the interesting and unique people, requests, offers, and deals he is constantly working on. Then after introductory chapters about his upbringing with real estate developer father Fred Trump, the benefits of getting started in that environment, early deals, and then his move to focusing on Manhattan, Trump expands on specific high visibility deals:
- The politics, financing, and complexities of purchasing and reviving the Commodore Hotel by Grand Central Station
- The back story, behind closed doors dealing, zoning & governmental hoops to jump through, architecture & design details, and creation of glamorous buzz around the luxurious Trump Tower
- The nuances, players, corporate battles, and profit potential of legal gambling, and Trump’s entry into this market in Atlantic City
- Dealing with rent control restrictions and moving the property to much higher financial value use at 100 Central Park South
- Rebuilding the Wollman ice skating rink far quicker and less expensively than the New York City government had been able to do, and dealing with the politicians and departments where his actions made them look bad in comparison
- The purchase, potential, neighborhood infighting, and future plans for the huge but undeveloped West Side railroad yards property
For variety, he also sprinkles in his (eventually unsuccessful) attempt to build up the United States Football League (USFL) in competition against the entrenched National Football League (NFL). And the eventual outcomes of some of the previously discussed deals are summarized at the end of the book, as an update of sorts.
Overall, the book is an enjoyable read as well as a visceral reminder to Think Big in real estate investing.