The Donald is suing New York Times writer Tim O’Brien for defamation for saying he was only worth $150-$250 million in a 2005 book (Trump says he’s worth $5 billion). He says this slander cost him several deals.
In the litigation for this suit, Trump gave a deposition about how much he’s actually worth. The answer? As much as he feels he’s worth:
“My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feeling,” he told lawyers in the December 2007 deposition.
Trump feels he is worth $5 billion, not counting brand value. Apparently he has not lost any money since the market peaked in 2007.
In the deposition, Mr. Trump said that his 2007 estimate of his net worth — over $4 billion — is “a very conservative number, in my opinion.” He also said $6 billion is a good number, counting his brand value. (In the interview Sunday, he said he was worth $5 billion, not counting brand value.)
Thanks to a new interview by the Wall Street Journal, we also learn what Trump’s definition of “ownership” is:
Mr. Trump said he had sold out units at an eponymous condo-hotel project in Hawaii. “The building is largely owned by me,” he said in the interview. But in the deposition, Mr. Ceresney produced the licensing agreement for the project. Mr. Trump wasn’t a major equity holder in the project, it showed, a fact Mr. Trump didn’t dispute.
“Because this is such a strong licensing agreement that I consider it to be a form of ownership,” Mr. Trump said. “I’d rather have this than own the building,” he said. Moments later he said: “I would say that it could be interpreted to be a form of ownership in the building.”
Deutsche Bank put Trump’s net worth at $780 million–a figure that he crowed about in the WSJ interview while ridiculing it:
Mr. Trump discounted that and other low-ball evaluations as “ridiculous.” And he noted, “They [Deutsche Bank] still come up with numbers that are many times” what the book’s author, Mr. O’Brien, reported. In his interview Sunday, he said Deutsche Bank looked at some of his assets, not all of them, and didn’t do independent appraisals.
Lastly, we learn one of the key secrets to Trump’s success:
Mr. Trump was asked whether he has ever exaggerated in statements about his properties. “I think everybody does,” he said in the deposition. “Who wouldn’t?”
A follow-up question: Does that mean he inflates the value of his properties in general, nonfinancial public statements? “Not beyond reason,” he said in the testimony…
At one point during the deposition, Mr. Trump explained the importance of putting his projects in the best light possible. “Would you like me to say, oh, gee, the building is not doing well, blah, blah, blah, come by, the building — nobody talks that way. Who would ever talk that way?”