Reporter publishes tapes he claims are of Trump inflating his wealth to get a higher spot on the Forbes 400 list

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty ImagesUS President Donald Trump
  • Reporter Jonathan Greenberg published tapes that he claims are of President Donald Trump inflating his wealth in order to get a higher spot on the Forbes 400 list in 1984.
  • Calling himself “John Barron,” Trump said that he claimed 90% of his father’s real estate business.

Reporter Jonathan Greenberg published tapes that he claims are of President Donald Trump inflating his wealth in order to get a higher spot on the Forbes 400 list in 1984.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Greenberg said that an aide from the Trump Organisation calling himself “John Barron” called him to tell him about how wealthy Trump really was. Greenberg, who had been reporting for the Forbes 400 list for three years, said that Trump’s holdings had been valued at $US200 million.

But in the interviews with Barron, who Greenberg said was really Trump, he told Greenberg that he was now a billionaire and owned 90% of his father’s real estate business. Greenberg said that Trump “altered some cadences and affected a slightly stronger New York accent.”

“Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump,” Barron said. “You have down Fred Trump (as half owner) … but I think you can really use Donald Trump now.”

Based on Trump’s claim that he would also make a $US50 million profit off of his first casino in Atlantic City, Greenberg put Trump and his family’s value at $US600 million on the 1984 list.

Despite doubting some of Trump’s claims, Greenberg said that it took several years to prove Trump’s false statements on his finances and that he was not as rich as he said he was.

But Greenberg also concluded in his op-ed that Trump had no business appearing on the Forbes 400 list in the first place after showing up three straight times.

Trump was included on the Forbes 400 list for the first time in 1982 at a value of $US100 million, according to Greenberg. But after a review of government reports and financial statements, Trump’s value was apparently closer to $US5 million.

But for Greenberg, who said this assignment of speaking to Trump was at the beginning of his reporting career, the revelations of Trump’s financial distortions had an adverse effect.

“Instead of believing that they were outright fabrications, my Forbes colleagues and I saw them simply as vain embellishments on the truth,” Greenberg wrote. “We were so wrong.”

Trump exaggerated the worth of his father’s apartments

Greenberg said that Trump’s habit of telling lies would also lead to him receiving “future accolades, press coverage and deals. It eventually paved a path toward the presidency.”

Greenberg said that Trump was “obsessed” with the Forbes 400 list. “The project could offer a clear, supposedly authoritative declaration of his status as a player, and while many of the super-rich wanted to keep their names off the ranking, Trump was desperate to scale it,” Greenberg wrote.

In their first interview together for the list, Greenberg wrote that Trump “pulled out all the stops to convince me that he was the wealthiest real estate developer in New York” and that “he argued that his family was worth more than $US900 million and deserved to be higher on our list than any of the far more accomplished developers.”

Trump told Greenberg that he owned 80% of his father’s 23,000 apartments in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Trump claimed that these apartments were all but debt free and worth $US40,000 each. Greenberg said that he was “amazed” by these claims.

After being pressed by Greenberg over the valuation of his apartments, Trump then said that they were worth $US20,000. Greenberg says that it would mean Trump’s family was valued at $US500 million, which topped the list for real estate developers in New York.

But Greenberg still found the claims to be high, and he estimated that the apartments were worth closer to $US9,000. Therefore, Trump’s value was closer to $US200 million, as Greenberg found his claims of where the apartments were located in Queens to be false.

Based on how little Greenberg and his editors at Forbes had on Trump, they decided to put Trump in the bottom tier of major real estate developers at $US200 million.

Trump was angry by where he was ranked on the list in 1982, according to Greenberg, and claimed the following year that his family had 25,000 apartments now. Trump also said that his wealth grew because of new projects such as Trump Tower and a casino deal in Atlantic City.

Trump’s former lawyer, Roy Cohn, called Greenberg and told him that Trump was now worth more than $US700 million.

Despite having no official financial statements, Greenberg says that he increased Trump’s value to $US400 million on the 1983 list.

Greenberg said that his conversations with “Barron” were requested to be off the record, but Greenberg decided to publish the interviews because he believed that “an intent to deceive – both with the made-up persona and the content of the call – released me from my good-faith pledge.”

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