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Taming the Beast: Wall Street's Imperfect Answers to Making Money by Larry Light

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Chapter 7

Un-Real Estate: Property’s Pull

Donald Trump was going through a very, very dark spell. Out walking near Trump Tower, his signature building on New York’s Fifth Avenue, he spotted a homeless guy on the opposite sidewalk, holding out a can. “That man is wealthier than I am,” Trump told his then girlfriend, Marla Maples.

“What are you talking about?” asked Maples, a blonde model who later would be his second wife. They were on one of the most posh streets in the world. Trump Tower, a 58-story skyscraper, was a celebrated tourist attraction, renowned for its peach-marble atrium and 80-foot lobby waterfall. Trump was famous—famous for his audacity, famous for his impact on real estate, famous for his wealth. Passersby waved at him. No one waved at the homeless guy.

“That man across the street,” Trump said, “is worth $900 million more than I am at the moment.”

“I don’t understand. He’s not worth $900 million.”

“No,” Trump said, “let’s assume he is worth nothing. I’m worth minus $900 million.”

It was the depth of the 1990 real estate recession. High-flying developers, who had hocked themselves up to their nasal passages to build massive projects during the roaring 80s, now were on their backs. And Trump was the most prominent casualty, his overwhelming debts falling on him like an avalanche.

Yet two-plus decades later, despite another property crash, Trump was back on the map. His 2010 net worth, according to Forbes magazine, was $2.4 billion. True, some of his more recent ...

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