Rereading Fortune’s 2000 interview with Donald Trump requires no mental adjustment of place and time. Trump is recognizably Trump, from his bragging about attending Wharton to the mention of Roger Stone to a mention in the very first paragraph of Trump’s “uncommonly stubby fingers.”
The most famous quote from that article, though, comes a bit further down. Trump’s describing his ultimately abandoned pursuit of the Reform Party’s presidential nomination.
Trump had inked a deal with Tony Robbins, the frighteningly upbeat motivational speaker, by which Robbins would pay Trump $1 million to give ten speeches at his seminars around the country. Crucially, Trump had timed his political stops to coincide with Robbins’ seminars, so that he was “making a lot of money” on those campaign stops. “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Trump said. …
Maybe that time around. But analysis since the end of the 2016 election makes pretty clear that Trump didn’t make money on his efforts the one time he actually ran — and that, in fact, his net worth has probably declined in recent years.
Sure, Trump’s companies were the beneficiaries of millions of dollars from his campaign, primarily the private company that owns his personal aircraft but, also, properties that were used for campaign events and headquarters. CNN put the total at about $12.5 million paid to Trump-linked companies over the primary and general.
But Trump himself put about $66 million into the race — a bit shy of the $100 million he pledged to spend, but more than five times what his companies took in. Of course, he wouldn’t have gotten all $12.5 million of that anyway.
(How in-line with the Trump of 2017 was that Fortune article? He told the magazine that he estimated he’d need to spend about $100 million to win the presidency. So, accounting for inflation, he really should have set aside $142 million last year — but I digress.)
Trump’s most recent personal financial disclosure did show an uptick in revenue at some of his properties. But analysis of his net worth from Bloomberg News released Wednesday joins analysis by Forbes earlier this year in figuring that Trump’s net worth sank during the time that he was running for president.
The fault doesn’t lie with the campaign, mind you. The problem is that Trump’s objective net worth is dependent on the vagaries of the real estate market. And when that market, particularly in Manhattan, grows soft, Trump’s fortune dips.
We’ve previously compiled a chart documenting how Trump’s net worth has been estimated over the years, both by outside observers and by Trump himself.
Forbes and Bloomberg, the two outlets to release new estimates this year, both show a decline in his total. Tellingly, Trump’s prior personal financial disclosures were accompanied by statements describing his overall net worth in big capital letters: from $9 billion to $10 billion to over $10 billion, by Trump’s own calculation. (Though we hasten to add that billions of that in his first detailing of his wealth was attributed loosely to “his brand” and that, under oath in a deposition years ago, Trump admitted that he based his net worth on his feelings.)
This year, there was no top-line estimate of Trump’s total value. Understandably: Say it’s gone up and people will be both skeptical (given those outside assessments) and critical (given the general feeling that he shouldn’t be profiting from the presidency). Say it has gone down and, well, that’s not what winners do.
It’s possible that Trump will end up in the black during his time in office, especially given that the Justice Department has rubber-stamped his properties taking money from foreign governments. But running for office will probably end up having been a loss-leader.