This morning, Donald Trump’s three casinos filed for bankruptcy protection for the third time. The blustery mogul is doing his best to distance himself from the company and lay the blame for its troubles elsewhere: Last Friday, he and his daughter Ivanka both stepped down from the board, and this morning, he let the Journal know the casinos count for “substantially less than 1 percent of my net worth … Other than the fact that it has my name on it — which I’m not thrilled about — I have nothing to do with the company,” he said.
This may be true, but does it even matter? The Trump image is inexorably linked with those monolithic casinos, with greed and artifice and swimming pools and overwrought décor and the idea of the Good Life. Not to mention gambling. Trump griped last week that he tried to buy the casinos and turn them around, but the bondholders who controlled the company didn’t let him. But, as Floyd Norris points out today, it was Trump’s leveraging of the casinos that led them into their financial troubles in the first place.
“He has lots of leverage and a tendency to make very bold bets,” Harlan Platt, a professor and bankruptcy expert at Northeastern University in Boston who has followed Trump’s casino bankruptcies for decades, told the Associated Press today. And it doesn’t bode well for the future. “Mr. Trump has a way of doing business which was perfectly aligned with American capitalism over the last 20 years, but will probably be misaligned in the future.”
In retrospect, it seems almost symbolic that the first financial fraud to be uncovered as the recession unspooled, Raffaello Follieri, lived in the over-the-top luxurious Trump World Tower, the Trumpiest of Trump’s buildings. Since then, Trump’s been sued by Deutsche Bank over a $40 million loan he took out to build condos in Chicago, condos he was unable to sell due to the economy (he countersued, claiming they damaged his image). Will the Greatest Depression see the end of Donald Trump? It’s almost impossible to contemplate. At this point, he’s like a piece of Styrofoam or one of those plastic cases electronics come in, virtually indestructible (and possibly not even biodegradable). But he’s not wrong to be worried about his image. Right now, it’s about as dated-looking as his ex-wife’s hairdo.