Trump’s 1980s Deals:
Wrapping up “The Art of the Deal”

We’ve covered the main points in Trump’s The Art of the Deal over the last few months here on Persuasion Reading List. Among Trump’s more illustrated points for deal making and persuasion:

  • Always keep your options open
  • Cover your downside and improve it the best you can
  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Don’t rush a deal, but don’t delay the signing of final paperwork

Chapter 9 focuses on Trump’s purchase of Hilton’s Atlantic City hotel and casino. The Hilton is unable to get their casino licensed, but construction is nearing completion. They turn to Trump who, as we learned in Chapter 8, had already secured his gambling license. Trump buys the Atlantic City property and names it Trump Castle.

In Chapter 10 Trump discusses some real estate dealings in Manhattan. The rent-controlled apartments along Central Park sound amazing, but Trump can’t move some tenants out to upgrade the apartment space. Instead, he buys and refurbishes a different building to create apartments. This one he names Trump Parc. Everyone lives happily ever after.

Trump Parc (center) and surrounding buildings. "Central Park South" (2005) by w00kie, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Trump Parc (center) and surrounding buildings. “Central Park South” (2005) by w00kie, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Chapter 11 gets into Trump’s attempts to bring the United States Football League, USFL, into the spotlight. In 1983, he buys the New Jersey Generals for under $6 million. Trump sees it as a longshot deal that he could afford to risk. He hires away NFL players, and brilliantly creates “futures contracts” that begin when NFL contracts expire. His fellow owners have a harder time funding the league. The NFL is found in a federal court to be a monopoly, but they’re only charged a dollar in symbolic damages, and the USFL shuts down.

Trump takes over the Wollman Ice Rink in Chapter 12. After six years of failed attempts to rebuild the rink, Manhattan agrees to let Trump build the rink. Trump completes the job in under six months. He tells us that the city pledges to meet with him for future public-private partnerships, but he’s never heard anything from the city since. Instead, public works continue to increase in cost because no one pushes hard against the contractors. Trump would, he says.

In 1985, Trump buys the rail yards that he had passed on in 1979. In Chapter 13, Trump tells us of plans to build a self-contained Television City in the land, offering to house NBC to help keep them in Manhattan. He battles with Mayor Koch over the zoning and taxes, and says he plans to complete the development over time. (Turns out, Television City is never completed — here’s an article critical of Trump that discusses how the space turns out.)

In Chapter 14, Trump walks us through the results of the deals he opened the book with, and more. He has a lot of balls in the air and of course, every deal is beautiful. Trump wraps the book by telling us that he doesn’t know what’s in his future, but it’ll involve big deals.

The Art of the Deal covers a lot of ground. Trump and his ghost writer do a good job of laying out Trump’s various negotiation and business tactics. Keeping his opponents off balance, for example, or aiming high and pushing until a deal happens.

Trump uses many of these tactics today. His fans and his critics alike could learn a lot by reading The Art of the Deal or our review here on PRL.

Fellow persuaders, which of Trump’s tactics or stories did you find interesting and relevant to today? Leave a comment below!