It’s been some time since I’ve written a blog, but I’ve been motivated over the past few weeks. It has nothing to do with size acceptance, which his been the subject of so many of my blogs. So, what has brought me to the point of writing again?
Two Words. Donald Trump.
Thirty-five percent of Republican primary voters support Trump, up 13 points since October, though another candidate, Ted Cruz is beginning to gain momentum. The thought of a Trump presidency has me scared enough to consider a move to Canada or Mexico, not only because of Trump himself, but because of my disappointment in the American public.
I’m not going to discuss his recent comments on refugees. That’s already been discussed by many who are more knowledgeable about that topic than I am, though I can’t tell you how much I disagree with him.
I want to relate a story about my dealings with Trump, and his organization in Atlantic City.
Let’s go back to 1988, I opened my first video/entertainment store with my then brother in law in Ventnor, a small town just south of Atlantic City. We opened during the height of the video rental craze, but had invested nearly everything we had & then some to get the business off the ground. By 1989, my partner decided to leave the business on a leveraged buyout by me (and I had to borrow a significant amount of money to do so), and by 1990, I looked to expand the business. One of the ways to do so was to offer movie rental services to the local casino-hotels in Atlantic City. I picked up Bally’s Grand, and within a few months I had the Tropicana, The Sands, Resorts, and then later Caesars and Harrah’s. The casinos primarily used my service for their limousines, so that their “high rollers” would have something to watch on the drive to the casinos, but later extended to placing movies in the hotel rooms (remember, this was before pay per view, and other video streaming).
So, in late 1990 I was approached by the first Trump property, The Taj Mahal about supplying them with movies as well. Supplying movies at that time required a pretty big capital investment, since each casino would essentially “rent” anywhere from 50 to 100 movies per month from my business, and each movie at that time cost anywhere from $50-$75 EACH, so if I was to pick up another casino, it would require an additional $6000 per month to set them up with new release movies, which would then be ongoing. That expense would be somewhat reduced when the older movies were returned by the hotel, since I could sell them for a few dollars and apply that money toward newer product for them. After some consideration, I decided that since it was Trump, I’d go ahead, and sign a contract with them as well.
Fast forward a few months, and the second Trump casino, the Marina (then called Trump Castle) approached me about doing business with them as well. Again, it was Trump, and the Taj Mahal seemed to like my service and pricing, and recommended me to Trump Castle. Another $6K investment, and we were in business again with a new Trump property. Having an entrepreneur’s spirit, I took the initiative and approached Trump Plaza about doing business as well. After all, the other casinos were paying me well, money was coming in on a timely basis, and my cash flow was good. The Plaza and I struck a deal, and we spent even more money to jump in on the third Trump property. Simple deal, bills for all 3 casinos were to be paid by the Taj Mahal, which should have raised a red flag for me, coming from a financial background, but the Atlantic City casino business did many things that defied financial reasoning, so I went with the flow.
Fast forward into 1991, around March, and while they were behind in their payments, they were paying me. Suddenly the payments stopped. I called the Taj and spoke with several people in finance who told me to sit tight, the money is coming. In an effort to get the Taj opened, much of the construction of the casino was financed with junk bonds, and the casino was in some debt, especially since business was not as great for them as anticipated, which had caused a “small” cash crunch. “Don’t worry, Mr. Trump will pay on all of his debts, you’ll have your money soon enough. Just keep bringing the movies and everything will be fine” is what I was told.
By May there had still been no payment, and I kept receiving the same answer. I decided that before Memorial Day weekend, I would take matters into my own hands. I went to all 3 casinos prior to one of their biggest weekends of the year and got as much of my inventory back as possible. Fortunately for me, I had filed what is called a UCC-1 financing statement which established my business as owner of the inventory. The casinos tried to stop me, but I showed them the business document I’d filed with the state of NJ and told them they had no legal right to my inventory. I got back a little more than half of the movies that I’d supplied them with.
I then filed suit in court against the Taj Mahal. A few days before the trial was scheduled, I received a visit from a courier who represented the Trump properties. Basically they offered me about a third of what they owed. I was financially beaten down, since not only did I not have the money from them, but I was out a significant amount of money that was required to purchase the movies that had yielded me no profit for almost 6 months. I accepted the money, and signed an agreement to settle the lawsuit.
I lost a lot of money doing business with Donald Trump. a few months later (I don’t remember the exact date) the Taj Mahal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allowed him to reorganize the debt while the casino remained open. Not long after the filing, another business on my block, a candy & gift shop called Hugs & Kisses closed their doors. The reason? She hadn’t been paid by Trump properties for goods that she had supplied to them, which forced her to shut down as she had negative cash flow. There were others in the area. Fortunately for me, the money I received was not required by the bankruptcy court to be repaid back to Trump, which can happen in bankruptcy cases. All the money I received in that settlement was used to pay off my creditors, and unfortunately, there was nothing left for me to show for my efforts. Interestingly enough, right after the bankruptcy, I was reapproached by the Trump Casinos about doing business with them again. I simply informed them that if they wanted to do business, my new terms were cash in advance, and of course they balked. They tried to get me to agree to having all of the billing go through Trump Plaza, to which I said no, and then provided them with a list of about 15 other local video stores in the area, with a suggestion to get their videos through one of them.
This time my business decision was spot on, since in 1992, The Trump Plaza Casino/Hotel also filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. More local businesses closed, thanks to this. That place had lost over $550 million, but Trump, being the clever negotiator, agreed to give up a 49 percent stake in the hotel to Citibank and other lenders. In exchange, he received more favorable repayment terms on the debt.
To add insult to injury (seeing a trend here yet?), another Trump company went into bankruptcy in 2004 (by then, I’d already been out of the video business for over 5 years, having sold off a store, and liquidating my inventory in my original location & closing for good). This time, with the company nearly $1.8 billion dollars in debt, Trump was back to cutting deals, this time agreeing to reduce his stake in the company to about 25 percent in exchange for lower interest rates and a new loan. The move meant that Trump would have to give up control in his company, but considering what had been going on under his leadership, that was probably good for the company.
And guess what? In 2009, Trump Entertainment Resorts declared Chapter 11 after missing a $53.1 million bond interest payment. Trump and the rest of the board of directors could not reach an agreement over whether or not to file for bankruptcy, resulting in his resignation as head of the board. The move saw his stake in the company reduced even further on what Trump called a now “worthless” investment that he assured was less than a percent of his net worth. This is essentially the SAME BUSINESS that 17 years ago, I was told that because it was Trump, I’d be paid. I’m pretty sure there were more business casualties thanks to the financial mismanagement of this man. Of course, his personal finances (with the exception of the original Taj Mahal bankruptcy) were never at risk. I would have loved to go into business on someone else’s money, amassed wealth as a result, and then financially harm others who believed in him by financing his growth, like I did. By the way, even though he’s no longer involved, Trump’s Taj Mahal again filed for bankruptcy in September of 2014, putting several hundred people out of work in the South Jersey area. Of course, Donald didn’t care at that point. In fact, he publicly high-fived himself by saying he had the “sense” to pull out of the Atlantic City Casino business in the years prior, yet another spin on the truth of his failure there.
And that’s the point of my writing this. The guy has two issues.
1. He LOVES money, especially if it belongs to someone else, and makes it his goal to somehow get that money from someone else, at any cost……..then once it’s his, he HATES that money, and can’t spend it fast enough. I dread the thought of a Donald Trump economy, and you should as well.
2. He’s a liar, and uses his delusion to spin positive results from negative situations (which I mentioned above in the case of the last Taj Mahal bankruptcy). I can’t vote for someone who not only lies, but actually believes his own lies.
Yesterday in a news conference with local religious leaders, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called Donald Trump an asshole, and while he later apologized for his language, he insisted that Trump’s rhetoric is harmful to the country. I don’t usually agree with Mayor Nutter, but we agree on the subject of Donald Trump, though for different reasons.
He couldn’t run a casino (three, to be exact), and you expect him to run America? Get real, people……