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A Look at Donald Trump in the 1970s-80s: Battling but Surviving

Variety logo Variety 1/18/2017 Tim Gray
© Provided by Variety

Long before his election as president, long before “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump appeared regularly in Variety, due to his entertainment-related real-estate moves.

His first mention came on April 15, 1975, when he was described as a realty developer. Madison Square Garden retained him as chief consultant “on all realty matters.” According to the story, Arab “oilionaires” had offered between $50 million and $75 million for the arena complex.

Trump said, “A number of the most wealthy Mideast sources have been actively engaged in attempting to gain control through purchase of the arena. However, due to the existing political climate, both the Garden officials and myself feel strongly that no decision should be made concerning the sale to these sources despite the significance in amount of dollars being offered.”

America was in an oil crisis that began in October 1973 when members of OPEC declared an oil embargo, sharply boosting gas prices in the U.S. Madison Square Garden was never sold.

On April 28, 1976, Trump was battling New York City over the terms of his Commodore Hotel deal: He was attempting to reconstruct the hotel that was adjacent to Grand Central Station. Trump wanted a 50-year tax abatement; the city wanted a 35-year limit. The battle was resolved and in 1978, Variety reported as the Commodore Hotel was becoming the Grand Hyatt, with Trump in partnership with the Hyatt hotel chain.

Though he was elected president on the Republican ticket, he sometimes battled GOP members in the 1970s.

In 1979, the city and state of New York agreed on a $375 million Convention & Exhibition Center in Manhattan. The state would have complete control, and it would be governed by 13-person board, the majority appointed by Gov. Hugh Carey. None of its members would be appointed by Mayor Ed Koch. The story said, “Realty developer Donald Trump, who had been pushing for the center, is to receive a $500,000 brokerage fee plus promotion expenses said to be around $500,000. This sum is being protested by the Republican leadership.”

His hotel holdings expanded as he attempted to take over Holiday Inn. The hotel chain sued him and in 1987 Variety reported that Trump had earned about $55 million in his attempted takeovers.

Though his hotel work became well established in Atlantic City, the attempts to move into Vegas didn’t work. A 1987 story said he faced “a chilly reception in his quest to acquire Las Vegas properties.” The Nevada Gaming Commission chairman Paul Bigle and Golden Nugget owner Steve Wynn opposed the moves and the results were that Trump stayed out of Vegas.

Even in his early days, Trump had plenty of battles, but always emerged intact. And he was always a family man. A July 29, 1987, story reported: “The family of Donald Trump has taken over as officers and directors of Resorts Intl. Inc.”

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