John Tamny , Forbes Staff


While there’s a lot to criticize Donald Trump the politician about, his business exploits are something to behold. That is so because as George Gilder frequently reminds us, it’s the proverbial “leap” that produces the crucial information necessary to power any economy forward.

Over the decades Trump has taken numerous leaps; some that were very successful, and some that weren’t. The economy gained whether his ventures soared or wilted. If his net worth is less than $2 billion, more than $5 billion, or even the $10 billion he claims, his professional accomplishments have been brilliant.

Still, without questioning for even a second what he’s accomplished in the business world, it’s worth pointing out that he may well be overstating it when he calculates $10 billion after compiling his assets and liabilities. To understand why, it’s useful to go back in time to the late 1980s. It was then that Security Pacific was the fifth largest U.S. bank, and Trump was arguably at the height of his business prominence.

In his excellent 1999 book Dead Bank Walking, former Security Pacific CEO Robert H. Smith recalled a 1989 visit from Trump to the bank’s Los Angeles headquarters. As Smith described it, “When I first met with Trump he had already been heralded as a genius and seemed to be at the leading edge of everything.”

Smith went on to write that “Trump had a Clintonesque aura around him, the effervescent divinity of a studied deal-maker, and a categorical ability to communicate and inspire the belief of others in his personal vision. He no doubt could have been an evangelist.”

Trump sought a $50 million loan ($50M Security Pacific’s “house limit”) to revitalize the old Ambassador Hotel, which was most famous at the time in a macabre way for it being where Robert F. Kennedy was tragically assassinated in 1968. The hotel and the area in which it was located had since cascaded downward but Trump, full of the entrepreneurial confidence that defines high achievers, said he had a plan to revive the formerly great hotel.

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