JEREMY HOBSON: Well it seems the time to decide if you want the republican nomination for President is upon us. Mississippi’s Governor Haley Barbour says he’s out. And Texas Congressman Ron Paul says he may jump in. And then there’s the guy who’s getting most of the attention at the moment: real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Reporter Anna Sale with WNYC’s political website ItsAFreeCountry.org has been looking into Trump’s business background and she joins us now. Good morning.
ANNA SALE: Good morning.
HOBSON: So it seems like despite Donald Trump’s fame, no one actually knows what he’s really worth. Why is that?
SALE: First of all, the Trump Corporation is a private company, so they don’t have to tell us how much he’s worth. Also, real estate is part of it. And those values obviously fluctuate. And his name itself is a commodity. And you can see that it’s on real estate towers and casinos, but it’s also on bottled water and vitamins. And so, we don’t know how much he actually owns and how much he’s just sold the use of his name.
HOBSON: So you’re saying that those buildings with Trump name on them — those aren’t necessarily his buildings.
SALE: Right. The Trump name doesn’t mean that he owns it. It doesn’t mean that he’s developed it. Sometimes he’s just sold the use of his name. And this is something that’s been a marker of his career all along. He’s understood that the Trump name itself adds value. This is Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer.
GWENDA BLAIR: Very early on he got branding. He was really quite prescient about that — how important it would be to make his name into something that would add value.
And that has gotten him into some trouble recently. There are actually two pending lawsuits for a project in Fla. and a project in Baja, Mexico where investors bought into a Trump project thinking they were buying part of Trump developing sort of mind. And then they found out later that he wasn’t involved at all. He just sold the use of his name.
HOBSON: So, it’s all about the Trump name — the Trump brand.
SALE: The Trump brand — it’s everywhere. It’s on projects that he’s involved with, it’s on projects he’s left. For example the casino company in Atlantic City that runs the casinos — it’s gone bankrupt three times. The last time after he left the board. So it’s about the Trump brand — for good or for bad.
HOBSON: Anna Sale, reporter with the website ItsAFreeCountry.org. Thanks so much for joining us.
SALE: Thank you.