Has Manhattan tycoon Trump lost the plot?

Can America's most notorious real estate mogul really have set his sights on the White House, asks Anil Bhoyrul
Has Manhattan tycoon Trump lost the plot?
By Anil Bhoyrul
Thu 21 Apr 2011 01:59 PM

Donald Trump, President of the United States of America. Scary thought, isn’t it? And if Trump’s campaign so far is anything to go by, I suspect we’re all in for a good laugh as well. In case you’ve missed it, Trump has been busy with another outburst lately, this time targeting the Arab world. He told CNN last week that Arab nations should hand over $5bn to the USA in return for bombing Libya — something he would have demanded as president.

“The Arab League is so wealthy, they have so much money, they have cash pouring out of their ears, and they tell us, and we’re a debtor nation, they tell us to go in and take out Gaddafi, because we don’t like him. Why aren’t they paying us? Why aren’t they paying us?” Trump said, adding: “When they said that, you should have said; ‘We’ll go in, but we want $5bn.’And you know what, that’s peanuts for them, they’d give you a cheque in about two seconds.”

Hmmm. We’ll ignore the fact it was actually the UN Security Council — of which the USA a permanent member — that decided to act on Libya.

Though if the would-be president is so keen on someone else footing the bill for the conflict, what about Trump himself? I raise this because one subject he has avoided having any kind of outburst on is the $2.9bn Trump International Hotel & Tower Dubai.

Launched at star studded gala events in Los Angeles and New York in 2008, Trump told us this was going to be a spectacular 62-storey building on the Palm Jumeirah. Everyone believed him, and at one point the project’s penthouse became the most expensive property in Dubai with one buyer offering AED11,100 ($3,022) a sq ft, or almost AED110m.

“We really want to make this the tremendous success that we know it’s going to be. I love doing one [project], making it really great and then we do the next one,” Trump told reporters at the launch.

And what happened to the project? I live just yards from what was the planned site, and find it very handy for playing football every Friday on the gigantic sand pit, using abandoned cars as goalposts. There have been rumours that a shopping mall will one day be built there.

When Arabian Business contacted Trump’s New York office in February for an update, he refused to confirm or deny anything. Not a word. Not a pipsqueak. No outburst this time.

So what happened to all the money that investors put up towards the construction of the tower? Maybe he could find out, and hand it over to his Libya war fund.

Fashion and fortune

Our cover star this week is the incredible Lebanese designer Elie Saab, who was ranked 28th in our recent Power 500. There can be few Arabs who have achieved so much, without any kind of state backing or other financial aid. Saab told me that he started designing women’s clothes when he was just nine years old. Today his clothes are on sale in 22 countries and he has moved into jewellery, bags, shoes and even designing luxury yachts.

When asked whether he would consider putting his business on the stock market, he replied, somewhat intriguingly, “This could be a natural evolution of the business.”

Look down the exchanges of the Arab world and you will see a lot of great success stories, but almost all are primarily government owned. Saab is self made, has never had a hand from anyone but himself. He is proof that talent and hard work, without hundreds of millions of dollars in backing, are still good enough to make it to the top.

Anil Bhoyrul is the Editorial Director of Arabian Business.

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