What is Donald Trump Worth?

The Name You Trust for Quality Meat

The Name You Trust for Quality Meat

The question of what Donald Trump‘s net worth is may be like asking “what’s the meaning of life?“.  The answer is different to everyone and the most interesting part of the question is the search for the answer, not obtaining the answer itself.  Donald Trump’s true net worth, therefore, is unknowable.

From the Wall Street Journal:
“My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feeling,” – Donald Trump in a December 2007 deposition under oath.

That’s fantastic.  I think that’s the method AIG‘s auditors used to evaluate the CDS book’s risk…feelings and attitudes.

I’m a fan of Donald Trump as a salesman, and I think he’s remarkable in that his persona and ability to be involved in high profile deals transcends eras and epochs.  He is susceptible to the business cycle like everyone, but not the media’s attention cycle.  Think about how many generations of “celebrity businessmen” we’ve seen since the early 80’s…how many of them are still relevant or in the public discourse like Trump is?

Trump dropped the above gem of a quote as part of his suit against a writer who put out a book in 2005 saying that Trump’s net worth was only about $150-200 million.    Deutsche Bank put the number at $788 million that same year.

Trump has put the figure closer to 5 or 6 billion dollars.

Where does he get his figures from?  A big part of Trump’s argument that these evaluations are “ridiculous” or “lowballs” is what he believes his “Brand” to be worth.  Goodwill must be a hefty line item in the equation.

This is an interesting line of reasoning.  Trump’s brand absolutely does have a value.  But how do you calculate that value, and does it’s calculation have any business being added to a serious discussion of net worth?  The New York Yankees have a value, and part of that value is the Yankees Brand.  The difference is, someone can buy the Yankees franchise, you can’t buy Donald Trump, so should both the Trump brand and the Yankees brand be utilized in the same fashion for determining worth or value?

Here’s an even closer comparison to consider…does a Hollywood star, like a Will Smith, for example, include what his brand may be worth when calculating his own net worth?  Certainly it has a substantial value, but that value is already baked into each studio contract he signs.  They already know about his brand value and how he can open movies with 9 figures in gross receipts, and he is paid accordingly.  Can’t we conclude that Trump’s brand value should be looked at similarly?  That it is already factored into each licensing agreement he signs and thus reflected in the money he’s made? 

If this is so, then isn’t assigning an arbitrary, multi-billion dollar number for brand equity just a theoretical exercize? 

Trump was asked about one of his investments, a golf club in NJ, and whether or not he’s done any financial analysis of it. “Yes, I’ve done mental projections,” was his response.

I’ve done a mental projection myself.  I project that this question will still be unanswered years for now, but will still be debated, as Trump and his exploits will always hold the interest of journalists and business people around the world.

Full Story: Trump on Trump (WSJ)

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