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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Trump’s financials ‘worth’ a long look as $454M bond deadline looms

It wasn’t that long ago, just before the 2016 presidential election to be exact, that Donald Trump made the following claim: His net worth was in “excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS.” 

The Donald’s humblebrag came in a press release as he prepared his first and successful run for the White House.

Presumably, he used all caps for emphasis.

His wealth and success as a businessman (real estate and reality TV) made him uniquely suited to be president and fix the country’s manifold problems that the political class couldn’t. 

Yes, we all know about Trump’s propensity to be a blowhard but even by his bloviating standards, it is hard to square what’s happening now.

He has been reduced to begging banks, and even his loyal MAGA supporters, to pay down what should be a pittance for someone with his alleged wealth: A $454 million civil judgment from a New York state judge in the dubious civil bank-fraud case brought by hyper-ambitious state Attorney General Tish James. 

James’ case is a joke on so many levels, it’s still a mystery how she found a sentient judge to agree with her.

She’s claiming Trump exaggerated the value of his condo in Trump Tower on a loan application with Deutsche Bank, which had no complaints about the deal because the bank did its own due diligence.

Trump was good for the money. 

The judge in the case, Arthur ­Engoron, may be sentient or may not be.

What is certain is that he fits comfortably into the mold of a political hack almost as much as James, who ran for office promising the Democratic base to find a crime, any crime, for which to bust Trump as he geared up to run for president once again — even if it’s a victimless one. 

Victimless but serious: Trump has until Monday to either come up with the money his lawyers say he doesn’t really have or secure a bond to cover that amount, which no bank or insurance company seems willing to do as this column goes to press.

He could also ask his coterie of billionaire pals for the money, but for now, they also don’t seem too eager to pony up.

Late Friday, Trump said he miraculously came up with the cash, but doesn’t want to use it. 

So now what happens? 

Former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures outside the courtroom in New York State Supreme Court in New York City, U.S., February 15, 2024.
Trump has previously claimed to be worth over $10 billion. REUTERS

So what’s going on with all those many billions of dollars Trump was supposed to have at his disposal, and what will happen Monday if he doesn’t meet the court’s demands? 

First, if you know anything about what Trump thinks he’s worth and what others say he’s worth, it’s been a fraught relationship.

The Donald has been known to badger Forbes magazine, which publishes a popular annual ranking of the world’s richest people, to inflate their estimates of his worth.

He once unsuccessfully sued a reporter who speculated he’s worth significantly less than $1 billion. 

Forbes, as of September 2023, estimates Trump’s net worth at $2.6 billion — which makes him still very wealthy.

On top of that, Trump is looking at a looming massive payday, as the investment vehicle holding his Truth Social social-media platform is set to go public.

It could provide a huge payday for Trump, as much as $3.4 ­billion. 

But there are complications.

The deal to bring Truth Social public through a merger with a so-called SPAC has attracted some serious litigation, and according to the company’s regulatory filings, Trump wouldn’t be able to sell his shares for six months.

Shares of the SPAC, known as Digital World Acquisition, have more than doubled to around $37 in recent months with Trump wrapping up the GOP nomination for this year’s presidential election against Sleepy Joe Biden

Yet Truth Social has a fraction of the traffic of Elon Musk’s X and if X is having a hard time making money (Musk keeps complaining it does) that will go double for Truth Social.

Trump’s stake could be worth far less when he can cash it in. 

Meanwhile, his existing shares probably can’t be used as collateral for a loan, I am told by securities lawyers; ditto for his largely illiquid real estate holdings in New York where commercial real estate isn’t exactly a booming business.

Who knows what he could get for Trump National Doral in Miami or even the swanky Mar-a-Lago golf and country club in Palm Beach if he had to sell on the spot. 

Most of all, Trump has always had little available cash, even less so now after doling out $83 million to satisfy the judgment in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case he’s also trying to appeal.

So what does a cash-poor billionaire staring at a $454 million judgment to do?

Pray for a change of heart from Tom Barrack, Bernie Marcus or Howie Lorber, his billionaire pals who could write the check and keep Tish James from chaining the front door of Trump Tower come Monday morning.

Maybe beg Musk for a few bucks. 

Or maybe pray that James seizes his Westchester properties and stops there (highly doubtful, knowing James).

Or agrees to less money because she is worried that Trump dumping all his New York properties at once could further depress the city’s commercial real estate market. 

Trump could play real hardball — which he certainly knows how to do, given his long and tortured history of doing business.

As I first reported, Trump advisers are weighing whether to turn over all the properties to James and let her figure out the complexities of ownership, including his limited partners, until she gets to Trump’s share. 

By the time that happens, the case may have been successfully overturned on appeal for all its ­ludicrousness.

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