Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is a self-made billionaire and this year’s winner of our 2016 “Brand of the Year” award.

Now an iconic legend, Trump made his original fortune in the real estate market of New York and, for the most part, has never looked back. Already a well-known real estate mogul and businessman, Trump became a household name as a reality TV star on ‘The Apprentice’. Born in 1946 in Queens, New York, our ‘Brand of the Year’ winner got his start in the real estate business when he was only twenty-five years old, with an ambitious business strategy of developing large scale projects in Manhattan. In time, Trump was blazing a trail within top real estate development circles as a ‘mover and shaker’. Over the next 40 years, Trump would both ride the back of New York’s wildest ‘bull’ markets and be mauled under the weight of one of the city’s greatest ‘bear’ markets as it came roaring back down. But, ‘the Donald’ has always been able to persevere, demonstrating what the fictitious persona of U. S. Marshall, “Rooster” J. Cogburn himself might have referred to as ‘true grit’. The pinnacle of all attestations to Trump’s personal achievements, came on July 19, 2016, when Donald John Trump was declared the Republican Presidential Candidate, in one of the most divisive Republican party conventions in history.

Early Life

Donald Trump was the fourth of five children born to Frederick and Mary Trump. Frederick, a builder and real estate developer, was a role model for the young Trump. Donald was a high energy young lad with an assertive A-type personality from the start, prompting his parents to send him off to military school when he was 13 years old in order to acquire some discipline. The academy served Donald well. Earning good grades and making numerous friends, Trump had positioned himself as a born leader by the time he graduated in 1964. He then entered Fordham University, but transferred in his junior year to University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance, earning an Economics degree in 1968.

Real Estate Tycoon

Following in his father’s footsteps, Donald embarked on a career in real estate development by working in the family business. Proposing a business strategy riskier than that of his father, he convinced the elder Trump to finance the expansion of the family’s current holdings by leveraging the equity within their existing real estate portfolio. It was an aggressive but profitable move, and in 1971, Donald Trump took over his father’s business. Moving to Manhattan soon after assuming control of the business, Trump started building a massive sphere of influence. A visionary at an early age, Trump was able to see potential where others might not, and has largely reshaped the Manhattan skyline as a result. In 1976 - in the first mega-deal of his career, and one of the most famous real-estate deals in history - Trump obtained an option to purchase the Commodore Hotel which, at the time, was about to be ‘shuttered’ by its Bankrupt parent [Penn Central]. With an option in hand, he then negotiated an unprecedented 40-year tax abatement deal with New York City officials. A 30-year old Trump knew that he would need an impressive development partner in order to borrow the money to restore the grand lady to her full potential. Targeting the Hyatt Hotel Chain - one of the few large hospitality groups without a significant New York City ‘presence’ - was itself, a stroke of genius. Trump successfully entered into a partnership agreement with Hyatt, and with Hyatt as a management partner, he was well on his way to securing mortgage commitments [ultimately from two different banks] totaling $70M for renovations. The face lift started in 1978, and opened as The Grand Hyatt Hotel in 1980.

The Trump Empire

In 1977, Donald Trump married fashion model and Olympic skiing hopeful, Ivana Zelníčková and the couple had three children together. Trump Tower opened in 1982, featuring a six-story atrium as well as an 80-foot waterfall plummeting amongst pink marble, and a plethora of high end retail stores. The building garnered Donald Trump national attention and heralded him as the Boy Wonder with the business strategy to rebuild Manhattan. After such real estate development success, Trump decided to try his hand in the casino business, acquiring a Hilton Hotel in Atlantic City and renaming it the Trump Castle. He would go on to acquire the largest casino hotel in the world, the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which finally opened in 1990. It was in 1990, with the fall of the real estate market, that Donald Trump, the “golden boy” of real estate, came up against his first hard core set-backs. During this time, his $1.5 billion empire collapsed to as little as $500 million. Never one to settle for defeat, ‘the Donald’ managed to come up with a business strategy that would reverse the massive deficit on his personal balance sheet, once again amassing a fortune of over $2 billion dollars.

The Donald

During his economic struggles - his net worth plummeting to only 1/3 of its previous value - Trump decided to use his prominent presence and charisma in the realm of reality television. This was a tumultuous time for Trump with a real estate glut, vultures [banks] circling overhead and ensuing marital strife, Donald and Ivana were divorced in 1991. He remarried in 1993 to Marla Maples with whom he already had a child. That marriage lasted four years and ended in a highly contested and publicized divorce. He married his current wife Melania in 2005 and a year later they had a son, Barron Trump (no pressure there) . Capitalizing on his controversial nature, “The Donald” took to television, starring in the NBC reality hit television show, The Apprentice. The Apprentice features candidates vying to be hired by Trump as his next apprentice. Each week, one of the candidates gets eliminated when Trump roars his notorious catchphrase, ”You’re fired!”

Donald Trump For President

Our iconic “Brand of the Year” winner for 2016 has had a run for the presidential election that’s been riddled with controversy. People either love him or they hate him, but few are indifferent to the Donald Trump brand. During his campaign, he called out Senator John McCain’s war record. Donald Trump discredited McCain as a war hero stating, ”He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren’t captured.” During the Vietnam conflict, McCain was captured and spent years being tortured by the North Vietnamese in the infamous Hỏa Lò Prison, (dubbed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by U.S. Prisoners of War). McCain survived inhumane conditions and endured grueling torture, not the least of which was the repeated breaking of both his arms. Donald Trump’s reference to Senator John McCain’s horrific ordeal as a POW was clearly in poor taste, and has caused many to criticize him for his insensitivity. Yet, some have advocated his willingness to speak his mind regardless of platform or political party expectations. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is always himself and is currently this country’s most recognized Brand. He can be counted on to always speak his mind, regardless of how provocative the message. Trump is the epitome of the American dream, following Ayn Rand’s ‘pull-yourselfup- by-your-bootstraps’ strategy and philosophy that any citizen can achieve the American Dream. Whatever your views of him may be, there is no argument that Donald Trump is a uniquely recognizable and iconic Brand. As for the ‘man’ behind the Brand, he is clearly captain of his own ship and thus far, that ship has sailed him into greatness. Therefore, we wish to extend the heartiest congratulations to this year’s ‘Brand of the Year’ winner, . . . “ The Donald “ J. Trump.

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