Trump demonstrated his dearth of integrity and his categorical disregard for ethics in 2004 when he plowed through the New York State Education Department’s (NYSDE) admonition that opening Trump University was in violation of state law. Unauthorized, unaccredited, operating without a license, Trump went forth with his latest niche business enterprise—ripping off the most vulnerable amongst us, students, in other words, folks just trying to make it in this world.
Initially partnering with Michael Sexton and Jonathan Spitalny, who approached him to sell asset management courses, Trump overtook the operation taking a 93 percent ownership. With a sales strategy akin to timeshare sales, interested folks showed up to receive the free spiel, hoping to learn more about the Trump-brand school, but instead got bombarded with a hard sell for their 3-day Trump University workshop that was a $1,495 scam. The lawsuits started there. Two class action and a third individual lawsuit were filed in New York State court for illegal business practices against Trump with reasons ranging from racketeering to false claims. When the Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education, Joseph Frey, sent a letter to Trump in 2010 reiterating NYSDE’s admonition that the use of his use of the word “university” is in violation of New York Education Law. Trump responded a few months later by renaming Trump University. Henceforth it was called The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative. The State of New York responded two months later with a $40 million civil suit against Trump’s school. In October of 2014, a New York judge found Trump guilty and personally liable for operating without a license. Trump uncharacteristically settled three of the lawsuits just after his election in the fall of 2016 for $25 million.
Trump’s television Los Angeles based production company was launched in 2004 with The Apprentice, a TV program filmed inside the Trump Tower a few floors down from his uber-luxurious penthouse mansion in order that his appearances would be more convenient. In 2008 the company produced Celebrity Apprentice. And, until 2015, the media company televised the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants.
It also produces television shows, The Ultimate Merger and Pageant Place. Many viewers are unaware of the Trump association with some of its programs. The company had a value of $15 million in 2015.
Trump Model Management, A.K.A. “T Models”
The Trump Organization announced the phasing out of this company in 2017 following Trump’s inauguration as U.S. President. Founded and owned by Trump in 1999, the laundry list of legal suits and allegations against the company by the models may have had something to do with the abrupt shuttering of the agency.
In 2016, a California Senator called for an investigation into the company’s hiring practices. Behind the scene boycotts of the company by models who questioned the ethics of politician Trump also complicated the relationship. On the upside, Trump Model’s greatest contribution was its division of Legend models in 2012 which revived interest in models over 40.
It took Trump about four years to run this company into the ground, no pun intended. In 1988, Trump purchased the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle, a shuttle service offering hourly flights between N.Y.C., D.C., and Boston since 1961, for $365 million. It never turned a profit. High debt, spikes in fuel prices and failing to impress existing customers landed The Trump Shuttle into airline company oblivion as Trump was forced to default on his loans. In 1992, Trump Airlines ceased to exist, and the company was turned over to creditors.
The shuttle service originally serviced passengers with a no-hassle, no-frills, inexpensive commute without seat assignments, reservation, check-ins or boarding passes; a simple, convenient way to hop around the East Coast. When Trump purchased the company’s fleet, he gutted them, obviously installing chrome seat belts, maple-veneered flooring, and, standard, gold-plated bathroom fixtures. His additional VIP touches weren’t worth it to many customers, a stream of paying passengers began to abandon ship. Sales dropped, prices rose.
Tour De Trump
Many a cycling enthusiast agreed that an American cycling race was a long-neglected undertaking. So, one day, inspired by fellow CBS sports reporter John Tesh’s idea that America needed a Tour, Billy Packer, CBS basketball announcer, approached Trump in Atlantic City with a sponsorship role in an East Coast cycling race idea. Trump was very interested and took them up on the plan. Fully invested, he named the race Tour de Trump. In May 1989 the event premiered. With a prize of $250,000, many big names showed up for the race, including Lance Armstrong who won it twice. The route twisted and turned through cities and small towns for 837 miles on the route from Albany to Atlantic City. The route was noticeably personally mapped out by Trump. All the way back in the late ‘80s, Trump had already become a polarizing political figure. Protesters gathered at the finish line with signs like “Fight Trumpism,” and “The Art of the Deal = The Rich Get Richer.” Even New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who once called Trump a “one of the great hucksters,” protested by staying home from the Manhattan leg of the race. As a business venture, it failed.
In two years, Trump was forced to sell to DuPont who became the main sponsor. With a lot of 20/20-vision irony looking back, Trump, who was asked why he didn’t call the race Tour de America in order to develop an event that parallels the preeminent Tour de France, responded, “We could if we wanted to have a less successful race. If we wanted to down-scale it.” The entire Tour, formerly de Trump and then de DuPont, was eventually discontinued in 1996. Trump was getting a reputation for ruining great projects with his involvement.