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Donald Trump Wants to Save AC; His Track Record Says Otherwise

Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to lament the closing of the Trump Plaza and the current state of affairs in Atlantic City. During his Twitter musings, Trump also intimated that he may come riding back into town to save the day, apparently forgetting his own history in Atlantic City, where he possesses a track record most people would choose to leave off their resume.

How bad was his time in AC? Consider that Trump found himself in bankruptcy court four times due to his casinos over the years.

A Recap of Trump Bankruptcies in AC

It started in 1991 when Donald Trump’s Trump Taj Mahal found itself in bankruptcy court. The restructuring saw bondholders given 49% of the casino.

In 1992, it was the Trump Plaza’s turn with Chapter 11 restructuring as the casino was sitting on $550 million of debt. Donald Trump once again filed for bankruptcy, and in the process became the butt of many jokes as the only man who could bankrupt a casino –remember this was the 1990’s and casino bankruptcies were quite rare. Trump also gave up 49% ownership in the Trump Plaza during the restructuring.

In 2004, the parent company of the casinos, Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts, filed for bankruptcy protection again (restructuring $1.8 billion of debt) and Donald Trump saw his ownership share in the company reduced to 25% along with his title of CEO and control of his own name on the side of the properties vanish (although more recently he did try to sue to have his name removed).

The newly renamed parent company, Trump Entertainment Resorts, minus Donald as CEO, didn’t fare much better. Despite his reduced ownership, Trump was still the Chairman of the Board when the company found itself back in bankruptcy court in 2009 (that’s four times if you’re counting), and following another bailout Trump saw his ownership stake reduced to just 10% and resigned as Chairman of the Board after a heated fight with other owners and board members for control of Trump Entertainment.

After the failed attempt to purchase the company and take it private in 2009 (see, he already tried to get back in long before this week), Donald Trump currently possesses just a 5% stake in the company that bears his name. No, Donald Trump didn’t have a casino close on his watch, but at one point he controlled 30% of the AC casino market, and lost it all through restructurings.

A Gallant Rescue Attempt or Poor Memory?

Now Trump Entertainment is back in bankruptcy court once again, the Trump Plaza closed on Tuesday, and the company is threatening to close the Trump Taj Mahal in November.

Amid this landscape, “The Donald” now feels he alone is the person who has the capability to save Atlantic City and rescue the properties that bear his name, because apparently history (and his memory) don’t go back before 2009.

In Trump’s mind it’s all the fault of the people who foolishly loaned him money during his restructurings and pushed him out. They are the ones that mismanaged the properties he bankrupted four times.

Donald Trump took to Twitter this week to accuse those very firms that bailed him out during his company’s 2004 and 2009 bankruptcies of essentially screwing up a good thing, because apparently being at the helm for four bankruptcies in 17 years is ok, but five in 23 years is just unacceptable and a sign of poor executive decisions.

“They were run badly by funds!” Trump tweeted, telling his followers, “I may buy back in, at much lower price, to save Plaza & Taj.” (Perhaps he has forgotten he tried to buy back in 2009, which would have been one of the absolute worst times to invest in AC, once again showcasing his acumen for the AC gaming industry).

Trump Re-entry? Don’t Count on it

To be clear, the chances of Trump “buying back in” to Atlantic City fall somewhere between his investigation into the President’s birth certificate producing results, and him officially running for President. Like much of what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth, in the end it’s all just hubris and self-promotion.

The “funds” weren’t Trump’s only targets, as he repeated comments he made just a month ago to Bloomberg, saying, “It is so sad to see what has happened to Atlantic City. So many bad decisions by the pols over the years – airport, convention center, etc.”

His rewriting of history didn’t end there. In the same Bloomberg interview Trump stated, “A lot of people say when I left that’s when it went bad,” which is true, but let’s be clear, Trump didn’t voluntarily abdicate Atlantic City, he left after his fourth bankruptcy and was more or less forced out as his ownership dwindled to 5%.

And let’s also not lose sight of the fact that when Trump left AC in 2009 the financial crisis was in full swing.

Trump doubled down on this assessment on Tuesday, tweeting:

If Trump did anything right in AC it was bankrupting his company before the economy went completely downhill. I’m not sure that’s the type of forward-thinking AC needs right now.

Frankly, the last thing an Atlantic City casino needs is Donald Trump at the helm.





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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.