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The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire [Hardcover]

Gwenda Blair
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 13 2000
Donald Trump, the canny deal maker and crowd pleaser, is the third generation of an entrepreneurial family whose turbulent history and extraordinary achievements reflect the transformation of America from a land of scrabbling immigrant survivors to our brand-name era. Donald's German immigrant grandfather Friedrich came to America with one suitcase and limitless faith in his gut instincts. A hotel and saloon keeper who provided miners with shelter and female companionship during the Klondike gold rush, he later opened a storefront real estate operation in Queens, New York. Fred, Friedrich's eldest son, started building houses for neighbors while he was still in high school and was among the first to realize that the New Deal would become America's new gold rush. Using government housing subsidies and loopholes, Fred constructed thousands of new homes in Brooklyn and Queens, made a fortune, and provided start-up capital for his second son, Donald. Donald, determined to pursue a career on a larger, and ultimately all-encompassing, stage, set his sights on Manhattan. It was then in a slump. Sensing the beginning of another golden age, the young developer began positioning himself to take advantage of it. His most important asset during what would turn into the go-go years of the 1980s and the economic bonanza that followed in the 1990s was his insight that, this time, fame itself would be the road to fortune. Donald had already learned from his father how to be a real estate developer. Now, endowed with a talent for extravagant exaggeration, he would become a world-famous developer. Feuds, divorces, sexual boasts, presidential bids, billion-dollar triumphs, billion-dollardisasters -- Donald Trump's roller-coaster life would become one of the most remarkable, and remarkably well-publicized, in the nation. He would be among the most renowned, reviled, and envied figures of his time. Such a route is not new in America. But what distinguishes Donald Trump is his understanding that being famous for being rich could make him even richer. Donald Trump would provide an intriguing, infuriating, and unforgettable model for the biggest gold rush of them all, the new virtual economy in which the appearance of enormous success has come to play such a dominant role.

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From Amazon

As she did in Almost Golden: Jessica Savitch and the Selling of Television News, journalist Gwenda Blair examines a historical trend through an individual story--or in this case, three--profiling a trio of very different men who happened to be grandfather, father, and son. Friedrich Trump (1869-1918), a German-born barber who got rich providing lodging, food, and female companionship to Klondike gold miners, founded the family real estate empire in Queens, New York. Fred Trump (1905-99) took advantage of new government programs to build affordable urban housing and make lots of money for himself. Donald, born in 1946, was just as interested in being famous as in being wealthy. His first big coup, the Grand Hyatt hotel, opened in 1980, launching a decade of extravagant acquisitions (including two Atlantic City casinos and the Plaza Hotel) that made "the Donald" a byword for '80s excess. Blair conscientiously covers Donald's flamboyant personal life, from the womanizing through the stormy marriage to Ivana and the notorious romance with Marla Maples. Her sometimes portentous prose suits the pumped-up style of the man who promoted his projects by promoting himself with everything from a ghostwritten autobiography, The Art of the Deal, to a board game bearing his name. But the author's main interest, and her book's principal fascination, lies in tracing the evolution of American real estate development over the course of the 20th century, as bare-knuckled individual entrepreneurship gave way to business in partnership with government, which was in turn replaced by high-stakes financial manipulation using image to shape reality. Blair may well be right when she claims that the Trumps' saga constitutes "a singular history of American capitalism itself." --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

This well-balanced, serious examination of the Trump family business proves its mettle by not mentioning The Donald's love life until it approaches page 300, and even then Blair is more concerned about Ivana's influence on Trump's business sense than on his hormones. While Donald is the star of Blair's work, his father and grandfather emerge as colorful characters in their own right. Arriving from Germany in 1885, Friedrich Trump spent a brief time in New York before striking out for Alaska, where he operated combined saloon-restaurant-brothels in several gold rush towns. When things went sour, Trump returned to New York, where he opened a modest real estate office in Queens that his son, Fred Jr., would greatly expand. Taking advantage of government programs designed to spur construction during the Depression, the middle Trump made his reputation by constructing well-built houses and apartments for the middle class. Following WWII, when the government was eager to find ways to ease the housing shortage, he used his contacts in city government to become a multimillionaire and one of the biggest landlords in Brooklyn and Queens. But his son wasn't interested in the boroughs; Donald used his father's money to make his fortune in Manhattan and then in Atlantic City. Blair documents the painstaking process whereby Trump transformed the Commodore Hotel to the Grand Hyatt and made his first mark in New York. With access to the Trump family and their business associates, Blair (bestselling author of Almost Gone) gives a first-rate, firsthand account of Donald Trump's rise, fall and resurrection as a business tycoon, while also exploring the motivation that drove him to risk it all to seek even more fame and fortune. Agent, Gloria Loomis. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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ON OCTOBER 17, 1885, a thin, gangly sixteen-year-old boy watched from the rail of the SS Eider as it approached the island of Manhattan. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interest Is Not Where You Might Expect June 26 2002
Format:Hardcover
The first generation you will read about was never allowed to reach its conclusion, due to an unfortunate early death. The second and third generations of this grandfather, father, and son trio are much longer. The second generation too has recently come to a close after a very long and successful life, in excess of 93 years, and the verdict on the third is still evolving. There is no question where the business acumen was at its greatest, the talent rested with Mr. Fred Trump, the second of the three men, and his story is the one of substance. The grandfather never had a chance to play out what likely would have been a very successful life, but during the time he was a businessman he was creative, bold, and gutsy as any pioneer.
Donald Trump is certainly the most well known, for marketing himself is a large part of whom he is and what he does. He is a man who can only speak in superlatives about anything he is involved in, even if some grand and prominent project bears his name and little else. The name on a building has very little to do with who owns it, who paid for it, or who made it happen. Donald Trump's primary business is Donald Trump. His flair for promotion and obsession with how he is perceived has become his career. There is no question he has had his successful projects, but the question of would they ever have happened without his father is a legitimate one. And he probably would have had much more success and a much larger fortune had he stuck to the business he knew, developing real estate. He got sidetracked with buying an airline, paying absurd prices for casinos that still are far from trophy properties, and while he may have benefited, the holders of stock and various bond issues have not.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Trump-three generations Sept. 9 2000
Format:Hardcover
Being interested in the Donald - for better or for worse - it was a pleasant suprise to discover that he actually had a grandfather, Friedrich Trump - who left Germany at 16 and started out as a barber and saloonkeeper. The rich background about Friedrich and father Fred help to understand what makes the Donald tick. It is also fascinating to see how these ancestors overcame obstacles of different types, and became successful in their own right. Three men - three different ages - three areas of specialization, all tied together over time. I like to analyze Donald's morals to see what works and what wouldn't work in my own life. Being in real estate myself, I want to prepare my own children to carry on my own work, if they are so inclined. There is much to learn from these three generations of Trumps.
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4.0 out of 5 stars THE FOUNDER, THE BUILDER AND THE STAR Oct. 19 2000
Format:Hardcover
Did you ever wonder how Donald Trump could have been so knowledgable and astute at so young an age. How did he do it? Who taught him? Family that's who. Unbelievably true. Ms Blair's research spans three generations. Friedrich who eventually earned a fortune in Alaska; his son Fred Jr. who made millions from U.S. government housing programs and his grandson, "the Donald" real estate developer and promoter. The book gives us an up close view of Donald Trump's ego, his wives and their role, his survival after near-bankruptcy, his eagerness for publicity and his "midas" touch. The man can close a deal. Well written and fascinating. Once upon a time there was the Rothchilds and the Rockefellers. This era it seems belongs to the Trump Dynasty.
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Format:Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. Ms. Blair has taken a complex and difficult subject and made it exciting and fascinating. The Trumps have always deserved analysis beyond the scandal-sheet treatment they usually get in the press. Ms. Blair has provided an account of all the real adventures behind their successes and failures: political, financial and even personal. After reading this book, one feels that the links between strong individuals and the unfolding of history beome clear and alive. The writing is great, the story even better.
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