Saturday 17 March 2018

Trump that: why Donald thinks €15m golf course is a bargain

After turning his back on Scotland, the brash billionaire splashed out in Doonbeg, Co Clare, instead this week. But that's only loose change to a man who is used to getting what he wants

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Donald and Melanija Trump
John Meagher

John Meagher

On Monday morning, Donald Trump dispensed succinct advice to his 2.5 million Twitter followers: "Remember to keep going. If you stop, your momentum will stop. Think big."

The tycoon had put his words into practise just hours earlier when he bought the Doonbeg Golf Club in Co Clare, complete with an 18-hole links course designed by Greg Norman, a five-star hotel and spa, 400 acres of land and almost 4km of coastline.

Trump got the lot for a reported €15m – a drop in the proverbial ocean for a man reputed to be worth $3.5bn. He refused to confirm the amount paid for the resort that opened at the height of the boom in 2002, but quipped "in some of our places in Manhattan, it wouldn't get you an apartment".

It will be his 16th golf venture globally and was announced on the day that he lost a court case in Scotland in which he tried to stop government-approved wind farms being erected in the sea close to a luxurious resort he was planning to build there.

"We will appeal this decision," Trump said in a statement, "and in the meantime we will be focusing all of our investment and energy towards our new acquisition on the Atlantic Ocean in Ireland."

The Scotsman's headline pointedly noted that "Defeated Donald Trump turns his back on Scotland" while many reader comments below the article expressed glee that the billionaire's plans for Aberdeenshire had been dealt a crippling blow.

There was little sign of such animosity in Clare when it emerged that the Trump Organisation had got its hands on Doonbeg. "We're absolutely delighted with the news," said Willie Hanrahan, the chairman of local body Doonbeg Community Development, "as it secures the 200 jobs at the golf course."

Like many high-profile golf clubs in Ireland, Doonbeg had suffered a significant decline in fortunes since the recession hit in 2008 and was placed into receivership last month.

And it has suffered significant damage in the storms that have pounded the west coast since the beginning of the year. According to a Clare County Council report, almost €1m will have to be spent on repairing the links course. It will be the first tranche of a multi-million splurge that "The Donald" has promised to spend on Doonbeg, which will be renamed Trump International Golf Links, Ireland.

Donald John Trump was born into fabulous wealth in Queens, New York in 1946. His father, Fred, was one of the city's most celebrated entrepreneurs thanks to a zeal for real estate.

Trump Jr's desire to be seen as the John D Rockefeller of his generation was writ large during the 1970s and although he experienced some spectacular failures, his brash can-do attitude transformed the NYC skyline.

The 58-storey Trump Tower, next to the landmark Tiffany's building on Fifth Avenue, was completed in 1983 amid much controversy. The top three floors remain home to Trump and his family.

This glass fronted skyscraper would be dwarfed by several of his eye-catching ventures, including the 72-floor Trump World Tower near the UN Building in New York, and the four-year-old 98-storey Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.

His interest in the casino business brought him close to bankruptcy in the 1980s and early 1990s, with the $1bn Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City coming perilously close to toppling the Trump Organisation. And yet, as he had demonstrated in previous financial crises, Trump somehow survived – and his ambitions were not dampened one bit.

Trump is no stranger to controversy. He walked out of an interview with BBC's Panorama programme last July when he was asked about his alleged business links to the convicted mafia boss Felix Sater and he has spent several years questioning the veracity of Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Already one of America's best-known businessmen, Trump became a household name in 2004 when he signed on as host of the US version of The Apprentice.

His personal life has long been the subject of much discussion, and he would prove to be a tabloid fixture from 1977 when he married the Czech model Ivana Zelnickova. The pair's lavish lifestyle became the stuff of legend in the 1980s – a decade immortalised in the "Greed is Good" mantra of Gordon Gecko, the anti-hero of Wall Street.

The couple had three children – Donald Jr (who was instrumental in selecting the Doonbeg resort after a "whirlwind" tour of Ireland), Ivanka and Eric – but the marriage came to an end in 1992 shortly after Ivana discovered that her husband had been unfaithful. It was reported that she had confronted Donald's lover Marla Maples on the ski slopes at Aspen.

Trump would go on to marry Maples in 1993 and they had a daughter Tiffany. The marriage came to an end in 1999 and a tell-all book on life with the mogul, was abandoned after Trump threatened libel action.

He is currently married to the Slovenian model Melanija Knavs, who is 24 years his junior and they have a son, Barron, who was born in 2006.

Now 67, Trump appears to have little interest in taking a back seat. In fact, he is rumoured to be keen to run for the Republicans in the 2016 presidential election and is said to have spent more than $1m researching his popularity, or lack of, with the American populace.


The wisdom of 'The Donald'

* "When somebody challenges you, fight back. Be brutal, be tough. Just go get them."

* "Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game."

* "Show me someone without an ego, and I'll show you a loser."

* "If you're interested in 'balancing' work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable."

* "Anyone who thinks my story is anywhere near over is sadly mistaken."

* "Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make."

* "All of the women on 'The Apprentice' flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That's to be expected."

* "Everything in life is luck."

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