POLITICS

‘Apprentice’ Windfall Helped Trump Prop Up Floundering Empire, NY Times Finds

The president made more than $427 million from his role on “The Apprentice," which helped him rebrand as a business mogul despite years of financial failures.

President Donald Trump made more than $427 million from his role on “The Apprentice” and licensing deals to monetize that reality show fame, a staggering figure that helped him offset years of reported tax losses and let him rebrand himself as a savvy business mogul, according to the latest report on Trump’s tax history by The New York Times.

The newspaper, which obtained more than two decades of Trump’s tax records, said it was able to quantify the massive payday linked to his stint as the host of the reality TV juggernaut. Aside from $197 million in direct payments from the show, Trump made more than $230 million from a bevy of licensing deals, hawking everything from Double Stuf Oreos, laundry detergent and Serta mattresses to multilevel marketing schemes involving vitamins and seminars on how to get rich.

Trump’s windfall came after years of financial failures and the bankruptcy of his Atlantic City casinos, which were cataloged on tax returns that allowed Trump to lower his tax bill in future years by declaring more than $350 million in losses.

His “Apprentice” payouts, however, largely helped Trump rebrand himself as the nation’s most famous businessman and go on a buying spree to plaster his name on properties around the globe. The Times noted that, beginning in 2006, Trump bought more 11 golf courses that would also turn out to be money pits. Starting in 2014, Trump spent more than $144 million on his Turnberry golf course in Scotland and $213 million on his Doral golf resort in Florida, even though both properties had posted losses annually.

The Times published the first details from its series on Trump’s taxes on Sunday, which revealed that the president paid just $750 in personal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017 and nothing in 10 of the 15 previous years.

The payouts from his TV stint were so great that Trump paid $70.1 million in taxes to the IRS over a three-year period, although he later used an accounting maneuver linked to his real estate holdings to get that figure refunded with interest.

Trump has blasted the New York Times reports as “totally fake news,” and a lawyer for the Trump Organization told the Times “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate.”

In recent years, Trump’s earnings from “The Apprentice,” which he stopped hosting in 2015, have fallen dramatically, from a high in 2011 of $51 million to less than $3 million in 2018. The president has also leveraged many of his assets to borrow more money, including $100 million in equity against Trump Tower in Manhattan and nearly $200 million from shares in real estate and stocks and bonds.

But those sources of funding are running dry, the Times found (the newspaper did not obtain tax documents for 2018 or 2019).

Details from the documents published Sunday revealed that Trump personally holds $421 million in debt and loans that are largely coming due in the next four years. In terms of that audit, he could face a penalty from the IRS of about $100 million if an investigation into his tax strategies to minimize or zero-out his tax debt does not end in his favor.

Trump’s taxes have long been a political white elephant after the president bucked 40 years of tradition and refused to release them, offering vague — and false — excuses that he couldn’t do so because he was being audited by the IRS.