While other heirs and heiresses are jet-setting around the world, making the rounds on the party circuit, Trump Sr.’s two eldest are happily plugging away in the family business.
By Lauren Price
Given Donald Trump’s propensity for the biggest, the best and the showiest luxury towers, is it really so surprising that the Trump Organization jumped on the Dubai-boom bandwagon somewhat early in the game?
“When I look at potential sites for real estate investment, I concentrate on ‘location, location, location’-and this is not only the best location in Dubai, but the whole of the Middle East,” says Trump Sr.
The bold, ground-up undertaking will be headed up by 28-year old Donald Trump Jr., who is the firm’s Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisition, along with his 24-year-old sister, Ivanka, Vice President of Marketing. Both are graduates of the Wharton School of Business (Donald Jr. graduated with a double major in finance and marketing; Ivanka earned her degree in economics.)
We sat down with Donald Jr. last month to get the latest news on the Trump Hotel & Tower International Palm Jumeirah, as well as the Trump Organization’s other projects in the Middle East. “I would say we decided to develop in Dubai maybe not quite two years ago,” notes Donald Jr. “Actually, I’m really very good friends with Andrew Farkas [Island Global Yachting, who's building marinas galore in Dubai], who was already working with Nakheel; it was Andrew who brought everyone to the table. Before that, the Trump Organization was certainly looking at developing there, but not in any serious or formal way.”
Asked if there were any hesitations or concerns, or if the company had spoken to other Dubai developers, such as Emaar, before signing on the dotted line with Nakheel, Donald Jr. told us it was, quite frankly, a slam dunk from the start. “To be the flagship of Palm Jumeirah, to be the one development that truly anchors the eastern and western sides of the palm tree’s trunk, is so amazing. There are all these hotels on one side, and some 20 feet across the canal, there’s the Golden Mile, which is basically a Rodeo Drive outpost. What makes us stand out is that Trump International Hotel & Tower will have the canal running under and through it. Like Venice. Picture yourself sailing under the Rialto Bridge’s arch, except that it’s not a bridge, but a 48-story – and possibly 50-story – building. It’s really something to see.”
For just about any other American developer, a project of this magnitude would probably be enough to have on their plate at one time, but for the Trump Organization, it’s just the beginning. The hotel/condominium is just the first of quite a number of developments derived from the exclusive Nakheel and Trump joint venture, which includes exclusive rights for 19 countries in the Middle East and 17 major brands and will have sales, marketing and management responsibility for each real estate development. “Nakheel has been a great partner for us, really wonderful,” Donald Jr. notes, “and we’re thrilled that we can work together on other things. You did know we’re also developing about 100 marina villas on Palm Jumeirah?”
The Trump Marina will also feature 450 berths, plus a private yacht club and beach. “We’re also developing 50 to 100 luxury estates on some of the smaller fronds,” he adds. “We won’t know the actual number of estates until we finalize design plans and find out the amount of land we’ll have to work with.”
Both sister and brother had several Trump developments under their belt when they took on Dubai. Between the two of them, they led the charge for a number of high-profile projects such as Trump International Hotel Tower Chicago, which is where Bill Rancic, the winner on the very first season on The Apprentice, oversees sales, Trump Park Avenue, a stunning conversion from what was the Delmonico Hotel, and Trump Place on the far Upper West Side in Manhattan.
Naturally, both Donald Jr. and Ivanka are positioning themselves to run the entire company one day and, as one would surmise, they intend to continue to share the responsibility 50-50. Which poses the inevitable question: How’s that working out so far? “Believe it or not, we are of the same mind 99 percent of the time, says Donald Jr. “Obviously, we have disagreements like any siblings do, but at the end of the day, we really see things the same way-and I find that pretty refreshing.”
And what about Dad? Is he very involved in the day-to day? “My dad knows everything. He knows exactly what’s going on,” Trump Sr.’s eldest reports. “But he’s in Los Angeles now, because next season’s The Apprentice will be filmed out there. Still and all, my dad is absolutely involved in the esthetics of this project, and he will absolutely get more involved as construction moves along. You have to remember, he is first a builder and second, a great marketer. But here’s the thing: either one of us can bring him a huge stack of documents and ask him what he thinks, and it doesn’t take long for him to hone in on what’s really important for a deal to work. He’s so amazing that way.”
Spread out over more than three square miles, the Trump hotel/condominium is a $600 million deal. Even better, there’s no opportunity for another luxury resort-developer to come along and build something bigger, taller or more fabulous on Palm Jumeirah because there is no more room to build it, so the property will indeed be the only game in town, and it will also have the distinction of being the first Dubai development with gorgeous sea views of the Gulf from every single room.
The gleaming, gold-colored, tulip-shaped tower will feature an excellent selection of 760 hotel and freehold residences. From one- to three-bedrooms, the mix will include about 18 loft-style duplex penthouses ranging in size from 4,000 square feet to 8,000 square feet. And because ownership has its privileges, buyers can enjoy all the services and amenities that are normally part and parcel of a five-star property such as this, particularly when it comes to concierge services which, by the way, are a step above here. That’s because of the company’s newly developed Trump Touch concierge program.
“Look, every time I’m in Dubai, I stay at the Burj al Arab hotel. It’s certainly lavish, and as everyone here likes to brag, it’s hailed as a seven-star hotel-which is silly, since no hotel can officially be awarded more than five stars by any of the recognized travel guides,” Donald Jr. points out. (New York’s Trump International Hotel & Tower has the distinction of being one of only three U.S. hotels that have received double Mobil Five-Star Award ratings-one for the hotel itself and one for its restaurant, Jean-Georges). “I guess they do that because they consider it a smart marketing strategy,” he continues. “Anyway, you pay thousands of dollars a night to stay there, and there are maybe 20 servants around you all the time, ready to wait on you hand and foot. But the truth is, they are not formally trained like, say, an English butler. They are lovely, but with a work force made up of local and imported workers, it’s very difficult to really match the standards of most of the luxury hotels in the U.S. or say, Britain. Moreover, I actually find myself somewhat embarrassed by all the attention, and it’s a bit intrusive. We’ll be different. Our butlers will be very unobtrusive and naturally, very highly trained-and nothing will be overlooked. That’s the difference.”
According to Donald Jr., the blue-green glass, stainless steel and stone tower’s interior design will be quite contemporary and all the finishes, furnishings and such are being worked on now-but as we’ve come to expect from any Trump endeavor, it will all be top-drawer, the best of the best, and most definitely fit for royalty.
“Another advantage is that when an owner isn’t occupying their unit, they can have the option of making it available as part of the hotel’s general inventory, which provides that owner with a good cash flow,” he adds. “It’s pretty flexible in that there are no minimum or maximum requirements. But whether an owner occupies the unit or places it for rent, the hotel’s management staff will maintain and service each home.
“I think everyone will be a bit surprised at how contemporary the design may be,” he says. “Actually it’s rather similar to what we’re doing in Chicago right now, or the new Trump SoHo on Spring Street. In fact, that one is being designed by David Rockwell. I’m not saying that there won’t be a lot of gold touches, because if there’s any place on earth that finds a generous use of gold it’s Dubai.” For the record, the architect for the Trump project in Dubai is London-based WS Atkins, the same company used for the Burj al Arab hotel; Trump Chicago’s design comes courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
A rooftop restaurant (oh, the views!) is planned-but what and with whom has not yet been determined. “Nothing has been formalized, but obviously, it will be run by a world-class chef. Clearly, there is tremendous strength in the Trump brand, so these top restaurateurs, more often than not, are coming to us,” Donald Jr. reports. “And though we would certainly work with a broker who could bring us something we couldn’t get otherwise, we’d use them. But truth is, I know many of these chefs personally and can put the deal together myself.”
Is there at least a short list? “Of course I’ve got three, maybe four, names in my head. I’m not just ready to talk about all that yet. We do want the restaurant to provide guests with all their dining needs, be it room service, en-suite catering and so forth. And it goes without saying that the restaurant’s kitchen will not be built out beforehand. We want build it according to the chef’s specifications.” Are any of them of the French persuasion, I ask, gently trying to figure out whom he might be considering? “Well, maybe,” he replies, laughingly.
When we asked if anyone had been signed on as General Manager of the stunning hotel, Trump Jr. shares about as much information as he does about the chefs. “I certainly know in my head who I would love to see as the General Manager. Actually, there are two names on my wish list, but it’s just too soon to talk about it. Generally, we would be looking to hire for that position approximately 18 months out, so we’ve got a little more ways to go.”
The hotel/condominium will also feature a number of retail establishments. “Retail will be a large component of what we have planned for the project, and it is possible that there would be a food component to it, but nothing will be announced for at least another year,” he says. The Trump International Hotel & Tower is expected to open in late 2008.