How much is Trump’s property empire worth and what could Letitia James seize if he doesn’t pay fraud bond?

Republican presidential candidate threatened with repossession of luxury New York real estate assets after being found guilty of inflating their value to ensure favourable terms from banks and lenders

Joe Sommerlad
Monday 25 March 2024 17:04 GMT
Trump’s ex-press secretary Stephanie Grisham reveals the properties the former president fears losing most

Donald Trump has been granted a lifeline after an appeals court slashed his fraud trial bond and granted him a 10-day reprieve mere hours before his deadline expired.

Judge Arthur Engoron ruled last month that Mr Trump must pay $354m in fines and a further $110m plus interest ($464m, all in) after being found liable by a jury of inflating the value of Trump Organization assets between 2011 and 2021 in order to obtain favourable loans from banks and insurers.

With interest ticking ever-upwards at 9 per cent or $120,000 a day, the exact total he owed as of Monday 25 March was closer to $468.1m, with his lawyers arguing that finding a bond company to support such a huge amount has proven a “practical impossibility” after approaching more than 30 surety firms through four separate brokers.

Despite that appeal from his attorneys as they sought the delay, Mr Trump had insisted in a social media post on Friday that he has $500m on hand in ready cash but wants to use it on his presidential campaign instead.

If he still does not place the bond in accordance with the new terms, the candidate leaves himself open to having his bank accounts frozen and prized luxury real estate assets repossessed by New York attorney general Letitia James, who has freely admitted she is relishing that prospect.

“If he does not have funds to pay off the judgement, then we will seek judgment enforcement mechanisms in court and we will ask the judge to seize his assets,” she told ABC News recently.

“We are prepared to make sure that the judgment is paid to New Yorkers, and yes, I look at 40 Wall Street each and every day.”

Although he has long presented himself as a billionaire businessman, notably on the reality TV show The Apprentice, the precise extent of Mr Trump’s personal wealth remains clouded in mystery.

When he was running for president in 2016 and throughout his single term in the White House between 2017 and 2021, he repeatedly refused to open his books for public scrutiny, falsely claiming he could not do so because he was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

Even if that was true, there was nothing to stop him from making the same commitment to transparency as his predecessors in the Oval Office, although that did not stop Mr Trump from insisting otherwise.

However, according to an investigation by Forbes, his net worth stood at around $2.6bn as of September 2023.

That is certainly a considerable amount and some advance on the $41.4m he is said to have inherited from his late father Fred Trump – which The New York Times alleged in 2018 was actually closer to $413m, a fact concealed behind dubious tax evasion strategies, it claimed, and which Mr Trump denied – but also some way short of the same outlet’s $3.2bn estimation of his worth in 2021 or the $4.5bn he was worth in 2015, the year before he won the presidency.

In arriving at that total, the financial magazine valued Mr Trump’s portfolio accordingly: golf clubs and resorts ($870m), New York City real estate ($690m), cash and personal assets ($640m), non-NYC real estate ($190m) and social media and brand businesses ($160m).

A banner bearing Donald Trump’s notorious mugshot is flown outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City
A banner bearing Donald Trump’s notorious mugshot is flown outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City (Reuters)

Of that $2.6bn total, Forbes calculated at the time that Mr Trump had only $426m in cash and liquid assets with which he would be able to pay off his legal obligations, which were revealed to be burning up at a rate of $230,000 per day by February’s filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The Republican’s options looking foward include filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, although that step would not rid him of debts accrued through fraud and would undermine his claims to be a billionaire businessman and therefore, potentially, his electoral appeal.

A number of Mr Trump’s companies have been forced into administration in the past and he is said to have been scarred by an experience that proved so wounding to his ego, suggesting such a step could be unlikely.

Media commentators have meanwhile speculated that he would prefer the media circus of Ms James sending in bailiffs to repossess his properties, as such an event would bring important publicity to his cause and provide him more fresh material for his fundraising emails in which he routinely and spuriously casts himself as a victim of Democrat-led “persecution”.

Mr Trump has previously insisted that he would not consider engaging in a fire sale of his beloved properties to pay off the judgement against him, repeatedly insisting the entire affair is a witch hunt intended to damage his presidential campaign and that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

However, in a Truth Social post on the morning the bond was originally due, he did appear to entertain the possibility more seriously when he wrote: “Why should I be forced to sell my ‘babies’ because a CORRUPT NEW YORK JUDGE & A.G. SET A FAKE AND RIDICULOUS NUMBER.”

For Ms James’s part, it emerged last week that her office has already started taking steps toward recovering some of the former president’s assets in her state – but not in Manhattan.

Filings dated 7 March and revealed on Thursday show that state attorneys have entered the judgment from the Manhattan civil fraud trial with the county clerk’s office in New York’s Westchester County – home to Mr Trump’s Seven Springs estate and his Trump National Golf Club Westchester.

That suggests her office is beginning the process of taking possession of Mr Trump’s properties and that those are likely to be her first targets.

Since the civil fraud trial itself took place in Manhattan, where Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street are located, a judgment there has also been entered, but massive outstanding loans on those properties mean they are unlikely to be among the most at risk of being seized.

Over the course of the 11-week trial that decided Mr Trump’s fate last autumn, the Big Apple property that most interested state prosecutors arguing the fraud case against him, other than Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street, was Trump Park Avenue, suggesting that too could come into play further down the line.

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