Donald Trump: 6 Things You Need to Know About His Career

Donald Trump speaking to supporters

Donald Trump | Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Before Donald Trump was the most exciting (or feared) presidential candidate of the modern era, he was known for his wild success in business. Though other candidates and politicians have built their names and reputations in the private sector and business world, Trump is, and has been, on another plane entirely. His name is displayed prominently on skyscrapers in many cities, and his books can be found in just about any book store. He was even all over your TV, with his hit show The Apprentice.

Above all, these things drove one point home in all of our brains: Trump is a winner. He’s rich, successful, famous, and everything you want to be.

But his claim of being a winner and unbridled success have come under increased scrutiny as the campaign has dragged on. Trump has become a target of both major political parties, pundits, media members, and even late night comedians – as we saw when John Oliver dedicated a full 22 minutes of his HBO show to taking Trump down. And yet, even with all of the resistance, Trump is still gaining steam, and it seems all but inevitable that he will become the Republican nominee for president.

Though many others have delved into his background, what are the basic facts surrounding Trump’s business career? In order to make it easy to understand for voters, we’ve compiled a short list of the most often asked questions about Trump’s business success. Read on to find out more about the man – myth, or legend?

1. How he made his fortune

Most of Trump’s money was made through real estate dealings, investing, and a number of other means. He’s had a myriad of business ventures, all adding to his total net worth. You have to remember that he’s also a successful author and TV personality – both things that also come with big paydays.

You could say he became “wealthy” when he inherited a big chunk of money, initially. But he turned that money into gobs more, mostly through real estate and selling “Trump” as a brand.

2. His net worth is … debatable

It’s hard to peg Trump’s actual net worth. While he claims one number, fact-checkers come up with another. Forbes puts him at number 324 on the list of the world’s richest people, with a net worth of $4.5 billion. But Donald himself responded to that figure, saying that he was actually worth more. His campaign has said he’s worth more than $10 billion – so, clearly there’s a big discrepancy.

When asked how he himself determines his net worth during a deposition, he famously stated “I would say it’s my general attitude at the time that the question may be asked. And as I say, it varies.” So, we don’t really know his net worth. We’ll just say he’s very rich.

3. How he got his start

The Trump family was wealthy, and Donald benefited from that. He received a large inheritance from his father of $40 million in 1974, after graduating from college. He was then given the opportunity to join his family’s real estate business, and capitalize on those existing connections. Armed with a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, millions of dollars, and a clear path to gainful employment, Trump was off to the races while most people his age were still trying to find their footing.

4. How many companies he’s responsible for

The short and simple answer is this: quite a lot. Trump and his family control The Trump Organization, a conglomerate that operates out of Manhattan in New York City. And as you’re well aware, Trump’s hands are in different types of businesses and industries all over the world – from his infamous Trump Steaks, to Trump Wine, and everything in between.

The Trump brand is mostly known for hospitality, though. Trump Hotels, Trump Golf, resorts – all operate under the Trump name, and bring in millions of dollars annually. But again, there’s so much more that operates, or is operated, under the Trump badge.

5. About those bankruptcies …

You’ve probably heard about Trump’s bankruptcies, which his opponents have thrown at him in an attempt to tarnish his record. But it’s not quite that simple – Trump didn’t personally go bankrupt. He used bankruptcy to restructure and reorganize four businesses. It’s a tactic that’s not uncommon in the business world, and he just used bankruptcy rules to keep things afloat while they were sorted out.

So, while there are bankruptcies in his past, it’s not quite what most of us think, when put into context.

6. Most of his success has come from …

“Success” is a term with a lot of variability, but there’s no denying that Donald Trump has been successful. He’s made tons of money, he’s recognizable worldwide, and he clearly has a lot of fans. There are an awful lot of people who despise him as well, but by all traditional measures, Trump has led a successful life and career, even if he had a big head start.

If you were to point to one specific avenue through which most of his fame and fortune have been earned, it’s probably by creating and promoting the “Trump” brand. He’s made money through investments and real estate, but “Trump” is a worldwide name brand, and one that we associate with success, luxury, and wealth. That’s his true victory.

Of course, if he does win the presidency, then that will become his biggest accomplishment.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @SliceOfGinger

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: