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Inside the Bailout That Saved a Debt-Ridden Trump Organization (Video / Transcript)
FRONTLINE NARRATOR: Burdened by debt, the Taj would not turn a profit. By that winter, as Roffman predicted, the casino was in serious trouble.
His business condition was terrible, worse than terrible. We were in a deep recession and people weren't going to Atlantic City, so the revenue stream from Atlantic City, the Taj Mahal, and the other casinos was poor.
NARRATOR: Trump's other investments had not fared much better. The Plaza Hotel -- a financial disaster. The airline Trump Shuttle was bleeding money.
He sort of blamed the people around him for what went wrong instead of himself.
He started blaming people, he started firing people, he started yelling at people. He said, "I can be a screamer," and he certainly was, according to various accounts.
NARRATOR: Trump had long cast himself as a winner. Now he was looking like a loser.
I think that the downtime for him was really a shock, and he was not prepared for it. It caught him totally off guard. It was probably the biggest challenge of his life.
The Donald is facing an incredible cash crisis.
Big troubles for Donald Trump.
NARRATOR: Trump and his companies owed more than three billion dollars, much of it to the banks that had fueled his spending spree.
As quickly as the banks loved him, that's as quick as they saw him as a pariah. He was like, "Ew, it's Donald Trump." They didn't want to have anything to do with him. They wanted their money and they wanted to be rid of Donald Trump.
NARRATOR: The bankers descended on Trump Tower.
Bankers held gigantic meetings at Trump Tower with, like, 40 banks all sitting around in a room, Donald very sober-looking, not quite penitent, perhaps, but serious.
When you were talking to him in these meetings, he just didn't seem that he had any idea how big the problem was or how it would be resolved. But he, as far as being a CEO and understanding numbers and understanding the ramifications, doesn't seem like he took economics or accounting in college.
Donald Trump's assets are on the line. Citibank and Trump's other lenders are working on a bailout plan...
NARRATOR: The bankers faced a fundamental decision.
The Trump Organization confirmed today...
It was at a time when we were all trying to figure out, is it better off this guy being alive financially, or is it better off having him dead financially?
NARRATOR: As they stared into the Trump Organization's abyss, the banks came to believe that Trump's assets-- the buildings, the casinos-- were worth more with his name on them than in foreclosure.
If they were to take Trump out of it, they would no longer have the name for the casinos, which was a tremendous part of their allure. Otherwise, basically what could they do? Liquidate and take a tremendous hit?
The brand was worth now so much that bankers were willing to take a haircut in order to hang onto the name.
The Trump Princess is said to have a price tag...
NARRATOR: They sold the yacht and the airline.
Trump may have to unload the Trump Shuttle, worth about $220 million.
NARRATOR: And they put Trump on a $450,000 a month allowance.
By next summer, he could become Atlantic City's biggest loser ever.
NARRATOR: In exchange, he would continue to promote the business.
I think bankers look at Trump as a promoter,not as a CEO. At least that's the way I looked at him, and if you talked to other bankers, I think hey share that opinion. He's a wonderful promoter.
You know, he's the P.T. Barnum of the 21st century.
Donald Trump may have pulled off his biggest deal to date.
NARRATOR: Donald Trump had survived.
Working on a bailout plan...
NARRATOR: He was too big to fail.
The bankers do not want Trump to file for bankruptcy.