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The Trump Card, The National Law Journal May 16, 1988

 

Nearly thirty years ago in my early days as a reporter, I did a long story for the National Law Journal on Donald Trump’s aggressive use of litigation. Among other things, it shows his well-developed habit of stiffing contractors who work for him, recently re-reported in a fine story by USA today http://usat.ly/1TY1QLb. Re-reading this piece it is remarkable how consistent Trump has been over the years. As Trump told me then when I interviewed him: “I believe in retribution,” says Mr. Trump in an interview. “If someone bombs me, I’ll bomb them back in spades.”

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Billionaire Donald J. Trump has expressed disdain for lawyers and the legal process. But he’s used them well in building his empire.

By Alexander Stille
The National Law Journal
May 16, 1988

“When your name is Donald Trump a lot of people sue you,” wårites best-selling author Donald J. Trump. It works the other way, too: When your name is Donald Trump, you sue a lot of people.

In his book, “The Art of the Deal,” Mr. Trump professes an entrepreneur’s dislike for lawyers and for the cumbersome legal process. But, in fact, lawyers, lawsuits, depositions and court testimony have played an important part in Mr. Trump’s growing empire of New York real estate and Atlantic City., N.J., casinos.

“What makes Donald different from other businessmen is that he’s not afraid of litigation,” says Gerald N. Schrager, Mr. Trump’s main real estate lawyer and a partner at new York’s Dreyer and Traub.

Mr. Trump has sued architects, contractors, tenants, business partners, journalists, state and city governments—and even another developer whose name also happens to be Trump.

“I believe in retribution,” says Mr. Trump in an interview. “If someone bombs me, I’ll bomb them back in spades.”

Although Mr. Trump is not a lawyer, he is for all intents and purposed the managing partner of his own private law firm, which consists of scores of attorneys scattered among a dozen or more firms. He acts as hiring (and firing) partneras well as chairman of the compensation committee, examining each bill with great attention.

“He will read every court opinion, every legal memorandum, discuss witness selection, tactics,” says litigator John J. Barry, a partner in Newark, N.J.’s Clapp & Eisenberg P.C. and Mr. Trump’s brother-in-law. (Mr. Barry’s wife, Maryanne Trump Barry, is a federal district court judge in Newark.)

If Mr. Trump’s business career has made him a symbol of the 1980s entrepreneur, his frequent recourse to the legal system is equally emblematic of these litigious times.

Just as his book, “The Art of the Deal,” has served as a manual for the would-be deal maker, he might have included a chapter called “The Art of Litigation.” An examination of Mr. Trump’s career and conversations makes it possible to reconstruct some of the cardinal points of legal warfare, Trump-style.

CHAPTER ONE: How to Choose a Lawyer

“I never go to a firm, I go to an individual lawyer,” says Mr. Trump. Always avoiding a binding relationship with one or two large, full-service law firms, he instead employs 20 or 30 lawyers from a dozen small and medium-sized firms at any given time.

It is something of a joke in the Atlantic City area that every meeting with The Trump Organization is attended by Trump lawyers from five or six different firms.

“Trump wants to make sure the job gets done and he doesn’t care if some people get their toes stepped on or their egos bruised along the way,” says Tony Schwartz, the co-author of “The Art of the Deal.”

On the contrary, Mr. Trump regards a little ego-bruising smong his many lawyers as healthy. “Donald believes in competition in every category, including his lawyers,” says one of his chief attorneys.

And just as Mr. Trump’s Atlantic City casinos compete, rather than cooperate with one another, apparently so do his lawyers.

For example, when he began investing in Atlantic City, Mr. Trump hired two powerful local attorneys whose intense personal dislike for each other is legendary.

The move made waves in the city because the idea of putting Patrick “Piano Wire” McGahn of McGahn, Friss & Miller, and Howard A. Goldberg of Horn, Kaplan, Goldberg, Goray & Daniela P.C. on the same legal team was likely to be as congenial as a cockfight.

But Mr. Trump’s strategy had its logic.

Had Mr. Trump hired one and not the other, he might have made a powerful new enemy. Instead, he had two old rivals—considered the most politically connected lawyers in the city—working hard to win the big new client from the other.

“It’s not a great way of developing harmony, but it’s pretty darn effective,” says one attorney there.

Eventually, he settled on Mr. McGahn as his main Atlantic City zoning lawyers, but his relations with Mr. Goldberg remain cordial.

“When Donald wants to tweak McGahn, he’ll call Goldberg, knowing it will get back to McGahn,” says one Trump attorney.

It is hard to know what effect his strategy has had, but lawyers in Atlantic City point out Mr. Trump has been extremely successful in getting various local and state permits and variances.

Many, for example, are still shaking their heads, wondering how Mr. Trump obtained a variance to build a 30-foot sign atop the Trump Plaza garage that dominates the skyline and is nearly twice the size of any other in town.

In the eight years Mr. Trump has been investing in Atlantic City, he has continued to expand the number of firms he uses.

Some cynics suggest that Mr. Trump, along with buying himself much good will in the local legal community, has in the process acquired a kind of litigation insurance. Because most of the top lawyers in town have represented him, they might be disqualified because of conflict of interest from ever suing Mr. Trump.

CHAPTER TWO: Fight, Don’t Fold

Like dogs and their owners, clients and their lawyers sometimes tend to resemble one another. As a maverick and outsider to the traditional corporate world, Mr. Trump—son of a Queens, N.Y., developer of low- and middle-income housing—has tended to hire litigators who share his personality: They must be tough, flamboyant individualists prepared to buck the system.

Mr. Trump got his first lessons in litigation in the early 1970s at the hands of the notorious Roy M. Cohn, former chief counsel to U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist investigation committee.

At the time, the government had charged Mr. Trump’s father’s company with discrimination because of its refusal to rent apartments to people on welfare. Mr. Trump and his father had gone that morning to lawyer at prestigious Wall Street law firm, who told them to settle to save money and spare them bad publicity.

“The idea of settling drove me crazy,” Mr. Trump recounts in his book. “The fact was that we did rent to blacks in our buildings. What we didn’t do was rent to welfare cases, white or black.”

That evening Mr. Trump, by chance, met Mr. Cohn at the exclusive Stork Club, which Mr. Trump says he joined to make connections. “I don’t like lawyers,” said Mr. Trump, challenging Mr. Cohn. When the lawyer concurred and recommended that Mr. Trmp fight the discrimination suit, Mr. Trump knew he had found his lawyer. They eventually won the case.

From that time on, Mr. Cohn became something of Mr. Trump’s legal alter ego—the lawyer he went to for tough, long-odds litigation from which other lawyers might have shied away.

Mr. Trump also occasionally occasionally used Mr. Cohn as a bogyman. Laurence B. Orloff of Orloff, Lowenbach, Stifelman & Siegel, P.C. in Roseland, N.J., recalls receiving a letter signed by Mr. Cohn threatening a lawsuit on Mr. Trump’s behalf against Mr. Orloff’s client, Holiday Inns Inc. “When I telephoned Cohn he didn’t seem to know anything about the case,” he says. “I think Trump was using Cohn…to try to intimidate us.”

CHAPTER THREE: Bad Publicity Can Be Good Publicity

When Mr. Trump built Trump Tower, a 68-story luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohn fought in three different courts to win a $120 million tax exemption.

The tax exemption litigation gave Mr. Trump some negative publicity. But rather than hurt the sales of his multimillion-dollar condominiums, the fuss surrounding the building seemed only to quicken apartment sales. “Controversy, in short, sells,” Mr. Trump writes.

In some instances, publicity appeared to be one of the principal aims of litigation. In 1984 Mr. Trump sued the architectural critic of the Chicago Tribune after the writer ridiculed Mr. Trump’s proposal for a 150-story skyscraper he hopes will become the world’s largest building. The suit was quickly dismissed, but drew public attention to a proposal that was having trouble getting off the ground (the building’s future is still uncertain). And by suing a newspaper in Chicago—which currently has the world’s tallest building—Mr. Trump may have hoped to rally flagging support for hs New York project by stoking an old New York-Chicago rivalry over skyscraper primacy.

Mr. Trump surprised many when he institutied a plagiarism suit against architect Philip Birnbaum, accusing him of copying the design of Trump Plaza—a luxury apartment condominium—for a building across the street. What made the suit particularly intriguing is that Mr. Birnbaum not only was the arthitect for both buildings but is know for the repetitiveness of his style. Mr. Trump prevailed, in part, because of an unusual clause the architect had been forced to sign agreeing not to reuse the Trump Plaza plans.

The developer “had to do a totally different building,” Mr. Trump says. “It cost him plenty of money.”

CHAPTER FOUR: Bills: Pay in Full Only if Fully Satisfied

The suit and other disputes with architects and contractors have sent out a clear message in the real estate business that Mr. Trump is not someone to tangle with. “He is one of the most litigious minds alives,” says Der Scutt, who is proud of being one of the few architects whom Mr. Trump has not sued. “I’ve found him to be absolutely fair but very tough. If you mess up, you don’t get a second chance.”

Architect Richard Hayden is still trying to get Mr. Trump to pay $1 million in architectural fees for his work on the Trump Tower. The case has been in arbitration for three years.

Contractor Eric Silverstein, who worked on the Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City, was told he would received only half of the $800,000 promised for the job.

“It’s always the same story,” says Theodore L. Abeles of Roseland’s Lum, Hoens, Abeles, Conant & Danzis, who has filed a racketeering suit charging that Mr. Trump has engaged in a pattern of underpaying and intimidating his contractors. “At the end of the job, they’ll deliver an ultimatum. Either: ‘We’re not paying the rest,’ or, ‘We’ll pay you half and if you don’t like it, you can sue.’ It saves a lot of money.”

“Most contractors can’t afford to take him on,” Mr. Abeles adds. “They have cash-flow problems and payrolls to meet. They may have to spend more to win than they can hope to get.”

Mr. Barry dismisses the racketeering claim as absurd, and notes that the court has thrown out the charge. “Donald doesn’t use his lawyers to beat people down when he knows he’s wrong,” says Mr. Barry. “If he thinks someone is entitled, he’ll pay in full…But if he thinks he’s being overcharged, Trump is not the sort of guy who is going to sit back and get ripped off.”

Mr. Abeles is representing the Gannett Outdoor Co. of New Jersey, which built the sign on the roof of the Trump Plaza casino0hotel. When the job was done, the Trump Organization told the contractor it was unhappy with the sign’s highly visible steel supports and would not be paying the final $80.000 of a $400,000 contract.

Mr. Abeles insists the company had Mr. Trump’s personal approval for the construction technique.

 

The Trump Organization eventually tore down Gannett’s sign and created the second, much bigger, one that now stands atop the newly built garage.

 

“When I drove into Atlantic City and saw that sign, I suddenly knew why they didn’t want our sign anymore,” says Mr. Abeles.

CHAPTER FIVE: Sue Them Before They Sue You

In the course of the dispute, Mr. Abeles has gotten a lesson in litigation Trump-style. After sending a letter demanding payment and threatening suit, Mr. Abeles recalls, he got a call from a lawyer at the Trump Organization saying: “Don’t bring suit. We’ll review the case and try to settle it.”

“That seemed like a reasonable, businesslike approach,” says Mr. Abeles, who decided to go along. Two days later, he says, he was served legal papers in which the Trump Organizaion “demanded all the money my client had been paid.”

“They pre-empted our suit by doing something I consider not very lawyer-like,” says Mr. Abeles. :They made themselves the plaintiffs, got to choose the venue—Atlantic City, where Trump is very powerful—and I got snookered for doing the right thing.”

Mr. Barry, who filed that lawsuit on Mr. Trump’s behalf, sees nothing wrong in the tactic. “We’re under no obligation because they called us first to wait around for them to sue. Who says we have to go by their rules or their timetables?”

Nevertheless, in his book Mr. Trump expresses moral outrage when Barron Hilton, the head of the Hilton Hotels Corp., used a similar tactic on him.

CHAPTER SIX: Do Unto Lawyers as You Do Unto Others

If Mr. Trump is a perfectionist with his contractors and architects, he is no less demanding of his lawyers.”

“You’ve got to really work to get it all straight in your head, because he knows the right questions to catch you out,” says Mr. Barry.

Unlike most corporate clients, Mr. Trump attends all important court dates, and even shows up for appeal arguments. “Hands-on would be an understatement, says Harvey D. Myerson

of New York’s Myerson & Kuhn, who has been one of Mr. Trump’s litigators.

“There’s part of Trump that fantasizes about being a trial lawyer,” says co-author Mr. Schwartz. “I think he thinks he would have been a very good one.”

Mr. Myerson agrees. “Donald once told me, ‘You’re the greatest trial lawyer I’ve ever seen.’ And I said: ‘That’s just because you’re not one.’” Mr. Trump did not disagree.

Mr. Trump’s intense involvement and identification with his lawyers can be an important plus.

“It’s a bit like trying a case before a judge who is a former prosecutor,” says Nicholas L. Ribis of Ribis, Graham, Verdon, & Curtin in Morristown, N.J., who represents the Trump casinos before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. “They’re the toughest. But clients who don’t get involved can be worse: They tell you to take care of it, and then when they’re unhappy with the result they say, ‘What the hell happened?’ Donald will know why it happened.”

But Mr. Trump’s lawyers don’t always appreciate his involvement.

“He’s always measuring his lawyers against what he imagines he would have been,” says Mr. Schwartz. “Anyone he measures against himself is going to come up short.”

This tendency to second-guess his lawyers may account, in part, for the cooling of the relationship between Mr. Trump and Mr. Myerson. As Mr. Cohn became increasingly ill during the mid-1980s, Mr. Trump turned to Mr. Myerson for some h=of his tough cases.

In 1983, when Mr. Trump purchased the New Jersey Generals, one of the expansion teams of the new United States Football League, he immediately perceived that one of the league’s best hopes for survival would be an antitrust case against the dominant National Football League. Mr. Trump was instrumental in convincing the other owners to back the suit and chose Mr. Cohn and, later, Mr. Myerson, as the attornes for the case. Mr. Trump appeared as a star witness at the trial and attended almost every day of the proceedings.

In 1986, the jury awarded the USFL only $1 in damages, and the new league fell apart shortly afterward.

In his book, Mr. Trump, while praising Mr. Myerson’s trial work, blames him in part for the defeat. Mr. Myerson’s expensively tailored suits and silk handkerchiefs clased with the David and Goliath strategy of the case, says his client.

Others say that fee disputes were at the heart of the split. “Harvey says he fired Trump because he didn’t pay his bills, and Donald says he fired Harvey because his bills were too high=,” says one lawyer who knows both men well.

Mr. Trump would not comment on his dispute with Mr. Myerson, but says: “I find all lawyers’ billing practices obnoxious. But if a lawyer’s bills are obnoxiously dishonest, he’ll never work for me again.”

CHAPTER SEVEN: Be Aggressive, But Don’t Overdo It

Mr. Trump’s aggressive approach to litigation has backfired at least once—in his six-year battle with tenants of 100 Central Park South, one of two elegant old building along the souther edge of Manhattan’s central Park that Mr. Trump bought in 1981, hoping to replace them with a steel-and-glass apartment tower.

The tenants, however, waged a spirited battle. When Mr. Trump sued for eviction, they countered with a complaint to the New York City Divison of Housing and Community Renewal for harassment.

In 1985 Mr. Trump brought a racketeering suit against the tenants’ law firm, New York’s Fischbein, Olivieri, Rezenholc & Badillo. That suit was dismissed not only with prejudice but with a recommendation for possible sanctions against Mr. Trump and his lawyer, Richard Golub, a sole practitioner in New York.

After changing lawyers numerous times, Mr. Trump finally agreed to let the tenants stay and to choose the management of the building. He paid more than $500.000 for their attorney fees–on top of most than $100.000 to the Fischbein Olivieri firm for the racketeering case.

In his autobiography, Mr. Trump insists 100 Central Park South was the best mistake he ever made. During the litigation, the building’s value increased dramatically, nostalgia for the charm of older buildings replaced the taste for sleek skyscrapers, and Mr. Trump decided it would be more profitable to keep the old building than to replace it.

Be that as it may, few of his lawyers regard the racketeering suit as a wise move. “If I had been there, I would have definitely advised against it,” says one.

CHAPTER EIGHT: Hot in Litigation, Cool in Business

If in a few instances Mr. Trump has allowed his combative instincts to get the better of him, on the whole a highly practical, businesslike approach tempers his aggressiveness.

Mr. Trump is “an interesting dichotomy between incredible shrewdness on the one hand and impulsiveness and lack of planning on the other,” says one lawyer who has had a lot of experience with him.

His lawyers reflect this dichotomy. Unlike his litigators, Mr. Trump’s main business lawyers—Mr.s Schrager of Dreyer and Traub, and Harvey I. Freeman, his executive vice president and the closest thing to in-house counsel in the Trump Organization—are cautious, phlegmatic men, know for their sharp, monosyllabic answers rather than for their colorful personalities. Messrs. Schrager and Friedman act as a kind of ballast to counteract Mr. Trump’s more impetuous instincts.

Most of the corporate lawyers who have worked for Mr. Trump have an enormous regard for his business acumen.

“He is the fastest person I’ve ever seen in sizing up a fact pattern,” says Atlantic City’s Mr. Goldberg.

Vincent D. McDonnell, a former Shea & Gould partner who is now chairman of the International Exposition Co. in New York, recalls one brief experience with Mr. Trump that made a lasting impression.

Mr. Trump was trying to buy the New York Daily News from the Chicago Tribune Co. After nearly 24 hours of solid negotiating, a basic agreement had been reached and the two sides were preparing a press release, when Mr. Trump suddenly raised a new point. He wanted $2 million in the event the Tribune Co. backed out of the deal at the end of a 30-day option period.

Key to making the deal successful was a new labor package with the newspaper’s unions that would make the Daily News profitable again. “Donald was afraid that after he succeeded in wining $20 or $30 million in labor concessions, the Tribune would suddenly decide they didn’t want to sell. Donald would have spend several weeks—and $70,000 in legal fees—for nothing, says Mr. McDonnell.

The deal broke down over this point, and the Tribune Co. decided to sell to another biddger, who did not insist on the forfeiture payment.

Mr. Trump’s fears proved to the well-founded: The successful biddger negotiated with the unions, only to have the Tribune Co. decide at the last minute not to go through with the sale.

“Donald brought up a [point] that was a stroke of genius,” says Mr. McDonnell. “It showed what a great negotiator he is.”

CHAPTER NINE: A Wolf in Business, a Lamb on the Stand

One of Mr. Trump’s greatest achievements has been in learning to modify his behavior for different legal forums, particularly when dealing with New Jersey’s Casino Control Commission, which holds the key to nearly half of Mr. Trump’s fortune.

Every year the commission must vote on renewing the licensing of each of Atlantic City’s gaming companies. Now the Mr. Trump has more than $1 billion invested in three different casinos, each renewal hearing is a high-stakes gamble.

The commission is not a rubber stamp. It rejected the license applications of both Hugh M. Hefner of Playboy Enterprises Inc. and Mr. Hilton of the Hilton Hotels Corp., even after the latter had nearly completed building a $300 million casion0hotel. And unlike a court of law, which gives a defendant the presumption of innocence, the Casino Control Commission places an affirmative duty on an applicant to prove that a license is deserved. The opposition of only two of the commission’s five members is enough to deny a license.

“On the one hand you’re in the casino business, and on the other hand [before the Commission] you have to be the world’s purest person,” Mr. Trump says. “You have to be firm, but you have to be honorable.”

Mr. Trump has been careful to play a safe game. He made sure he got clearance before building in Atlantic City and he was there to buy out Hilton when It failed to win its license.

Although normally intolerant of committees, Mr. Trump has gone out of his way to show the commission he takes the process seriously—appearing at virtually all of the hearings, even when he does not have to testify.

Despite these efforts, Mr. Trump has had two close calls—situations save only by an unusual use of his lawyers.

In 1986, Trump has to fight off charges that he had reneged on a commitment to build a roadway easing traffic between Atlantic City and the nearby town of Brigantine.

Shortly after buying Hilton’s nearly completed casino, he testified that he would honor all of Hilton’s commitments. He then proceeded to fight tooth and nail to avoid building the highway, even suing the state of New Jersey to extricate himself from the agreement.

When called before the Casino Control Commission in June 1986, Mr. Trump denied having known about the roadway commitment when he bought the hotel.

But the unusual intervention of the state public advocate’ office place Mr. Trump in difficulty. It subpoenaed the lawyers for Hilton, who testified that they had discussed the commitment with Mr. Trump during negotiations and that Mr. Trump had said he wanted to get out of it.

Realizing the Trump Castle license was in trouble, Nicholas L. Ribis of Ribis, Graham, Verdon, & Curtin in Morristown, Mr. Trump’s main casino lawyer, called various lawyers for Mr. Trump—including Mr. Freeman of the Trump Organization, Mr. Schrager and other attorneys from Dreyer and Traub—who backed up Mr. Trump’s story.

Mr. Ribis downplayed the contradictory testimony as “an honest dispute between reputable people as to what happened in a 10-minute conversation in a 10-hour day.”

But one commissioner felt the questions about Mr. Trump’s character was sufficient to deny him a license. The other four voted in Mr. Trump’s favor, while demanding a further investigation of the troubling inconsistencies in the testimony.

The investigation turned up a heavily annotated copy of the roadway agreement with Mr. Trump’s initials on it. The New Jersey Division of Gambling Enforcement report concluded that the testimony of at least one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Jonathan A. Bernstein of Dreyer and Traub, was “not credible,” but decided that the issue was not sufficiently important to place Mr. Trump’s license in jeopardy.

CHAPTER TEN: Publicity Bites Back

Mr. Trump has been so successful in promoting his own business sleight of hand that he has had to devise new legal strategies to minimize the fallout. The lawyers who now face him—and the members of the Casino Control Commission—have all read “The Art of the Deal” and are inclined to believe Mr. Trump has pulled the wool over his opponents’ eyes, even when he may not have.

This has been particularly true in Mr. Trump’s latest big deal, his attempt to acquire Resorts International Inc., which owns various casinos and is building the world’s largest: the Taj Mahal.

In 1987, Mr. Trump bought almost all of the Class B shares in the company; the shares, though representing only 11 percent of the company’s equity, gave him the voting power to run the company.

In June 1987 the New Jersey Casion Control Commission approved the change of direction, because Mr. Trump’s development skills appeared to be the answer to completing the trouble Taj Mahal.

But a few months later Mr. Trump proposed that Resorts International give a service contract to the Trump Organization worth nearly $1 billion over 30 years for completing the Taj Mahal. To many investors, the contract appeared to bleed Resorts International for the benefit of the Trump Organization.

Because of the contract, Mr. Trumps’s testimony about he deplorable state of the Taj Mahal, and this past October’s market plunge, Resorts International stock plummeted from $62 when Mr. Trump entered the company in June 1987 to $11 a share in November.

Three days after winning approval for the service contract, Mr. Trump made a tender offer for the company’s remaining stock at $15 a share. Shareholder groups sued Mr. Trump, charging stock manipulation, but settled the case for $22 a share—a price many in the industry still considered a bargain for Mr. Trump.

The buyout may have been a financial coup, but it looked a little too sharp for the Casino Control Commission.

“While it might be possible to conclude that events of the past eight months resulted from … events beyond Trump’s and Resorts’ control, it is also just as easy, perhaps easier, to conclude that many of the events leading to Mr. Trump’s current merger proposal have been carefully staged … to drive down the value of the stock,” concluded Commissioner Valerie H. Armstrong, a lawyer from Atlantic City. “If a vote is to be taken on the current record, then my vote is negative.”

The chairman of the commission, Walter N. Read, agreed. Suddenly, Mr. Trump’s license was in jeopardy.

When the second set of hearings came around in February of this year, there was an important change in the lineup of witnesses. In the past, Mr. Trump had been among the first witnesses; he was now placed last.

“Trump is a loose cannon who talks off the top of his head, and then all the other witnesses have to scramble to avoid contradicting him,” says one lawyer present at both proceedings. “So at the second hearing, they had him go last. That way he was prepared by having to listen to all the other witnesses before he testified.”

This time the commission voted to renew Mr. Trump’s license.

Within a month of winning the license renewal, Mr. Trump was back in court. Just as his purchase of Resorts International was about to be consummated, entertainer Merv Griffin sued to have Mr. Trump’s $22-a-share settlement put aside, offering $35 a share instead.

Mr. Trump’s first instinct was to fight the takeover battle, but he decided to compromise. Mr. Griffin will be allowed to purchase Resorts International at $36 a share, and Mr. Trump will purchase the Taj Mahal casino.

Thought the deal may be good for both men, the Griffin takeover battle appears to have forced Mr. Trump to pay more for the Taj Mahal casino than he would had had to otherwise. “Before this he was going to get all of Resorts, plus the Taj Mahal, for about $220 million. Now he’s going to pay something close to that for the Taj alone, says Morris Orens of New York’s Olshan Grundman & Frome, who represented Mr. Griffin in the deal. “His publicity has turned on him.”

Mr. Trump agrees. “If I’m buying something, people think they can pay twice as much and still get a good deal.”

But the increased dangers of a high profile only harden Mr. Trump’s conviction that he must deal with his adversaries with a firm legal hand.

“Because of the notoriety of being Trump, if somebody falls on the sidewalk, he sues me for a million dollars and it’s on the front page of the newspapers,” he says. “I virtually never settle one of those cases,” he adds. “If they think you’re a settler … they’ll be falling in front of Trump Tower.

“It’s a rough and vicious life; and if people believe you’re going to be a whipping post, it’s going to be a lot rougher.”

 

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