Donald Trump's long and disappointing list of failed businesses

Donald Trump's long and disappointing list of failed businesses

PoliticsMay 03, 2016 By Tyler Mistretta

Despite what Donald Trump likes to say about himself and his business acumen, he is really an average or maybe even below average businessman. Sure, he does pretty well for himself in real estate, but even in that industry he isn't the mogul he wants you to think he is. In New York City, Trump isn't even ranked in the top ten of New York City's biggest real estate developers. He claims all the time that his net worth hovers around $10 billion, but according to Forbes, it's probably closer to $4 billion. Which is of course still a mountain of cash and much more than the $138.46 combined net worth of everyone in our office. But its more an indicator of Donald's braggadocios and exaggeratory brand image. 

Many of businesses and products that bare Trump's name aren't even run by Trump himself. Often times he'll just license out (read whore out) his name to companies and sit around taking in royalty checks. That doesn't make him a good businessman, it makes him a dude that doesn't give a damn about his own brand image. Because as you'll see, The Donald has had many, many business failures. Here are some of our favorites. 

Trump Steaks

“When it comes to great steaks I raise the stakes” claimed The Donald in a promo video for a collection of Trump branded meats. Because what is something everyone wants in their mouth? A hot load of Donald Trump’s steaming meat. 

In classic Trump fashion, the brands motto was the “World’s Best Steaks”. But that wasn’t even close to the truth, and Trump Steaks went out to pasture long ago. The hunks of meat were sold exclusively at The Sharper Image – AKA the place known for selling useless gifts, foot massagers, and more recently vibrators. Who doesn’t want to add 15 pounds of cow to your order of useless gifts for relatives you hate?

At a minimum price of $199 for a box of Trump meat ranging all the way up for $999, there was no market for Trump Steaks. The CEO of The Sharper Image said “The net of all that was we literally sold almost no steaks.” Classic Trump.

Trump Vodka

Donald Trump claims to have never drank a sip of alcohol in his entire life. So what's a good business for him to get into? Obviously selling shitty $30 bottles of Trump Brand vodka. “Success distilled” was the brands slogan but for a brand that claimed to distil success they couldn't find any themselves. The company went down the drain just a five years after being formed.

Trump gave his name to the brand but was never actually involved in the production of the alcohol. Scandals circled the brand, like the time a 17-year-old girl was photographed drinking the vodka topless at a Trump Vodka event. The golden bottles of Trump Vodka plastered with the letter “T” were discontinued in 2011 after terrible sales. What does Donald love doing probably even more than selling shitty products? Suing people. So of course that’s what he did to the vodka’s manufacturer once the brand was discontinued. 

Trump Airlines

Donald Trump likes to follow the track of taking something that already exists, plastering the Trump name all over it, and running the brand into the ground. Such was the case when Trump decided to buy and airline in 1988 — luckily none of the planes were actually run into the ground though. 

Trump bought Eastern Air Shuttle for $365 million in 1988 which had been operating hourly flights from Boston, New York City, and Washington D.C. for 27 years. In 2016 dollars, that price is well over $1 billion. Oh yeah, and Trump had to take out a $245 million loan to do so. Yikes. 

Immediately The Don decided to Trumpify the budget airline and added things like gold fixtures in the bathrooms and wood flooring to the plane. The business travelers that mostly used the airline were not a fan of the new features or the increased prices. After just four years of operating the airline and never turning a profit Trump sold the failing airline to someone who actually knew what they were doing. 

Trump University

Like seemingly every kid of extremely rich parents, Donald Trump attended the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, which is generally considered the best business school in the world. So The Donald should probably know a thing or two about education, right? Wrong.

Trump founded Trump University in 2004 as an online “university” that hosted seminars on things Trump claims to know a lot about, like real estate and wealth management. But his “university” wasn’t a university at all. It was a for-profit online bullshit factory. The school was not accredited and therefore was not really a school at all. It was basically no different than ITT Tech or University of Phoenix — which are both not schools at all. Just four days after Trump University opened its doors in 2005, the state of New York notified the company that they were violating state law. Trumps school unlawfully included the term university in their company name which was totally not a university at all and further violated the law because they weren't a licensed school. 

In 2010 Trump University changed its name to Trump Entrepreneur Initiative. Which sounds way more like a cult than a school but regardless of the new name the company closed in 2011. By 2013 Trump was being sued by the states of California, New York, and Florida for defrauding his students. Those students also filed a class-action lawsuit against Trump which he eventually lost. The three state lawsuits are ongoing and have been referenced in a number of Republican debates.

Trump Wine

Figuring he could do better in the wine industry compared to the vodka industry, the non-imbibing Donald Trump opened Trump Winery in 2011. Donald bought the winery that cost somewhere between $100 to $200 million to create for just $3.6 million after the property was foreclosed.

Trump claims it is the largest winery on the East Coast, but of course that was just Trump being Trump and manufacturing malarkey about his business ventures. As it turns out, Trump’s Virginia based winery isn’t even the biggest winery in Virginia.  

Unlike most of Donald Trump’s business ventures, this one is still operating. Shocking, huh? Trump claims that his son Eric operates the winery but that has been brought into question. Trump claims he owns the winery 100% but that is directly contradicted on the winery’s own website. Which clearly states the winery “is not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their affiliates.” LOL.

Trump Water

Bottled water was once considered a luxury item when brands like Evian and FIJI somehow got people to believe that water could be a luxury product. Donald Trump, being a man of luxury, tried to hop on board with his own brand of water, Trump Ice. Unfortunately for Trump, and big-wig bottled water drinkers everywhere, he could never get the brand to succeed on a national level. Probably because the last thing people want to gulp down is a bottle of water with Donald Trump’s doughy face on the bottle.

Now Trump Ice, which claims to be “one of the purest natural spring waters bottled in the world,” is only available at Trump hotels and casinos. Which we would say is one of like a thousand reasons to never stay at a Trump casino. Donald’s claim that Trump Ice has the “optimal mineral content” is a classic Trump lie. According to bottled water expert Michael Mascha who authored everyone's favorite book, A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Most Distinctive Bottled Waters, the mineral content of Trump is actually very low. Which should be expected, given the way Trump talks about his various brands. 

Trump Cologne

What's something everyone wants from Donald Trump, besides for him to drop out of the presidential race? Well, to smell like the 69-year-old grandfather of course. Over the years Trump has had a number of colognes that have all been criticized for the very fact that no one wants to smell like Donald Trump or the sarcophagus he sleeps in. 

Trump’s colognes Success and Empire were dropped by his manufacturer in 2015. This followed Trump’s controversial statements about Mexican immigrants being rapists and killers. His statements also prompted Macy’s, which was at the time the sole retailer of the brand, to stop selling the musky liquid. Which is disappointing, because we don't have a way to sniff out Trump supporters ahead of time to avoid conversations with them. 

Around the same time there was an online petition that had over 700,000 signatures for Macy’s to stop selling Trump branded products.

Trump Clothing Line

Donald Trump is by no means known for his fashion sense. Case in point – the floppy llama hair he glues to his scalp each morning. But in an obvious move to make it so you can make your entire life Trump branded, Trump has had his own men’s fashion line since 2004.

With a collection of civilian menswear, including poorly fitting suits, shirts, and silk-ish ties, the Trump collection has never been the envy of the fashion world. Like his cologne, Trump's clothing line has been marketed as a luxury clothing. Though the clothes are actually pretty shitty. Controversy broke this past August when Marco Rubio criticized Trump for having his entire clothing line manufactured in China in Mexico. This obviously came after Trump himself has stated that outsourcing manufacturing is killing American and China is basically the devil. Like the cologne, the menswear line was dropped by Macy's after the controversial Mexico comment, but if you really want to you can still buy the clothes online. Though we don’t know why you would want to dress like Trump the Frump in the first place. 

Photo: Bryan Snyder / Reuters / NY Mag