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Will Trump Be The Next Zeckendorf?



              His name hasn’t been in the news now for more than thirty years, but at one point in the mid-1960’s, a real estate tycoon named William Zeckendorf was to the New York real estate market back then what Donald Trump is to the New York real estate market now.

              And what I mean by that is here are two guys who’s audacious and take-no-prisoners approach to real estate development in Manhattan made them outsize figures in an industry which seems to attract big egos who make big deals and when their property empires begin to collapse, the bang can be heard just about everywhere.

              Zeckendorf dropped out of NYU in the 1920’s and began putting together parcels for major real estate developments at a time when New York was replacing London as the world’s financial center, and within two decades what had been an urban core of four-story loft buildings and rundown, dingy apartment dwellings would become a high-rise landscape of office towers and luxury hotels.

              Zeckendorf’s most notable project was the assembling of some 75 separate parcels of land between 42nd Street and 49th Street alongside the East River which would be the location for the world headquarters of the United Nations, the area dominated by a massive tower housing the organization’s Secretariat complex which is still an iconic piece of real estate to this day (see pic above.)

At some point in the mid-1960's, the employees in Zeckendorf's office noticed that the daily delivery of fresh flowers had been replaced by a plastic bouquet. The next day the staff couldn't get into the office because the front doors were locked and there was a notice which said that Zeckendorf had gone bust.

              As I write this column, Trump has about twelve hours to line up the financing to cover the money he owes New York State for lying about the value of his properties over the years, and if he can’t find someone who is willing to guarantee that New York will get the $464 mil he has to pay them when his appeals run out, there’s going to be another Zeckendorf-sized bang going off in New York real estate on Monday.

              So, here’s a guy who has been promoting himself as someone worth billions of dollars because he owns all kinds of eye-popping buildings in New York and elsewhere, but he can’t find a single lender or group of lenders who are willing to put up hard cash to bail him out.

              How come America’s most famous dealmaker all of a sudden can’t make a deal? Because he doesn’t really own all those buildings with his name on them and even if he did, those structures aren’t worth what he has been saying they are worth.

              The truth is that the vaunted Trump real estate ‘empire’ is nothing more than a deck of cards and it’s about to come crashing down.

              How do you lend someone money when the collateral they will put up happens to be owned by someone else? You don’t.

              And for all Trump’s bullshit about how much he’s worth, we finally learn that all he’s really done is make money for other people who invested in those hi-rise buildings that sometimes bear his name.

              Maybe by the time I post this column today, Trump will have a GoFundMe website where all his MAGA fans can chip in a few bucks to save him from going down the drain. I love what his great booster Lindsay Graham said when he was asked to contribute money to keep the Trump empire afloat: “I’ve got about twelve bucks in my wallet,” Graham said with a laugh.

              You never know. Maybe Putin will bail Trump out. Maybe a shareholder’s vote today to merge the Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC) with Trump’s media group will eventually lead to a public offering which could net Trump several billion if the new company ends up being as valuable as Trump says it’s going to be.

              But if Trump had a nickel for every time he’s invented some phony number to brag about how much he’s worth, he could pay off New York State on Monday without having to borrow a dime.

              Next week we’ll see whether the latter-day Zeckendorf emperor has any clothes to wear.

             

             

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