Saturday, December 6, 2008

Doing Business With The Donald

Consider Donald Trump. Twice, his company Trump Entertainment (TRMP) has gone bankrupt, causing shareholders to lose their investments while personally he has done just fine. His public feuds with Martha Stewart, Rosie O'Donnell, Carolyn Kepcher and his nasty divorces with ex-wives Ivana and Marla Trump suggest an exceptional lack of good judgment and a strong willingness to throw business partners and companions under the bus.

It now appears that for a third time, Trump Entertainment will go bankrupt as it has recently missed a bond payment. As a result, its stock now trades at $0.24 cents a share, down from over $20.00 about a year and a half ago. Trump himself is not worried, claiming less than 1% of his net worth is tied up in TRMP.

In his last book, Trump brags that he loves to crush the other side, and mocked banks that had made loans to him that he has renegotiated down.

With this in mind, why would anyone want to do business with this man? Whoever does so, for publicity or other reasons, gets what they deserve. One such lender is finding that out the hard way, as this week Trump is suing Deutsche Bank (DB) for $3 billion, for trying to collect on a $40 million loan that Trump personally guaranteed on a real estate project that has gone bad. Trump is claiming that the current state of the economy is beyond his control, and that since the contract has a force majeur clause (normally reserved for fires/floods etc) allowing leniency for "any...event or circumstance not within the reasonable control of the borrower", his debt should not be payable.

Deutsche Bank's mistake was doing business with this man in the first place. When we met with Warrren Buffett earlier this year, he spoke of only doing business with managers with good character. He claims a big part of his success is due to the fact that he has a 90% success rate in choosing such managers. His method of filtering, however, relies on factors unrelated to the numbers in the deal. Instead, he uses body language and factors such as the things that person talks about, what that person considers important, what they laugh at, etc. Doing business with those without honour is asking for trouble.


Anonymous said...

I would like to hear any more color that you have on the cues that Buffett looks for in a manager.

Conversational items make sense. Posture? Pose?


You point out some true and interesting facts. However, I do enjoy watching the Apprentice it makes for some good entertainment.