Former President Donald Trump is, by his own repeated and extremely enthusiastic admission, "really rich."
Since emerging into the public eye as the scion of his family's nascent property empire, Trump has cultivated a persona of extreme opulence, replete with personal jets, gold-plated bathrooms and sprawling waterfront estates. Author Fran Leibowitz described Trump as "a poor person's idea of a rich person," prompting sociologist Katherine Cross to counter that he is instead "a rich man's idea of a rich man. Specifically, his own."
Between those polar assessments lies the unavoidable truth that Donald Trump will forever be inexorably associated with affluence and excess. And that, in turn, raises a logical follow-up question: Just how rich is Donald Trump, anyway?
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It's a question that has dogged Trump for years — particularly during his 2016 campaign for the presidency, when he refused to release his tax records as other candidates have done for decades. That conspicuous secrecy, coupled with his braggadocious claims of enormous wealth, merely fed the speculation.
"My net worth fluctuates," Trump allowed in a sworn 2007 deposition after he sued New York Times reporter Timothy O'Brien for allegedly undervaluing his wealth. "It goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings — even my own feelings — but I try." The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
What Trump has said
During his flirtation with a 2012 presidential campaign, Trump claimed in his book "Time to Get Tough" that his net worth was $7 billion. When he eventually launched his 2016 campaign, he upgraded that figure to nearly $9 billion, only to revise the sum one month later by claiming a net worth "in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS."
Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen would later claim to have "personally pumped in the helium into his balloon-like net worth to the tune of billions." When Forbes — which has been assiduously tracking Trump's wealth for decades — estimated that Trump's net worth was actually just over $4.1 billion in 2015, Cohen wrote, he feigned outrage even though he knew Trump was worth "perhaps $2 billion, absolute tops." By 2016, Forbes had downgraded Trump's wealth to $3.7 billion and Bloomberg put his net worth at an even $3 billion.
In 2022, Trump released an angry statement that pointed back to the net worth listed in the financial statement his campaign released in 2015: $5.7 billion. That was far less than the $9-10 billion he was asserting at the time, but he claimed those listed assets did not include his multi-billion-dollar "Trump brand." When Trump issued that statement, his longtime accounting firm had abruptly cut ties with him as New York Attorney General Letitia James investigated his company for alleged business fraud. That investigation eventually concluded that Trump had brazenly inflated his wealth by billions of dollars.
What the experts estimate
More than six years after Trump falsely promised to release his federal tax returns on his own, House Democrats made years of his tax records public in late 2022 following a lengthy legal battle — and Trump was forced to watch as experts and analysts combed through them.
Some experts cautioned against "reading too much into tax returns of high net worth individuals like Trump — especially ones in the real estate business," where such documents are extraordinary complex, The Daily Beast reported. But analysts said it's clear much of Trump's wealth is tied up in illiquid assets — he may technically be a billionaire, but Trump only had "immediate access to anywhere between $30 million and $100 million scattered across hundreds of entities" when he left office in 2021.
That's still a lot of money for most people, and Trump's wealth — like the value of real estate — does fluctuate. Forbes placed Trumps net worth in 2023 at $2.5 billion, based on an "asset-by-asset breakdown of the former president's fortune."
Even that diminished total may be at risk as Trump's expensive lawyers fight multiple lawsuits and criminal cases filed against him. In New York, a state judge has determined that Trump chronically inflated assets by $800 million to $2 billion dollars over the past decade. As a result, a host of Trump's properties and business entities have been ordered to be put into receivership and dissolved, with the associated fines alone potentially putting Trump in bankruptcy in the immediate future.
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