Although Trump has indeed generated a lot of excitement with his signings, he's not intimately involved with the day-today operations of the Generals. He leaves that to the club's president, Jason Seltzer, and others in the front office. Seltzer, an attorney who worked on some of Trump's real estate deals, handled the negotiations with Sipe, Gary Barbaro, the All-Pro safety who jumped from the Kansas City Chiefs, and Lawrence Taylor, although Trump worked out the deal that netted him a profit on Taylor's contract. Trump says, "I have no wish to hurt the Giants or the Jets." That may be, but a Generals radio commercial pointedly contrasts the differences between his team and the lackluster Jets and Giants, asking, "Which professional football team in the metropolitan area has the best head coach? The Generals with Walt Michaels. The best running back? The Generals with Herschel Walker. The best quarterback? The Generals with Brian Sipe. The best defensive back? The Generals with Gary Barbara. The Generals have signed on the best, and now they're looking for you, the best football fan in the world...it's time you joined the ranks of the best."
Donald Trump is of Swedish-German descent, but he says that many people think he's Jewish because his family owns so many buildings in Brooklyn. He is one of five children born to Fred and Mary Trump, who live in Queens, across the East River from Manhattan. Their oldest son, Fred Jr., died of heart failure three years ago. The family story reads like a saga by Thomas Mann. The master builder is Fred, whose own father died when he was 12. Now 78, Fred has a full head of red hair, a bristly mustache and an erect carriage. "The chicks think I'm 50," he says. He spends his time in his office, at 600 Avenue Z in Brooklyn, looking after his rental units. Manhattan is Donald's stomping ground, not his.
After graduating from high school, Fred Trump went to work as a carpenter's helper. "Learn a trade, and you can always go back to it if things go wrong," he says. By the age of 20 he had built a one-family house in the Woodhaven section of Queens. In 1935, in the depths of the Depression, he put up 78 two-family houses in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. Other developers had shied away because the area had been mined for sand and then filled with garbage, but Trump devised a way of putting in pilings to give the houses stable foundations, and he was off and running to a fortune.
Fred and Mary Trump raised their family in Jamaica Estates in Queens. President Reagan recently appointed the oldest living child, Maryanne Trump Barry, a federal judge in Trenton. Elizabeth, the second-youngest, is an administrative assistant at Chase Manhattan Bank in Manhattan ("She's my friend at Chase Manhattan," says Fred, parodying a TV commercial), and Robert, the youngest, is an executive vice-president of the Trump Organization. Donald was fascinated with building from childhood. He played with building blocks and erector sets, and when he was 11 he built a balsa-wood model of The Highlander, an apartment house his father was erecting. "He liked real estate," says Fred. "He grew up in that atmosphere."
When Donald was 12, his parents sent him off to the New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson, just north of West Point. "They had what Donald needed," Fred says. "They're strict. They're stern, and they give a good education." He was concerned that Donald would become spoiled if he stayed home. "His friends were kids who'd give $40 baseball gloves for a birthday present," Fred says. "Donald wanted to give a boy a $40 glove for a birthday present. I said, 'Donald, Times Square Stores has gloves for $8.95.' He almost threw up.
"That school really built him up in his formative years. He became a captain, and he marched in the Columbus Day parade. He had medals on like he won the war singlehandedly."
After graduating from New York Military, Donald went to Fordham for two years and then transferred to the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was first in his class. While at Wharton, he made money reconditioning buildings in Philadelphia, and after he graduated, in 1968, he returned home to take a supervisory job with his father in the Trump Organization.
In 1973, Donald struck out on his own for Manhattan. The Manhattan real estate market was then depressed, and he figured the time was ripe to start making deals. "I bought a lot," he says. "As people were selling, I was buying. After '76 the market became hot again." He concentrated on the choice midtown area. He has studied it so thoroughly that he knows where basements interconnect, and there are sections where he can walk five blocks through maintenance rooms without going aboveground.
Trump persuaded city officials to abandon construction of a new convention center on the Hudson River, where $37 million worth of work had already been done, in favor of a new site over the Penn Central yards near Penn Station. Trump held the option on the new site, but when the city refused to let him build the convention center (he wanted it named the Trump Convention Center), he made a $2.5 million profit on his option and moved on to construction of the Grand Hyatt. The city began building the convention center on its own, and the project is now more than two years behind schedule and $200 million over budget. "I would have built the convention center on time and on budget," Trump says. "Public agencies can't do the job. There's tremendous talent involved in being able to build on time and on budget." As Fred Trump says, "I always told Donald, 'If you dawdle, you lose your shirt. You pay interest 365 days a year.' "
Trump met Ivana in 1976 at a party in Montreal. Born Ivana Winkelmayr to an Austrian mother and a Czech father, she was raised in Vienna and moved to Czechoslovakia at the age of 14 when her father, an architect, had the opportunity to design sports complexes. In Vienna Ivana had been a promising swimmer, but in Czechoslovakia she gave up swimming to concentrate on skiing. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in physical education from Charles University in Prague and is fluent in Czech, German, Russian and English. In 1972 Ivana was a member of the Czechoslovakian ski team, although she wasn't one of those chosen to compete in the Olympics in Sapporo, Japan. After the Olympics she went to Canada to stay with an aunt and uncle and became one of the top models in Montreal, while keeping her hand in at skiing by serving as an instructor at Jay Peak in Vermont on weekends.