The United States Football League begins its second season in two weeks, but Donald J. Trump, who has become the biggest and most visible wheeler-dealer in all of sport since buying the New Jersey Generals in September, is already looking forward to what he calls the Galaxy Bowl. The Galaxy Bowl? Yes, the Galaxy Bowl. According to Trump, who thought up the name, it would pit the USFL championship team against the winner of the NFL's Super Bowl. As Trump sees it, the first Galaxy Bowl would take place perhaps three years from now, when the NFL's TV contracts come up for renewal, or maybe even sooner, depending on whether the USFL switches from a spring to a fall schedule. For Trump, the question of switching to a fall season isn't if but when. As he puts it, "I see different scenarios, but that happens to be the scenario I favor."
This may sound like brash talk, but no one, including his critics, has ever accused Trump—who once hung a huge banner across the front of Grand Central Station with TRUMP in block letters—of thinking small. A 37-year-old multimillionaire developer who has deftly swung from one vine to another in the political jungle of New York real estate, Trump is used to getting what he wants. He has the buildings to prove it, such as the Grand Hyatt Hotel (which features a restaurant called Trumpet's) and the new Trump Tower, sheathed in bronze and glass, a structure combining stores, offices and condominiums, on Fifth Avenue next to Tiffany's. Affable and boyishly handsome, Trump and his blonde wife, Ivana, a Vienna-born former competitive skier and model who gave birth to their third child on Jan. 6, have recently been the golden couple of newspaper style pages. They dine at tanned goatskin tables in their own Manhattan condo overlooking Central Park, wear designer clothes and ski in Aspen, Gstaad and St. Moritz when not weekending at their Greenwich, Conn. estate. "Donald's brilliant," says Ivana, an executive vice-president in charge of interior design for the family-owned Trump Organization. "As a lot of people say, whatever he touches turns to gold." Trump skis and plays an occasional game of golf or tennis, but he has no deep interests aside from his family, real estate and the Generals. "I like to create," he says. "I like to create great things. I don't go after money for money's sake. Money is an offshoot of what I do."
As might be expected, the Trumps travel in rarefied circles. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale is their pastor, Roy Cohn their attorney. "Donald Trump is an extraordinary young man," says Peale. "He has the elements of genius." Cohn says Trump is "one of the most enterprising, ingenious businessmen on the American scene...a miracle man who can't seem to make a mistake even if he tries."
Given his record of success, Trump finds it no big deal to tackle the NFL head on. "I could have had four or five NFL teams," he says, but he bought the Generals, who were a dismal 6-12 their first season despite having Herschel Walker, because "I like a challenge." Trump adds, "People look at certain institutions, like the NFL, as being infallible when they're not. When the AFL started, the NFL was supposedly indomitable. Then people realized the AFL was playing a more interesting brand of football than the NFL. Now, in a different decade, there's going to be a similar thing happening, only something more exciting. Institutions are sometimes the most vulnerable elements of our society, and the NFL is very vulnerable."
Trump revels in the attention that he and the Generals have attracted since he bought the team last fall. He loves to see his name on buildings or in print. It all helps sell, he explains, whether the business is real estate or sports. "I know how to sell," Trump says. "Selling is life. You can have the greatest singer in the world, but if nobody knows who he is, he'll never have the opportunity to sing. If the USFL has taken off in the last three months, it's because of the interest we've [read: I've] created." But Trump's love of publicity goes way beyond business. Publicity makes him as excited as a kid. When the New York Post held a sports forum in December featuring George Steinbrenner, owner of the Yankees, Sonny Werblin, then president of Madison Square Garden, Fred Wilpon, president of the Mets and newcomer Trump, it was Trump who got most of the attention, and he was exultant. "Did you see the picture on the front page of the Post?" he asked. "It wasn't Steinbrenner and Ed Koch. It wasn't Sonny Werblin and the mayor. It wasn't Fred Wilpon. It was Donald Trump and Ed Koch."
Scarcely a day goes by without a Trump deal trumpeted all over the papers or TV. He boasts that the Generals, a team that had "gotten no ink," received more coverage last fall in New York than the NFL did while its season was under way. Trump created hoopla with stories that he was negotiating with Don Shula of the Dolphins to coach the Generals, and when the Shula deal didn't pan out (Trump says Shula asked for the unaskable, a condominium in Trump Tower), he created more to-do, at least locally, by hiring Walt Michaels, who formerly coached the Jets. Trump also grabbed headlines by raiding the NFL for players, most notably Brian Sipe, the Cleveland quarterback whose passing is supposed to open up the Generals' running game for Walker. Most recently, Trump massaged salt into the wounds of the NFL after signing Lawrence Taylor, the Giants' super linebacker, to play for the Generals starting in 1988. When the chagrined Giants subsequently offered Taylor a huge raise and a new long-term contract extending beyond 1987, Trump, saying he had no wish to hamper Taylor's career, sold Taylor's Generals contract back to him for $750,000 of the Giants' money. "It was a very creative deal," says Trump, who then signed Freddie Gilbert, a defensive end from Georgia who would have been a high-round choice in this spring's NFL draft.
A relative newcomer to Manhattan, Trump has been triumphant in real estate deals ever since he left the family's home turf in Brooklyn and Queens in 1973. In partnership with the Hyatt Corp., he gutted the bankrupt Commodore Hotel next to Grand Central Station to build the glittery Grand Hyatt, now one of the most heavily booked luxury hotels in the city. To the anger and dismay of established hoteliers, he got a 40-year tax abatement now valued at more than $150 million from the city on that property, because, he said, the project would help rejuvenate East 42nd Street. In partnership with Equitable Life, he tore down the Bonwit Teller store at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street to build the $200 million Trump Tower, which he says is 68 stories high. Trump Tower has a six-story marble atrium, complete with two bronze T's 3½ feet tall and a six-story-high waterfall. The doormen wear summer uniforms with pith helmets like Bahama cops and winter uniforms modeled on those of the Household Cavalry at Buckingham Palace, right down to the fur busbies (Ivana Trump had the uniforms tailored in London), and a pianist (and occasionally a violinist) plays Cole Porter and Gershwin in the lobby. Trump has gone to court to get a $50 million tax abatement for Trump Tower. "The city has always given a tax abatement to anyone who built a residential building," Trump says, "but because of the wealth of the people in the building, or whatever, the city doesn't want to do that now. Aristotle Onassis got it on Olympic Tower, so Donald Trump should get it on Trump Tower."
Trump's office on the 26th floor has a splendid view of Central Park. The view will never be blocked because he bought the air rights over Tiffany's for $5 million. "I always like going first class," says Trump, whose office furnishings include a marble football with a bronze plate inscribed DONALD J. TRUMP/OWNER/NEW JERSEY GENERALS/USFL/1984, which was given to him by the company that did the marble work for Trump Tower. Trump says, "To anybody in real estate, there's an expression, 'Tiffany location.' Whether it's in New York, Paris, Los Angeles or Des Moines, Tiffany location means the very best. This is the Tiffany location. This is the best piece of real estate in the world. I've always invested in things of first-class quality. I believe in overpaying for the best—not the very good, but the very best."
Curiously, Trump's 26th-floor office is directly across Fifth Avenue from the 19th floor of the Crown Building. That's because Trump arbitrarily numbered the upper floors in Trump Tower because the ceilings of the lower floors are higher than usual. The lower floors are rented out for offices and shops and command as much as $400 per square foot per month, well above the going New York rate—one tenant who sells leather goods pays more than $200,000 a month rent—while the condominiums starting on the 30th floor (really the 23rd floor) are priced from $600,000 to $12.5 million each, half again as much as the next most expensive apartments in the city. So far, Trump has sold 274 million worth of condos to such luminaries as Johnny Carson, Sophia Loren, Paul Anka, Steven Spielberg and the British Royal Family. That leaves Trump a mere $40 million worth of condos to dispose of. At present, Trump is finishing off Trump Plaza, a $100 million cooperative apartment house on East 61st Street, near Bloomingdale's, and he also is "building the tallest hotel-casino in the world, Harrah's at Trump Plaza" in Atlantic City in partnership with Holiday Inns, Inc. He estimates the profits from the hotel-casino will amount to $100 million a year. The odds are a billion to one against Trump's ever rolling the dice in the casino. He has never played a gambling game, and he is a lifelong nonsmoker and nondrinker whose strongest libation is ginger ale.
Trump's critics are not so generous in their praise as are pastor Peale or counselor Cohn. Both Trump and his father, Fred, a onetime carpenter's helper who made part of the family fortune building publicly financed housing projects, have been accused of being politically wired for real estate deals. Both Trumps have made generous campaign contributions to city and state politicians, and Fred in particular was noted for his coziness with the Brooklyn Democratic machine that helped serve as a power base for former Mayor Abe Beame and former Governor Hugh Carey.