If you believe Donald Trump, then he is the greatest man to ever live, and everything he has ever touched has turned to gold.
That's not a direct quote, but it's a rough interpretation of how the man with the golden comb-over views himself. Bluster aside, the business tycoon has made some spectacularly successful deals, and while he fails more than he lets on (read about his four biggest failures), he has also succeeded more than his detractors give him credit for.
Trump might be an arrogant blowhard with an inflated opinion of himself, but he's also a good businessman and a master promoter. Here's a look at four of his most successful professional ventures, and one success that few would have predicted.
Grand Hyatt Hotel
In a deal that helped establish his reputation, Trump and the Hyatt Corporation (NYSE:H) partnered in 1976 to buy the Commodore Hotel, now known as the Grand Hyatt Hotel. At the time, it was a risky venture with New York City at a low point and much of the area around the hotel in disrepair. Because of the uncertainty, however, Trump was able to get the city to provide a 40-year tax abatement, the first ever granted to a commercial property, according to a Trump website.
In addition, a number of area banks promised the developer $70 million in mortgages in an effort to rejuvenate the area.
"At first, the building was going to be a small, moderate hostelry," according to Trump.com. "After construction started in 1979, the economy slowly picked up and the plans switched, and it became the 25-story hotel it is today."
Trump later sold his half share in the property to Hyatt in 1996 for $142 million.
New York City's Wollman Rink
Rebuilding the iconic skating rink was one of the first cases of Trump publicly taking on a challenge by making fun of the previous failures of others. The developer took over the project in 1986 after the city's six-year, $12 million effort to renovate the Central Park rink had not gotten the job done, Philly.com reported.
"I have total confidence that we will be able to do it," Trump said at the time. "I am going on record as saying that I will not be embarrassed."
He was not embarrassed, and instead brought the project in under budget and ahead of schedule. Trump's company even made "a profit of about $500,000 on $1.5 million in receipts" in its first six months since reopening, The New York Times reported in 1987. The profit was donated to charity.
Considered a risky proposition when Trump proposed it in the early 1980s, Trump Tower has been a massive success. The building established the now-iconic glass and metal look that the billionaire developer has made his signature. It also helped him create the mix of multimillion-dollar residences mixed with high-end retail and fine dining that Trump uses at many of his properties.
Though it's hard to know exactly how much money the developer has made off of his signature property, its value goes well beyond its balance sheet. Trump Tower established the Trump style, which now adorns many other properties in his empire.
Of course, it has also made its creator money. In his 1987 book Art of the Deal, Trump claimed to have made $240 million just from sales of apartments in the property, and additional millions from retail and restaurant rent.
The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice
Though the shows have never been the ratings hits Trump brags about them being, The Apprentice and its spinoff The Celebrity Apprentice have both been solid performers for NBC. That may sound like modest praise, but the Trump-hosted show succeeded where so many other reality programs failed. Remember Richard Branson's Rebel Billionaire? How about Mark Cuban in The Benefactor?
Few people do, because both shows sank like a stone.
For all of its successes, reality TV is littered with failures, and Trump deserves credit for making The Apprentice a valuable enough brand that NBC is going to attempt to keep it alive without him, casting Arnold Schwarzenegger in his place.
His presidential campaign
While it remains unlikely he will capture the White House, Trump has accomplished something fairly impressive in his run for the Republican nomination. When he first announced his candidacy, many media outlets treated it the same way as when other novelty celebrities -- Hulk Hogan, for example -- have announced their candidacies.
Trump, however, has managed to not only be taken seriously, but put himself at the center of the debate. He may not win the nomination, but he has put himself into the position of power broker who must be taken seriously. It's a stunning turnaround that could legitimately end in the business tycoon winning the nomination, and will at worst result in him having a voice at the table in Republican party politics for years to come.
Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He read Art of the Deal and owned the Trump board game. The Motley Fool recommends Hyatt Hotels. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.