Vogue UK, GQ, Tatler, House & Garden Living
By Julie Earle-Levine
IVANKA Trump, daughter of America’s real estate mogul, ‘The Donald’ takes long, stork-like strides towards me, her sky-high legs in six-inch heels gliding gracefully, her mouth slightly pouty, leaving a trail of remarkably shorter assistants in her wake. After all, Trump was a model before she realized her real estate ambitions.
The 26-year-old blonde has the impressive title of Vice President of Acquisitions and Development at the Trump Organization, in New York. She regularly appears in magazines offering tips on topics including ‘How to Be Rich, Sexy and Famous,’ but this Wharton graduate takes her career very seriously.
Trump is involved in 70 plus projects in the US and offshore, that require her to jet around the world, and to oversee meetings in the boardroom and on construction sites. How is she received? “Somebody may dismiss me because I’m young, blonde or female, but that can be used to one’s advantage,” she says, gazing coolly over her very large latte. Those close to her say she is also a fierce negotiator. “Ivanka holds her own in any meeting and what you see - a beautiful young blonde - is not what you get,” says Dolly Lenz, the top broker in America.
As a child, Trump spent some weekends on construction sites with her father or grandfather, often on a dump truck and she says she loved it. Some believe she may grab the top spot if her father ever hands over the reigns of the family’s real estate empire. Ivanka has two brothers, Donald Jnr, 30, and Eric, 23, who also work for Trump. She joined Trump in 2005, after working for developer Bruce Ratner on a large, mixed use shopping centre. “I wanted to get a sense of my self-worth and what I could accomplish, with or without my last name.”
It was not until she started working for her father, her “greatest mentor” that she really dug her heels in. “He has always pushed me to think, and dream bigger and bolder.”
In an interview in her 25th floor office with soaring views of Manhattan’s skyline and surrounded by photos of her family, layouts of a new development, and a thick manila folder marked with a long ‘to do’ list, Ivanka explained how her father convinced her to come on board. “He would send me renderings of the Trump Chicago project with a note – you could be working on this. Chicago was the siren call.”
She insists she is not just the pretty face in advertisements, but is involved in evaluating deals to pre-development planning, construction, marketing, operations sales and leasing.
What is she working on these days? Other than Chicago, Ivanka is spearheading a push by Trump to manage more of their new hotels. There are more than a dozen in the pipeline that are based on a template of Trump’s Central Park West property, including Las Vegas, a 1300-room hotel opening in March and a Fort Lauderdale, Florida that will open in January 2009. Offshore, there is Toronto, Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic, the just-open Istanbul Trump Towers complex in the city’s Sisli district and Dubai, a 61-story building and units. Trump also has its first project in Europe under way, in Scotland that will include a 450 room, five-star hotel, plus 500 single family homes, holiday homes, golf villas plus a golf course. Trump says she spends time on all of these but recently has been particularly focused on opportunities in China. “I have been going to China and meeting there with the ‘Donald Trump’s’ of those areas. It is a very important market and we want to do it right.”
Which brings us to a controversial project, Trump Soho, a 46-story building that has had a construction worker death, and upset locals who don’t like skyscrapers. It is five times the height of any building around it. Trump is naturally defensive. “There is a certain tone in the city due to a number of real catastrophies that are happening on a monumental level. We are being very cautious, and expect an elevated level of commitment to safety. We are certainly not exempt.”
She believes that Trump Soho is in fact “a great example of doing it right.” It is commanding $3,000 a square foot – top dollar – in a recession hit market. Some say the Trump brand has added $1,500 a square foot value. Trump said it is because there are 360 degree views from every floor with a hotel unit, and an amazing top floor penthouse. “It is very, very cool, Rockwell design.”
At a press conference with her siblings Trump emphasized that the company has an extremely solid track record, unlike many developers with no experience who were “just doing stuff” “We are building great hotels and now we are ramping up our hotel management position in the past two years. It has to be great. We can’t have failure.”
In August, Trump said that the building was about 57 per cent sold, mainly to European and South American buyers. The remainder are Americans, who want a chic pad in the city when they visit.
The ads for Trump Soho, plus others recently including Trump Ocean Club in Panama where she spills out of a strapless black evening dress wearing her jewelry (yes she has her own brand) are Trumpish, showcasing the biggest and best of everything you can get.
“I was part of marketing effort to appeal to a younger, more hip crowd.,
says Ivanka, who does live in a Trump building, but will not live in Soho. “I’ll be spending a lot of time at the Soho property because there is a great spa and restaurant.” The building is trendy, but elegant. “Really there is nothing five star downtown. You can stay at the Mercer – it is a great hotel but you are sacrificing amenities and space. It you are staying at Trump uptown, the difference is phenomenal. The views we are offering are not typical of the area.”
Sales are strong, she said. And what of the recession that is finally affecting even luxury real estate in resilient New York? Is the luxury property boom really over? In true Trump form, Ivanka says, “The world is changing. This brings both opportunities and challenges.”