Watch: Inside the Bailout that Saved a Collapsing Trump Organization

October 3, 2016

This weekend, The New York Times obtained portions of Donald Trump’s tax returns from 1995 which revealed that the candidate declared a loss of $916 million that year.

It’s a loss that could have allowed Trump to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, according to tax experts interviewed by the Times. 

The Choice 2016, FRONTLINE’s recently-released documentary on the lives of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, takes a close look at the decisions that led to that nearly $1 billion loss — including the purchase and subsequent struggles of three Atlantic City casinos, an airline, a yacht, and the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan — and how Trump and his financial backers responded as one by one, those investments failed.

“He sort of blamed the people around him for what went wrong instead of himself,” Barbara Res, a vice president of the Trump Organization from 1980 to 1992, tells FRONTLINE in the above excerpt from The Choice 2016.

As the film explores, the banks that Trump and his companies owed billions to faced a choice: cut ties with Trump or bail him out.

Ultimately, the banks decided that Trump was too big to fail. As they stared into the Trump Organization’s financial abyss, they came to decide that Trump’s assets — the buildings, the casinos — were worth more with his name still attached to them than they would be in foreclosure.

As The Choice 2016 details, they even put Trump on a $450,000-a-month allowance. In exchange, he would continue to promote the business.

“I think bankers look at Trump as a promoter, not as a CEO. At least, that’s the way I looked at him,” Ben Berzin, who as vice president of Midlantic Bank helped negotiate Trump’s rescue, tells FRONTLINE. “And if you talk to other bankers, I think they share that opinion. He’s a wonderful promoter. He — you know, he’s the P. T. Barnum of the 21st century.”

Stream The Choice 2016 online, in full, any time, or watch an encore presentation Sunday night, October 9, on PBS.



Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE



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