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  • Martin Sosnoff

My Country Right Or Wrong But My Country

(This piece responds to Donald Trump’s outburst that our fighting men resting eternally in our cemetery and memorial in Normandy were a bunch of dumb suckers.)

Trump didn’t serve in the Vietnam war. He was of age but got himself a personal doctor's letter stating he was medically unfit for service. Trump then went on to get involved in the Las Vegas gaming scene where I was a player, owning a piece of the Golden Nugget.

Then, I was told to sell out my casino holdings to Steve Wynn, by Perry Thorne, Wynn’s banker. Howard Hughes was camped out in Vegas. He perceived The Strip as a great land play. Operators called him “Crazy Howard” but he did nicely for himself.

Operators of grind joints despised Donald Trump because he was disrupting traditional valuations for Las Vegas properties, Trump barely got to first base. Later on, when I asked Merrill Lynch’s investment bankers who backed Trump in his Taj Mahal property in New Jersey. They sheepishly said “Well…. we bought the name.”

The Taj was a grandiose monster that ended badly. Years ago, the New York Times did an in-depth study of Trump's finances, but it was badly flawed. They could deal only with one side of his balance sheet, loans outstanding.

Come 1954, New York was the epicenter of Abstract Expressionism, but nobody paid serious money for art. Dealers sold for $1,000 first class paintings by Marc Rothko, Jackson Pollack and later Basquiat came in from the streets where he was chalking up subway cars.

How many interested followers know that Trump held a minority interest in the Trump Tower. Equitable Insurance originally was the majority owner with a 65% interest.

In the financial world, hard facts can be elusive or covered up! The Continental Bank in Chicago, a long-term fixture, came apart when crude oil prices dropped below $9 a barrel (presently $91) continental, proved undercollateralized, and had to fold. Normally, I won’t invest in a company whose headman doesn’t seem kosher. I invested with Larry Tisch, even Saul Steinberg, who understood the insurance sector, and did well with Reliance. Saul gobbled too much chocolate ice cream straight from the container. His obesity was a killer.

Every decade harbors its own “The King is Naked" stories. I remember warning my daughter, Mindy, about investing all her profit sharing capital in her company, WorldCom. Their numbers are too pretty. Min, I don’t believe them. I said the same about Enron, which blew up, too.

Great wealth from operators normally finds its way back into the mainstream. You are supposed to build new hospitals, performing arts centers, university chairs, and scholarship grants. Where is Trump in all this if he really swims in largesse? Don’t look for billion dollar endowment grants. You won’t find them.

In the fifties, I bought art from my friends in Woodstock for $300 a piece. Then I paid for them at $25 a month for a year. The sole collectors with money were Peggy Guggenheim and David Rockefeller.

During the Great Depression, I was just a kid in grade school, who lived off baked potatoes topped with sour cream. Got a great education in the public school system, the high school of Music and Art and City College. Didn’t cost me a dime. Mayor La Guardia found the money to build specialty schools even in hard times.

Our contemporary arts collection started when just back from the Korean War in 1954. It’s earmarked for exciting museums, venues, worldwide.

What has Trump got to give away, his blue suits?

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