Ivanka Trump: 'Nepotism Got Me in the Door'

Mogul-in-training talks about her business savvy, engagement and more.

October 12, 2009, 10:43 AM

Oct. 13, 2009— -- Ivanka Trump pleaded guilty about belonging to a lucky gene pool. But, born into one of the world's most affluent families, the 27-year-old daughter of real estate mogul Donald Trump said privilege wasn't everything.

"You can be born into privilege, or you can not be born into privilege. You can be born into the opposite extreme and into poverty. I think from there on though, you really do have to make your luck," she said.

And it seems that Ivanka has taken full advantage of all her assets. For the past three years, the former international fashion model has showed off her business savvy as executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump organization.

"I joke about titles at our company," she said, "It's my father, and then everyone else."

Trading her high heels for construction boots, Ivanka helped oversee the construction of the new Trump Soho -- a 46-story hotel condominium in downtown New York. The project is her baby -- a $450 million baby at that. It's set to open Feb. 1, 2010.

From the rooftop of the penthouse suite at the Trump Soho, the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and all the other major landmarks of the New York City skyline are visible on a clear day. But for someone who has spent most of her life in buildings with her family's name festooned on the front, handling the responsibilities of a multi-million dollar property is just another day at the office.

The titan-in-training also recently launched her own high-end jewelry line, with a boutique on Madison Avenue.

In her new book, "The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life," Trump writes about life lessons for business success that she learned from her upbringing. She tells young women how to focus at work, negotiate with gumption and thrive in uncertainty.

"I think you have to understand the objective of the person you're negotiating with, and I think you have to understand your own," she said, about how to be a good negotiator.

Despite her drive, Trump acknowledged that if she had a different last name, she wouldn't hold the title of vice president.

"I believe that, of course, nepotism got me in the door. It would be silly to say otherwise," she said. But "if I was not performing in a way that was satisfactory ... I could not stay within the organization."

Trump to Trump: 'You're Fired!?'

Trump not only works with her father at the Trump organization but also plays a role on his hit TV show, "Celebrity Apprentice." She marvels at how her father has turned himself into a household name.

"What he has done is truly remarkable," she said. "There is no businessman who is a brand in and of himself in the same way that he is, and it is such a unique thing and it's very beneficial for everything that we do."

Despite his television persona, Trump defended her dad against his growing reputation as a demanding boss and bully.

"He is fiercely loyal, and when people hit him, he will hit them back three times harder. With that said, if you speak to any of his friends, he is the best friend you could possibly have," she said.

"Nightline" sat down with Trump to talk about his daughter. He said that if she weren't pulling her weight at the company, he would deliver the words that have become his popular catch phrase:"You're fired!"

"If Ivanka was not doing a great job, I would essentially, but in a nicer way, tell her, 'You're fired,'" he said. The same holds true for her two brothers, Donald Jr. and Eric, who are also employed by their father.

But there seems to be no chance of that happening anytime soon, with Ivanka thriving in the fast-paced blood sport of international real estate.

"She is very serious, I guess she is ambitious, but I am not sure I like that word," Trump said. "She just loves what she does."

Everything hasn't always been easy for the heiress. When she was 9 years old, her world was rocked when her famous parents, Donald and Ivana Trump split. The divorce was played out across tabloid headlines.

"That was not particularly fun. Nobody wants to see, you know, the tabloid one liners, on the cover," she said. "When something like this happens, and you see your family and your home sort of crumbling, I think you start to really cling to people a little bit more, and my brothers and I became incredibly close in a relationship that extends to today."

Ivanka Wants Family of Her Own

As a first step in establishing her own family, Trump recently became engaged to Jared Kushner, the 28-year-old owner of the New York Observer and fellow real estate mogul, who, she said, is also her best friend. Kushner gave her a nearly 6-karat diamond engagement ring, designed by the head of her jewelry line.

The driven couple shares a passion for work, going into the office on Sundays. "We work two blocks from each other on Sundays too. I can actually look out my window and see into his window," she said. "We spend time together, albeit, not directly together on our Sundays."

Trump declined to discuss her recent conversion to Judaism -- the newfound religion she now shares with her fiance.

"I've converted to Judaism not to marry him, but I am marrying him," she said, highlighting the distinction. "I choose not to talk about this because it think in life there are some things that are personal and between people, and once I open this can of worms everyone will think it's OK to have this discussion with me."

But for the heiress who seems to have it all, there's at least one thing she wants that she doesn't have.

"Personally, obviously, I want a family. You know that's something I'd love to have. A houseful of cute little kids ... like four or five," she said. "So that's something that I've got to get cracking, but I'm not there yet."

CLICK HERE to read an excerpt of Ivanka's new book, "The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life."

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