April 21, 2011 -- Donald Trump -- or companies that bear his name - have declared bankruptcy four times.
Trump has built an American empire from Las Vegas to New York with towering hotels and sparkling casinos. Forbes estimates he's worth $2.7 billion. But not all of Trump's business ventures have been constant money-makers. In 1991, 1992, 2004, and again in 2009, Trump branded companies or properties have sought Chapter 11 protection.
"I've used the laws of this country to pare debt. ... We'll have the company. We'll throw it into a chapter. We'll negotiate with the banks. We'll make a fantastic deal. You know, it's like on 'The Apprentice.' It's not personal. It's just business," Trump told ABC's George Stephanopoulos last Thursday.
A business declaring bankruptcy is nothing new in corporate America, where bankruptcy is often sugar-coated as "restructuring debt." But it might seem alarming to everyday Americans who can't get a bank to restructure their home loans. If you want to get Donald Trump hot under the collar, accuse him of declaring bankruptcy.
Doug Heller, the executive director of Consumer Watchdog, said Trump is the "most egregious, almost comical example" of the disparity between what the average American faces when going through bankruptcy and the "ease with which the very rich can move in and out of bankruptcy."
"Under the American bankruptcy laws, if you end up in bankruptcy because you're struggling with divorce or medical payments or a sudden change of income, it's a disaster. If you fail miserably with huge dollars involved then you just need some accountants to rework your books," Heller said.
The multi-billionaire touts his huge net worth and big business experience as qualifications for his possible presidential run. Trump recently bragged that he has "a much bigger net worth" than Mitt Romney, who he said is "basically a small business guy."
"I'm a much bigger businessman. … I mean, my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney's," Trump said.
The big business man has wrangled with big debt in the past 20 years. Trump's first visit to bankruptcy court was in 1991, when his Atlantic City casino, the Taj Mahal, was buried under a mountain of debt. The Taj carried a $1 billion price tag and was financed by junk bonds carrying a staggering 14 percent interest rate. As construction completed, the economy slumped, as did the Atlantic City gambling scene, soon plunging Trump into $3.4 billion of debt.