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New York Times reveals how The Apprentice "handed Trump a $427 million lifeline"

  • The second of The Times' bombshell reports on President Trump's taxes reveals how his NBC reality show was built on "a hoax." Trump boasted about being a billionaire who overcame financial hardship on his NBC reality show. “I used my brain, I used my negotiating skills and I worked it all out,” he told viewers. “Now, my company is bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was.” As The Times reports, "months after that inaugural episode in January 2004, Mr. Trump filed his individual tax return reporting $89.9 million in net losses from his core businesses for the prior year. The red ink spilled from everywhere, even as American television audiences saw him as a savvy business mogul with the Midas touch. But while the story of The Apprentice is by now well known, the president’s tax returns reveal another grand twist that has never been truly told — how the popularity of that fictional alter ego rescued him, providing a financial lifeline to reinvent himself yet again. And then how, in an echo of the boom-and-bust cycle that has defined his business career, he led himself toward the financial shoals he must navigate today. Mr. Trump’s genius, it turned out, wasn’t running a company. It was making himself famous — Trump-scale famous — and monetizing that fame. By analyzing the tax records, The New York Times was able to place a value on Mr. Trump’s celebrity. While the returns show that he earned some $197 million directly from The Apprentice over 16 years — roughly in line with what he has claimed — they also reveal that an additional $230 million flowed from the fame associated with it. The show’s big ratings meant that everyone wanted a piece of the Trump brand, and he grabbed at the opportunity to rent it out. There was $500,000 to pitch Double Stuf Oreos, another half-million to sell Domino’s Pizza and $850,000 to push laundry detergent." The Times adds: "The ratings success of The Apprentice, and the advertising dollars it generated, quickly pushed him into the unfamiliar position of declaring positive adjusted gross income on his I.R.S. Form 1040. After netting $11.9 million from the show in its first year, he really hit the jackpot in 2005 with $47.8 million, the tax records show. He made so much that over three years he paid a total of $70.1 million in income taxes (later refunded, with interest, via an aggressive accounting maneuver now under audit). The windfall, which continued — though in ever-dwindling amounts — until Mr. Trump became president, reflected an unusual arrangement that entitled him, as the show’s star, to half its profits. That included money from product placements on each episode that sometimes numbered more than 100 a month, with household names like Pepsi paying millions of dollars split between Mr. (Mark) Burnett and Mr. Trump."

    TOPICS: The Apprentice, NBC, The Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump, Mark Burnett, Reality TV, Tax Day