- Mark Makela/Getty Images
Mark September 14, 2016, as the day The Donald came out of Ivanka Trump and reared its ugly head for all of America to see.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Ivanka was asked to comment on a statement her father made in 2004. Donald said then that pregnancy was an “inconvenience” for a business.
Ivanka, who the next day would voice her full-throated support for women in the workplace, sitting by her father’s side on a taped interview for “The Dr. Oz Show,” refused to be held accountable for her father’s opinions.
“So I think that you have a lot of negativity in these questions, and I think my father has put forth a very comprehensive and really revolutionary plan to deal with a lot of issues. So I don’t know how useful it is to spend too much time with you on this if you’re going to make a comment like that.”
Donald’s refusal to take responsibility for himself and his businesses is something to which Americans have grown all too accustomed. It’s part of his reputation – but it’s a part that has not extended to Ivanka.
Perhaps it should.
To America, Ivanka is the best thing Donald ever did – his most successful enterprise. She has been assigned all of his good qualities and none of his bad ones, and her quiet demeanor has been useful in softening the rougher edges of his campaign and held up as an example of Trump family values.
But values are sometimes relative.
Take the case of Trump Entertainment Resorts – the entity that held Trump’s Atlantic City casinos, including the Trump Taj Mahal – as a starting point. The casinos went bankrupt in 2009, just a few days after both Donald and Ivanka resigned from the board, citing “internal turmoil” due to the casino’s poor financial performance.
Of course, the Trumps were still debt holders in the company and had a say in the bankruptcy proceedings. To make a long story short, two plans were presented to the court. One, championed by billionaire investor Carl Icahn, would clear the company’s balance sheet of $334 million in debt. Then the company would spend $15 million rebranding the casinos.
The other, championed by the Trumps and other debt holders, would reorganize the company with that debt still on the books. Creditors like the Trumps would make out better, though, and there was another added bonus – the casinos would get to use the Trump brand.
The court, citing the value of having the Trump name on the property, went with the latter plan, and the casinos got to use the Ivanka and Donald Trump brand and likeness free of royalties. Sort of.
“No payments were made to the Trump Parties during 2010 under the Trademark License Agreement nor were any payments made to Mr. Trump under the previous trademark license agreement during 2009 or 2010,” the company said in government documents in 2011.
It’s a little bit more complicated than that. The casino ended up spending a ton of money on Trump products, including about a quarter of a million dollars for Trump-branded water in both 2009 and 2010. Those payments, however, went to third-party vendors – to whoever it is who gets a cut of that particular piece of the Trump brand – and then into the Trump universe.
From the filing:
“In the normal course of business, we engage in various transactions with other entities owned by the Trump Parties. We engaged in the following transactions: $47,000 and $79,000 for leasing certain office space in Trump Tower in Manhattan during 2010 and 2009, respectively; $3,000 and $77,000 for the periodic use of Mr. Trump’s airplane and golf-courses to entertain high-end customers during 2010 and 2009, respectively; and $33,000 in helicopter lease payments during 2010.
“Additionally, in the ordinary course of business during 2010 and 2009, we purchased from third party vendors $405,000 and $500,000, respectively, of Trump labeled merchandise, including $271,000 and $277,000, respectively, for Trump Ice bottled water served to our customers. While we do not directly pay royalties on such merchandise to Mr. Trump, he may be entitled to royalties from these third party vendors.”
Trump Entertainment Resorts was not long for this world after that. Again sidled with debt and unable to make ends meet, the casinos went back into bankruptcy a few years later. In 2015, the Trumps sued to have their name taken off the casinos. They argued that the fact that the casinos had fallen into “disrepair” was a violation of the licensing agreement.
“The Trump name … has become synonymous with the highest levels of quality, luxury, prestige and success,” the Trumps argued in their complaint.
This time, a judge disagreed with them. The Trumps lost that case, and the name stayed. The Trump Taj Mahal eventually ended up in Icahn’s hands after the 2015 bankruptcy process, and the Trumps lost their 10% stake. However, Icahn ended up sinking $100 million into the company before he announced last month that he, too, would leave Atlantic City.
Donald’s manner of dealing with people and business was always a part of Ivanka’s consciousness, and it was always given a gentler interpretation. What some might have seen as cruelty she saw as a form of discipline.
In Ivanka’s book “The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and in Life,” she recounted how her father once left his second ex-wife, Marla Maples, stranded on the tarmac to watch as the Trump jet flew away.
Maples had been a few minutes late, Ivanka wrote, and Donald had grown tired of her consistent tardiness. Ivanka took that incident as a valuable, constructive lesson on punctuality. She says she is now never late.
Ivanka spent more time with her father than any of the Trump children, so of course there were early lessons in the family licensing business, too.
“The time with her father had an effect. The associate said, ‘I remember returning a call to Donald at home. Ivanka answers the phone.’ The man lived in New Jersey, and he told her about a flyer he’d received in the mail, advertising a suburban boutique called Ivanka’s. Ivanka was exasperated. ‘She was, like, ‘I told Dad we should copyright my name! I told him!’ She was about fourteen at the time.”
Decades later – copyright or not – that name is truly a brand in its own right. Like her father, Ivanka is in the business of lending her name to a product and taking a small fraction of the profits – sometimes a very small fraction.
And so Ivanka’s job is not to make things; it is to sell them (and herself). The making is left to others – others who may not be as aware as Ivanka is that the name Trump is “synonymous with the highest levels of quality, luxury, prestige and success.”
In April, 20,000 Ivanka Trump-branded scarves made in China were recalled because of “burn risk,” as they did not meet federal flammability standards.
And in June, the Italian shoe company Aquazzura sued Ivanka and her partners in her accessories business for copying its shoe designs.
“Upon information and belief, Defendants Ivanka Trump and her company IT partnered with Marc Fisher in or around 2010 to launch her eponymous footwear brand. Seeking the same success Aquazzura experienced but without having to put in the hard creative work, Defendants resorted to knocking off Plaintiff’s popular designs,” the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint.
- Trump vs. Aquazurra
The “Wild Thing,” Aquazzura argued, is not the only knockoff, just the most egregious. Aquazzura has complained about all the shoes below. Ivanka’s company stopped making its “Necila” as the result of one complaint.
- Trump vs. Aquazurra
All of Aquazzura’s allegations have been met with denials from Ivanka’s attorneys.
Here’s a sample:
“Defendant denies the allegations contained in Paragraph 67 of the Complaint. WHEREFORE, Defendant prays that this Court dismisses the action with prejudice in its entirety, orders that Plaintiff pay Defendant’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and for such other and further relief as the Court deems just and appropriate.”
Naturally, however, entanglements like this do not match the measured image Ivanka has so carefully crafted.
And so far during the campaign, she has not been asked to account for them. In fact, Ivanka has generally been treated with kid gloves. She’s supposed to be the responsible Trump, after all, so no one pushes back against her statements or asks follow-up questions.
When people do, though, they may find that Ivanka doesn’t like “negativity” and will soon “have to run,” just as she did when she was asked during her Cosmo interview to take responsibility for things her father had said.
It’s times like that when Ivanka breaks character and The Donald inside comes out.