Donald Trump has long been obsessed with his ranking on The Forbes 400 of America’s wealthiest people, but he just suffered yet another humiliating blow this week (his time in court aside) when his name was dropped from the 2023 list.
Forbes reported Tuesday that Trump was $300 million short of the $2.9 billion cutoff to be a member of America’s most exclusive club. The magazine estimated his fortune at $2.6 billion.
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On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” political commentator and author Molly Jong-Fast had this to say about Trump being dropped off The Forbes 400 list: “Well, this is probably the thing that upsets him the most because he’s all about this image of himself as a billionaire. … But I think that for Trump this is like a blow to his heart. … There is going to be a lot of rage because his whole thing is that he’s rich.”
And Forbes’ estimate of Trump’s net worth comes before a judge decides how much Trump will have to pay for overvaluing his assets in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 million civil fraud lawsuit.
James alleged in a court filing that Trump's annual net worth was exaggerated by 17-39%, or between $812 million and $2.2 billion, from 2011 to 2021. Judge Arthur Engoron has already found that Trump and his company vastly overvalued his assets and exaggerated his net worth on paperwork used to make deals and secure loans on more favorable terms. Engoron also ruled that Trump’s business licenses be rescinded, making it difficult or impossible for them to do business in New York.
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And in a deposition shown in court Monday on the opening day of the trial, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen said that Trump’s obsession with his ranking on The Forbes 400 list also motivated him to inflate his wealth. The Hill reported:
Cohen, in a deposition to prosecutors, gave an example in which the former president might want to be “higher on the Forbes list,” so he’d suggest that, for example, his $6 billion net worth should actually be $8 billion.
“Allen and I were tasked with increasing those assets to accommodate that $8 billion number,” Cohen said.
Cohen was referring to Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, who was also named in James’ lawsuit. Weisselberg served roughly four months in jail under a plea deal for his role in a tax fraud scheme related to perks for senior Trump executives. He testified in a criminal trial that led to the conviction of two Trump Organization entities that were fined the maximum penalty of $1.6 million.
But Forbes’ decision to drop Trump from The Forbes 400 list has nothing to do with James’ lawsuit. Forbes reported that Trump’s net worth is down more than $600 million from a year ago—and the biggest reason is Truth Social.
Forbes wrote this about Trump’s social media business:
Trump once envisioned a significant percentage of the country logging onto the platform. But that never happened. Roughly 6.5 million have signed up so far, about 1% of the total on X (né Twitter). Trump’s 90% stake in Truth Social’s parent company has plummeted in value from an estimated $730 million to less than $100 million.
Forbes also said Trump’s office-building holdings went down in value by an estimated $170 million, most of that coming from his stake in the 555 California Street building in San Francisco. The problem according to Forbes is not the building’s performance to date but its future prospects because leases generating more than half of the building’s total rent revenues expire by the end of 2026, and property values in the neighborhood are dropping.
Trump’s stake in a building at 1290 Avenue of the Americas in New York City is down by about $60 million because the building’s biggest tenant, Equitable Holdings, is moving its headquarters to another building on the street next year, Forbes reported.
Forbes did indicate that there were some bright spots in Trump’s portfolio, such as his golf courses which are doing much better post-pandemic, with estimated revenues up to $150 million compared to $108 million pre-pandemic.
Trump has also liquidated some of his property holdings in recent years, including the sale of his money-losing Washington, D.C., hotel for the astronomical sum of $375 million. Forbes wrote:
All of it helped boost Trump’s liquid holdings to an estimated $426 million, making his cash pile the most valuable asset in his portfolio today.
That money may come in handy, given the deluge of legal threats Trump is currently facing. Among the cases: the $250 million fraud suit from the New York attorney general, who is accusing him of lying about his net worth to financial institutions for years—just as he lied to Forbes.
This isn’t the first time Trump has been dropped from The Forbes 400 list, but he may have trouble getting back on it as he’s done twice before. He fell off the list in 1990 after he secured huge loans that led to multiple bankruptcies. Forbes said it “exposed deep problems with his debt-fueled empire, ultimately putting his net worth `within hailing distance of zero.’”
But Trump managed to rebound and get back on the list in 1996, where he remained until 2021.”That’s when six years of polarization and one year of Covid finally caught up to him, dropping him from the ranks once again,” Forbes wrote.
It was thanks to Truth Social that Trump managed to get back on the list in 2022, with an estimated net worth of $3.2 billion. After getting banned by Twitter following the Jan. 6 insurrection, Trump sought to get revenge by launching his own social media platform, Truth Social, in October 2021 to communicate with his followers.
He got investors to pour money into a special-purpose-acquisition-company (SPAC), Digital World Acquisition Corp., that planned to merge with the Trump Media & Technology Group, Truth Social’s parent company. Its shares shot up from $10 to $175 in two days, which put Trump’s interest at $19 billion on paper. Forbes more conservatively valued Trump’s interest at only $730 million, or $10 per share.
But Trump’s venture came under investigation by the Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Financial Regulatory Agency, which were looking into trading activity and communications between the SPAC and Trump’s business. Truth Social’s prospects were further hurt after Elon Musk bought Twitter and lifted the bans on Trump and right-wing extremists, reducing interest in a more conservative version of Twitter.
In April 2023, Forbes reported on the plunge in Trump’s net worth due to the flop of Truth Social. Forbes wrote:
Truth Social is adding an estimated 100,000 users per month. If people continue to join at the current pace—and assuming that no one quits or dies—Truth Social will not hit its projected 81 million users until 2086. By that point, Trump would be 140 years old. A more likely outcome: Truth Social will join Trump Steaks, Trump University and GoTrump.com in the graveyard of failed Trump ventures.
Trump made it on to the inaugural list of The Forbes 400 in 1982 after publisher Malcolm Forbes came up with the idea a year earlier. But Forbes wrote that Trump “conned his way into sharing a spot on the inaugural list in 1982 with his father, Fred Trump, by convincing a reporter that he held a larger percentage of Fred’s fortune than he actually did.”
And that deception continued as Jonathan Greenberg, a former Forbes reporter, wrote in a 2018 piece in The Washington Post. Back in 1984, Greenberg was working on the list as a Forbes reporter, when he received a phone call from a Trump Organization official telling him how rich Donald Trump was and how Forbes had underestimated his wealth at $200 million the previous year. Greenberg said the official identified himself as John Barron—“a name we now know as an alter ego of Trump himself.”
Barron tried to convince Greenberg that Trump deserved his own place on the list because he should be considered a billionaire, claiming that he now owned more than 90% of the family business and was racking up lots of home runs in his real estate investments. But Greenberg suspected that this was untrue:
It took decades to unwind the elaborate farce Trump had enacted to project an image as one of the richest people in America. Nearly every assertion supporting that claim was untrue. Trump wasn’t just poorer than he said he was. Over time, I have learned that he should not have been on the first three Forbes 400 lists at all. In our first-ever list, in 1982, we included him at $100 million, but Trump was actually worth roughly $5 million — a paltry sum by the standards of his super-monied peers — as a spate of government reports and books showed only much later. [...]
I was a determined 25-year-old reporter, and I thought that, by reeling Trump back from some of his more outrageous claims, I’d done a public service and exposed the truth. But his confident deceptions were so big that they had an unexpected effect: Instead of believing that they were outright fabrications, my Forbes colleagues and I saw them simply as vain embellishments on the truth. We were so wrong
This was a model Trump would use for the rest of his career, telling a lie so cosmic that people believed that some kernel of it had to be real. The tactic landed him a place he hadn’t earned on the Forbes list — and led to future accolades, press coverage and deals. It eventually paved a path toward the presidency.
Here’s a video report featuring an interview with Forbes senior editor Dan Alexander, who wrote the story about Trump falling off the list of richest Americans:
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