He's an excellent teacher.

Photographer: Peter Kramer/Getty Images

Dear Mr. Trump: I'm Worth $10 Billion, Too

Timothy L. O'Brien is the executive editor of Bloomberg Gadfly and Bloomberg View. He has been an editor and writer for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, HuffPost and Talk magazine. His books include "TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald."
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I’m worth $10 billion. There, I’ve said it and it feels good.

I’ve always been hesitant about disclosing my wealth, largely because going public creates a lot of problems that average Americans aren’t familiar with: cold calls from financial managers, probing questions from the Internal Revenue Service, family members eagerly awaiting your death, and so on.

But no longer. I’m a free man. And I’d like to thank the person who liberated me: Donald Trump.

Donald and I first met in the ’90s when I was writing a book about gambling, and we intersected again later when I was a reporter for the New York Times. Eventually I wrote a book, “TrumpNation,” that looked at Donald’s myriad roles as a carnival-barker-cum-real-estate-developer-cum-gambling-mogul-cum-celebrity.

Donald cooperated with the project, and I spent time on his plane, in his cars, at his homes, in his office, and out and about, absorbing some valuable business lessons. After the book came out, I didn’t hear from Donald for a few months. Then, in early 2006, he sued me for $5 billion (half of my net worth!), claiming that the book libeled him because it expressed some skepticism about his wealth.

But Donald had no idea how hard it was to get this right! On a single day in August 2004, he told me his net worth was $4 billion to $5 billion, then revised that later the same day to $1.7 billion. Forbes said at the time he was worth $2.6 billion. A year later Donald told me he was worth $5 billion to $6 billion, but a brochure left on my nightstand at his Palm Beach resort said he was worth $9.5 billion. When I interviewed Donald’s chief financial officer in a Trump Organization conference room in 2005 to discuss the range of numbers, the figure shared with me was $5 billion, not $6 billion. “I’m going to go to my office and find that other billion,” the CFO advised.

My sources at the time – all of whom had worked closely with Donald and had direct knowledge of his finances – believed that his net worth was $150 million to $250 million. Donald attributed those figures to naysayers.

“You can go ahead and speak to guys who have four-hundred-pound wives at home who are jealous of me,” he told me, “but the guys who really know me know I’m a great builder.”

When the net worth confusion appeared in my book, Donald sued, saying that low-balling his riches had damaged his reputation. My attorneys proceeded to get Donald’s tax, bank and property records. We stood our ground, and the suit was dismissed in 2009. Donald appealed, and in 2011 an appellate court affirmed the earlier ruling.

My lawyers deposed Donald for two days during the litigation, and we covered a range of interesting subjects. Among the documents discussed was a Deutsche Bank assessment that pegged Donald’s net worth at $788 million in 2005. At the time, Donald was telling his bankers and casino regulators that he was worth $3.6 billion; he was telling me he was worth $5 billion to $6 billion.

Have you “always been completely truthful in your public statements about your net worth,” my attorneys asked Donald. “I try,” was his reply. When they asked him about how he calculated his net worth, he noted that the figure “goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings.” Later he added that “even my own feelings affect my value to myself.”

Donald and I haven’t been in touch much recently. But when he announced his presidential run last month, waving a document showing a net worth of more than $8.7 billion, I paid attention. When he filed with the Federal Election Commission last week, his net worth had risen $1.3 billion over the course of a month to $10 billion. A warm glow washed over me. After all, I have feelings, too. So I roughed out some numbers over the weekend, and here’s how I feel about the $10 billion I've amassed:

  • My wife and I bought a house several years ago for $1.1 million. But we raised our children in it, we have a great herb garden, two dogs, a fleet of groundhogs, and I live there. Value: $6 billion.
  • I own a Ford Escape Hybrid, which we bought several years ago for about $35,000. Ford stopped making hybrid Escapes, so they’re prized among environmentally-aware drivers. I drive it. Value: $3 billion.
  • Scottish woolens, German knives, French art (I used to live in Europe). Value: $300 million.
  • A Japanese kimono, Chinese jades, Thai fabrics (I used to live in Asia). Value: $300 million.
  • Argentine silver, Chilean wine, an alpaca poncho and a bottle of Inca Kola (I used to live in South America). Value: $300 million.
  • My son’s collection of Pokemon cards and the future value of any best-sellers I write (I’m planning on defining “best-selling business book of all time” the way Donald did for “The Art of the Deal.”) Value: $100 million.

Of course, these numbers could change. But Donald has given me a newfound confidence (even though I’m a member of his “loser list”). Next week I just might feel good enough to run for president.

Me and my future running mate.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author on this story:
Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net