Opinion

Steak, vodka… and board games? Here’s the Trump goes directly to jail edition

Donald Trump is now officially a felon, which is actually a badge of honour in certain business circles in which he mixes.

Trump may be dabbling in politics at the moment – I believe he was even handed a country to run at one point – but in his heart of hearts, he is a businessman. His father was a businessman, and his sons are businessmen. The art of the deal, baby!

The fascinating thing about Trump is that his high-value businesses tend to all succeed: the 16 golf courses, the casinos, the resorts, and wineries, and smart, city-centric real estate ventures. It’s only when he dips into novelty items that he fails. But that’s where he wants to be. He loves the art of the deal. He loves the pitch. Trump hosted The Apprentice, but what he actually wants to do is appear as a contestant on Shark Tank, week after week, making pitches, speeches, selling the dream.

Trump holds a portfolio of successful, high-class business interests, but he lives to shill steaks and invent board games. This speaks volumes, and will never stop being amusing.

In honour of his business nous and his pending prison stint, here are my five favourite Trump business ventures, in no particular order – other than for humour’s sake.

Trump’s three attempts to launch a board game

Trump has tried to release at least three board games. There may be even more that I’m not aware of, but, aside from the Parkers Brothers, I cannot think of anyone else so committed to the idea of landing a successful board game into the American market.

The first is Trump: The Game, which was released in 1989. The game tagline was “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether you win!” It made 800,000 sales, which seems like an unqualified success, until you learn that Milton Bradley produced and expected to sell 2 million. 

Trump launched the board game at Manhattan’s Trump Tower, by rolling 14-karat gold dice “at a ceremonial ‘closing of the deal’”, according to an LA Times report, which also explains: “In the game, players compete to buy eight lucrative real estate properties such as hotels, casinos or convention centres with play money starting in denominations of $10 million.”

In that same Times article, Trump is quoted as saying: “It’s much more sophisticated than Monopoly, which I’ve played all my life.”

A peek inside the box reveals why Trump wanted his own board game.

There’s Trump money. His face on money – which is probably the reason he became President, now that I think about it.

Fast forward to 2004, and The Apprentice is quite a big TV show, so he repackaged a sequel version to Trump: The Game (tagline: I’m back and you’re fired!) and followed this up the next year with The Apprentice Game.

We’re talking 2005, so of course there’s a battery-operated button-pad with recordings of Trump’s voice barking out commands. “Listen as Trump takes you through the tasks and into the board room”, the box yells at you, threateningly.

Donald Trump Eau De Toilette

What does success smell like? If Trump’s is any indication, it smells like sauce – whether it’s his controversial penchant for slathering tomato sauce on steaks, the cheeseburgers he eats for most meals, or even the pizza that he and his legal team have been ordering in during his trial.

So, it smells like sauce. But you can’t bottle sauce, right? So instead, Trump teamed with Macy’s and launched a bunch of colognes into the atmosphere, scents that harness nebulous qualities like wealth and charm. The first was just named after him – as is his way – and features a photo of he and his wife on the packaging.

Finally cottoning onto the single-evocative-word trend in the spray game, he launched ‘Success’ and ‘Empire’, before Macy’s was pressured into taking them off the shelves, and values skyrocketed to $180 a bottle. Now, that’s good business!

Trump Steaks

If Trump is going to put his name on a steak, it’s going to be the ‘World’s Greatest’, which is exactly what he did in 2006, when he sold a line of insanely priced steaks through The Sharper Image and QVC – which is basically a home catalogue company that specialises in appliances, and a home shopping TV network. I usually go to the supermarket for my steaks, but that’s because I am limited in my vision.

Completely misreading his modes of marketing, Trump offered the Connoisseur Collection – four porterhouse steaks, four filet mignon, four bone-in rib eyes, four boneless New York strip steaks and 24 Trump Steaks burgers for a cool US$999 (keep in mind, this was almost two decades ago).

Selling through QVC, which is a home shopping network that usually trades in George Foreman grills and Lisa Rinna’s dress lines, while charging the price of a second-hand jeep is a truly baffling move. 

“Treat yourself to the very best life has to offer,” Trump advised the NY Daily News. “One bite and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Believe me: I understand steaks. And Trump steaks are the best.”

The venture lasted 60 days before folding. Somewhere, there’s a warehouse filled with these gold-embossed Trump Steak boxes.

Trump Vodka

Again, this is Trump distilled, pun intended: he can have respectable business success with a series of upscale wineries  – but what he really wants is for college students to be pounding T&Ts at the bar. 

What’s a T&T, you ask? That’s a Trump and Tonic – the ‘Trump’ being Trump Vodka, which Donald launched in 2005. He boldly predicted the T & T would become the most ordered drink in America as he launched this ‘super premium’ vodka. 

Given I just spent a paragraph explaining what a T&T was, it’s safe to say the drink didn’t exactly catch on, despite Trump Vodka’s excellent slogan ‘Success Distilled’, and an advertising spiel promising the vodka would “demand the same respect and inspire the same awe as the international legacy and brand of Donald Trump himself”. A tall order, even at a college bar.

However, Trump did succeed in locking in a deal with Russian vodka distributor Recolte for an annual minimum order of 50,000 cases, valued at approximately $7.5 million. Selling ice to Eskimos, is the phrase, I believe. The art of the deal, baby!

By 2011, operations had wound down in the US and the Russian deal had expired, but Trump Vodka has since taken on a second life in Israel – albeit only in a short timeframe before Passover each year. As The Times of Israel explains, Trump Vodka is made from potatoes, rather than grain, and “as such is the only kosher-for-Passover option for those who observe the dietary restrictions of the holiday”.

Tour De Trump

This one sounds made up, I’ll admit, but in 1989, when he wasn’t scheming board game ideas like some manic Milton Bradley, Trump was plotting the American version of the Tour de France. 

The idea was actually conceived by a CBS Sports reporter, who covered the popular French countryside bike jaunt, and thought, ‘let’s steal that idea’. Casino owners were approached to bankroll it, Trump took the bait, and the naming rights – and the Tour De Trump was born – a ten-day, 1,347km bicycle race through five US states. 

Here’s Trump talking to the NY Times about the name – which he didn’t come up with, but “took approximately 20 seconds” to be persuaded of the value:

“It’s got a great ring to it. Some things hit you and some things don’t. I’m a very instinctive person… and the best things I do are following my instinct. When I don’t follow my instinct, I don’t do as well as when I do follow my instinct.”

Hilariously, he followed a terrible instinct and sued a parody bike race, the Tour De Rump, for cashing in on his good name, sending a cease-and-desist, which they ignored, and he forgot about. Within two years, Trump lost interest, and the race was renamed Tour DuPont, after the new sponsor – a multinational chemical company. 

We haven’t even scratched the surface here: there’s Trump Ice bottled water; GoTrump.com, which was a travel booking site; Trump Model Management; Trump Airlines, and Trump: The Presidency. There’s a lot of bad ideas there, each worse than the last.

Trump may be in prison soon, which gives him plenty of time to dream up the next big business venture. The only limit is imagination. And those pesky laws. 

Enjoy your weekend.

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