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22 May 2024

The Palm is our Trump card

By Primrose Skelton



Flamboyant billionaire Donald Trump and his family have revealed how the multi-million-dollar decision to invest on The Palm Jumeirah took just three hours – so convinced were they that the emirate is a huge global player.


Trump and his three children Donald Jr, Ivanka (pictured above) and Eric, had flown into Dubai three years ago for an initial study of the blueprint for the Nakheel offshore development. It was expected it would take weeks or even months to take the plunge, but in less than half a day the biggest family in real estate had put their name to the iconic project.


In an exclusive interview with Business 24|7, Ivanka, who alongside her siblings is the vice-president of Real Estate Development and Acquisitions at the Trump Organisation, explains why she wants the Trump brand to grow in Dubai.


“We knew we wanted to be part of the project and as soon as we saw the plans by Nakheel we quickly progressed and went for it. When we returned from the first meeting in Dubai we sat in our offices in New York and thrashed out the details,” says the 26-year-old, whose first project on joining her father’s company was to negotiate the Palm Trump Hotel and Tower.


“We are going to be the flagship of The Palm, which is not only testament to the Trump brand internationally, but the involvement in such a magnificent project. We are very excited about it and are very lucky to be involved,” gushes Ivanka. “At the end of the day we are a family organisation and are lean and mean in terms of planning. We don’t believe in prolonging the inevitable. There is such a great opportunity in Dubai and I admire greatly what Nakheel is doing.”


Dubai is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and Ivanka strongly believes it is the place to invest.


“I heard about Dubai when I first started working, and knew what was going on. But I don’t think you can really know the magnitude of what is happening without visiting it.


“It is a hot real estate market. I tell all my friends to go to Dubai, whether they’re in property, finance or an architect – although it’s impossible to actually find an architect at the moment because they’re all in Dubai – to see for themselves what is happening.”


Ivanka’s no-nonsense approach to the project impressed people who had been in the business for years, including her father. “I know people assume I could coast on what other generations have done before me. But I knew I had to prove myself quickly within the company, to my father and everyone else, and that still means working hard today.”


As the daughter of the property tycoon it would have been easy for Ivanka to follow the path of American socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie – live on her name and party on her trust fund. Yet the pretty blonde has never rested on her laurels, or her father’s reputation, and is now one of the most important figures in real estate.


During our interview her mobile trills, her BlackBerry goes crazy and her brother Eric walks in wanting to discuss business, and all this under the watchful eye of her father, who works in the same building and checks in throughout the day. “Ultimately, he is my boss, and his approval validates everything I’m working on,” she says.


Ivanka gets up around 5am and makes her way from her Park Avenue apartment to the offices yards from Central Park on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. Despite her early start “I have no time for the gym these days”, the first thing she does is apologise for her inconvenient schedule.


And it is this Trump charm that has got her to where she is today. “My father always installed in me a sense of kindness and respect,” she says.


At present there are 33 Trump holdings and more than 70 projects and it is up to Ivanka and her siblings to continue taking the Trump brand worldwide.


“It’s in our blood – we’re highly competitive,” Ivanka says, but the idea was always “to harness that competition and use it to propel us forward together, collectively, as a team”.


But she also assures me that her father will not hesitate to fire her. “He would absolutely, and I am not even joking. That is one of the things about my dad, if his employers are good they get rewarded, if they are not they will be out. He is not interested in people who don’t live up to their potential. He has worked hard to build up this business and he deserves the best people working for him. I strongly believe he is a real estate genius so he knows what is needed to succeed in the business.”


And what exactly is that special quality that gets someone a job with the Trumps? “Determination, persistence and passion,” notes Ivanka. “But even more than that, it is drive. Ask yourself if you want it enough. Do you want it more than the person next to you? They might be smarter, but if they don’t want it, they won’t succeed.”


After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a BSc in economics Ivanka spent two years with Forest City Enterprises – a United States real estate developer – before joining her father’s company in 2004.


Ivanka, who enjoys reading historical fiction and going out for dinner with friends, has clearly inherited a little of her father’s instinct as well as a liberal use of superlatives. Everything is “the biggest”, “the tallest”, “the first”, “the most incredible”, which places her well in line with the attitude of Dubai’s visionary leaders. “What is happening in Dubai is quite amazing. No one would have imagined a project the size and scale and ambition of The Palm Jumeirah could ever be created. There is so much to learn from the project, it’s going to teach a whole generation of engineers how to better reclaim land. It really is an incredible thing.”


But it is not only the “huge buildings and size and scale of the projects” that enthral Ivanka, she is also amazed by the “architecturally significant work being built”. “This is great testament to the rulers of Dubai and the developers around the Middle East.”


Ivanka Marie Trump was born on October 30, 1981, in New York City to Donald and Ivana. At the age of 15 she joined Choate Rosemary Hall, a boarding school in Connecticut. Although her parent’s finances could have allowed Ivanka to waste money, her mother made her pay her own phone bills. To make some extra cash, she started modelling for Versace and Thierry Mugler, and in 1997 Ivanka appeared on the cover of Seventeen magazine.


With her mane of hair, size two figure and her beautifully defined features she could have easily made a career for herself as a model. But her ambition and drive led her to the real estate market where today she combines the two.


“I am currently the face of the Chicago project and a new condominium in Soho, Manhattan, called Trump Soho. I think my dad likes to save money on models, so I do it,” she jokes.


Alongside her role in the Trump Organisation she has just joined forces with Dynamic Diamond Corp, a diamond trading company sightholder, to design and introduce a line of jewellery. The first store opened on Madison Avenue just over a month and a half ago and has been a huge success.


Ivanka is also working on projects from Las Vegas to Panama to Scotland.


Yet her priority at the moment is The Palm Jumeirah. “I am involved in each of our developments going on around the globe, but Dubai is the main focus of the Middle East for the moment.”


The palm project


The Palm Trump International Hotel and Tower, also referred to as Trump Tower Dubai, will be the luxury centrepiece of the Palm Golden Mile, located on The Palm Jumeirah. Initially the tower was shaped like an opening golden tulip, but in April 2006 its design was changed to feature a split linked tower.


It will be a 48-storey mixed-use condo-hotel and residence with a 300-room five-star hotel and 360 freehold residential apartments. The Dh2.2 billion development is the first joint venture between Nakheel and The Trump Organisation.