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23 April 2024

Why Ivana doesn’t need the Trump tag

By Primrose Skelton




Dubai is an architects’ dream and a playground for imaginative real estate entrepreneurs, believes Ivana Trump, ex-wife of property tycoon Donald and vice-president of interior design at the Trump Organisation.


“Dubai is like Disneyland for grown-ups. Architects are very lucky because they have free reign to do pretty much whatever they want. Dubai is open to new and modern ideas and that makes it a wonderful place for new construction,” she told Emirates Business, while in the emirate to launch a new project with the Darvesh Group.


“Dubai is a hot and desirable market at the moment and people are actually encouraged to put their vision into buildings, which is wonderful and something I am very excited about,” she said.


Maybe best known for her marriage into the Trump family, Ivana knows better than to rely on her former husband’s money and reputation to get ahead in business.

The 59-year-old, dressed immaculately in a fitted white suit and designer sunglasses, is a successful woman in her own right and one of the most recognised, and glamorous women in real estate.


Ivana has firmly made her mark in the industry. Alongside her interior work she has her own line of jewellery, clothes and boutiques, is author of three books and a partner in numerous real estate developments around the world.


And she believes it is all down to working with the family, not living off the Trump brand. “I don’t need Trump, I am known like Madonna, by one name, Ivana.”


She also believes businesses, like many in Dubai, are best run by families. “I adore family run businesses, they are secure, there is trust and you can rely on people. Family will always give you 100 per cent, which is why I work so closely with mine today,” said Ivana, who has three children, Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka, and Eric, each of them vice-presidents of real estate development and acquisitions at the Trump Organisation.


“When I ran the Plaza it was the best hotel in North America because I ran it with the family. I have a fabulous relationship with all my children. The two boys and Ivanka are travelling a lot for Donald at the moment so I don’t see them that much, but I think the business is great experience for them.


“Although family members sometimes disagree, and there might be rivalry between siblings, at the end of the day they are family and it always works out,” she added.

Ivana, in Dubai this week to announce Le Diamond – a $6 billion project to construct premium residential and commercial twin towers at Dubai Waterfront and 10 other developments in the Middle East and India – has made her name in interior design, putting her own stamp on luxury properties around the world. She was responsible for the interior design of all Trump Organisation real estate, including the Grand Hyatt, Trump Tower, Trump Plaza and the Trump Casino in Atlantic City and under her leadership, The Plaza was recognised as “The Best Luxury Hotel in the USA”.


Ivana, who admits she loves “all that shimmers,” will be furnishing the towers with “wonderful décor, luxurious furnishings and gorgeous designs. We will do it with great style and sophistication and glamour – which is what I have done in the past.


“My style is not trendy. I like modern, soft designs and will probably reproduce the cut of the diamond in various ways throughout the interior. We will replicate the Le Diamond in each country, including India and Bahrain. Each will have the same sophistication, the same style and the same services, including the latest technology, security, 24-hour concierge and housekeeping,” said Ivana, who admits to already buying a place in the Le Diamond residential tower. 


It will cost about $6bn to $8bn and have the “Ivana brand stamped all over it”. 

Despite already being worth millions, Czechoslovakian-born Ivana doesn’t rest on her laurels. She is continuing the expansion of the Ivana brand with her line of clothing, fashion, jewellery and beauty products that are sold through television shopping channels in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. She is in the process of building Ivana Great Barrier Reef Condominium Resort Complex in Australia and the Ivana Las Vegas Hotel, which will become the tallest building in Vegas standing at 73 stories, 281.9 metres (925ft), when complete.


She is also half way through a new book on how to turn a small business into a global phenomenon. This, she says, will be a “useful guide to anyone wanting to turn their hobby into a Martha Stewart-type enterprise”.


“It’s about turning a passion into money and being successful with it. My experience will be helpful for others,” says Ivana, who has already had three books published, including the now famous The Best is Yet to Come: Coping with Divorce and Enjoying Life Again.


On April 7, 1977, Ivana Zelníãkov became Mrs Donald Trump after marrying at a lavish society wedding, and set to work on several massive projects, including the construction of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Today Ivana is still the only woman with a licence to run a casino – something she is very proud of. “To be in such a male-orientated world is hard, but I made sure I succeeded and ended up single handedly running the casino in Atlantic City.


“I set an example that people had to follow and work with dignity and believe women are better in the hospitality business because they have a better eye for it.”


After 14 years of marriage Ivana filed for divorce but ensured she got her share of the money. Although figures were never disclosed it is estimated she received $20 million, plus the $14m family estate in Connecticut and a $5m housing allowance.


After a brief two-year marriage to Riccardo Mazzucchelli, she is now engaged again and in April will tie the knot with fiancé Rossano Rubicondi, 35, at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. Despite a 23-year age gap the feisty blonde, who spent Tuesday looking for wedding bands at the Dubai Gold and Diamond Park, insists she wouldn’t have it any other way.


“If I had an older guy I would give them six months – they would die,” she laughs.


“I have so much energy. I’m on planes all the time and I need someone who can keep up,” said Ivana, who splits her time between homes in New York, Florida, Palm Beach and St Tropez. But she does admit to looking forward to spending more time in Dubai.


“I find Dubai totally fascinating. To see the amount of work going on is amazing. There are thousands of construction sites and it will be incredible when finished.


“To hear that 200,000 new residents a year arrive in the UAE is testament to what it  has to offer and I am pleased to be a part of it.”


And with that she is off to be pampered in the spa before heading on to dinner at the Burj Al Arab.



Family Dynasties


The Onassises


Aristotle Onassis started off in a job that paid 23 cents an hour. By the time of his second marriage, to John F Kennedy’s widow, Jackie, he’d built a shipping empire worth a minimum of $500m. Onassis reportedly spent $20m on his honeymoon to the woman who became known as Jackie O, and owned the most fabulous yacht in history, named Christina after his daughter.  When Aristotle Onassis died, she inherited 55 per cent of his wealth.


The Hiltons


Conrad Nicholson Hilton built an eponymous hotel in El Paso, Texas, in 1930, and went on to preside over one of the world’s biggest hotel chains. When he died in 1979, aged 91, he left $250,000 to each of his surviving siblings and $10,000 to each of his nieces and nephews. His children were disinherited from his will. However, his son Barron contested the will in 1988, thereby transforming his net worth to over $335m. Barron’s son Rick has made a fortune in property and he is now worth an estimated $300m. He has four children, of whom Paris and Nicky are the best known.


The Gettys


Jean Paul Getty Sr built up a family oil business to become one of the richest men in the world. His son John Paul Jr is a significant philanthropist, donating £140m to the arts, including £50m to the National Gallery in the UK.


The Versaces


Gianni Versace was born in 1946. After working as a designer, he created the fashion label Versace in 1978 with the help of his older brother, Santo. Everything changed, though, in 1997, when Gianni was shot dead. The company was divided between Santo, and Gianni’s younger sister, Donatella.  Gianni left 30 per cent to Santo and 20 per cent to Donatella – but bequeathed 50 per cent to Donatella’s oldest child, Allegra which she inherited at 18.


The Hearsts


When he was 10, William Randolph Hearst – already heir to a huge mining fortune – asked his mother if she would buy him Windsor Castle. Hearst went on to create one of the greatest newspaper empires of all time. Hearst’s family has continued to run the business, expanding it into broadband services and Silicon Valley companies.