Bombastic real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump dropped his flirtation with a bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination on Monday.
"After considerable deliberation and reflection, I have decided not to pursue the office of the presidency," Trump said in a statement. "Business is my greatest passion, and I am not ready to leave the private sector."
The ruddy developer, 64, had openly flirted with a White House run over over the past few months and made a healthy showing in some public opinion polls despite skepticism and outright mockery from the US political establishment.
Billionaire Trump, famous for his vintage New York bluster, glamorous wives, business empire and "The Apprentice" TV show, is not a party stalwart but a rebranded Republican who has switched party affiliation several times over the years.
Trump, a fixture of television talkshows, drew attention - and attacks - by advancing already discredited charges that President Barack Obama had concealed his birth certificate to hide that he was foreign-born and thus ineligible for the White House.
But political analysts suggested from the start that Trump, a relentless self-promoter, was chiefly looking to boost ratings for his reality television show.
Critics struggled to believe he was genuinely interested in facing intense campaign trail scrutiny; others argued that he was, as ever, keen to push his his brand - which includes hotels, dress shirts and lately crystal glassware - not seriously seek the White House.
"This decision does not come easily or without regret," said Trump. "I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election."
Trump was the second high-profile potential candidate in days to rule out a Republican White House run after former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a particular favorite of religious conservatives, said over the weekend that he would not seek the party's nomination.
With many Republicans grumbling that their party's field of candidates lacks a political star to take on Obama, Trump vowed to keep speaking out "loudly."
He did not, however, endorse any of the other potential White House hopefuls.
"I look forward to supporting the candidate who is the most qualified to help us tackle our country's most important issues," added "the Donald," as US tabloids love to call the ginger-haired son of an American developer and a Scottish immigrant mom.
Trump also said he was "hopeful that, when this person emerges, he or she will have the courage to take on the challenges of the office and be the agent of change that this country so desperately needs."
Asked about potential Republican rivals in February, Trump, who toyed with a run back in 1999, told Fox News: "I know many of them. And they are nice people. But can they do the job? Perhaps not."