On MSNBC, NY Times Reporters Reveal The "Pretty Devastating Effect" Of Trump's Business Record In Atlantic City
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From the June 22 edition of MSNBC's MSNBC Live:
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ANDREA MITCHELL (HOST): Donald Trump is selling himself as someone who builds businesses and creates jobs. The latest, of course, being his speech today. But Hillary Clinton is calling him out on how he ran his businesses in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
HILLARY CLINTON: So when his casino and hotel went bankrupt because of how badly he mismanaged them, he still walked away with millions while everybody else paid the price.
MITCHELL: Joining me now are two New York Times reporters who investigated Trump's Atlantic City deals for an article entitled "How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions." Charles Bagli and Russ Buettner joining me now. Thanks both of you, for joining us. This is very complicated. You took a deep dive. Charles, what are the big takeaways?
CHARLES BAGLI: We wanted to get away from the rhetoric and look at this as a business. And I think what you find is that he loaded up these companies with debt. He went through a tremendous number of managers, there was a constant turnover and they were failures as a business, in part because of the heavy debt load, over a billion dollars. And then the casinos themselves were competing with one another.
MITCHELL: And so let's understand better because he says he's the king of debt, he brags that he understands debt. He in fact did a post yesterday against Hillary Clinton accusing him of not understanding debt and wanting to overburden the national debt. How, if you look at Atlantic City, is this a microcosm of the way he does business?
BAGLI: Well it's very simple. At the Taj Mahal casino, he had over a billion dollars in debt on the casino and you were just never going to get enough gamblers in there to pay your debt service, let alone all your other costs. So for 20 years this was a casino that just limped along. Sometimes it did okay. A lot of times it did terrible.
MITCHELL: Russ, he has said that Atlantic City fueled a lot of growth for him. What about the vendors and others who many people, including yourself, found were holding the bag?
RUSS BUETTNER: A lot of the vendors didn't do so well, especially in the first bankruptcy, the first time that the casinos went bankrupt in 1992. A lot of people who helped build the Taj were stiffed, got 30 cents on the dollar. Then people who took the big hits later on were investors, bondholders and stock shareholders after he took the company public. They were, many of them, just completely wiped out.
MITCHELL: To either of you, he says he knows how to make money and he is going to run America that way, he's going to make America rich is what he said today. From what you know and the way he operated his businesses, how credible is that?
BUETTNER: That's one of the things that these are sort of an emblem of the departure between how he represented his business dealings and what he said he'll be for the country. There was a real absence of benevolence or even fiduciary responsible to his investors and how he ran these things. And there was a real, a large focus on him and he acknowledges that now and seems quite proud of it. He bought high, mortgaged even higher and ran the companies that their revenue never kept pace with his competitors which is a big testament to his business acumen there. And ultimately he may have been the only person who did well after a 30-year, 25-year history there.
BAGLI: The shareholders lost money, the bondholders lost money and the vendors didn't get paid. That's the legacy.
MITCHELL: What were the ripple effects for the community?
BAGLI: Well, a lot of companies -- these were small businesses. So you don't pay a $100,000 bill, it puts them out of business. Others were crippled, and over the years they just had a policy of not to work for the casinos or whatever. Others got paid. But there was a lot of people -- I talked to a minister in the Atlantic City area, and he had joined the parish right when-- at the height of Donald's troubles there. And it was a pretty devastating effect.