February 15, 2013, - 3:37 pm

Maybe He Needs to Apprentice: Donald Trump’s $210 Million Casino Sold for 90% Discount @ $20 Mill

By Debbie Schlussel

During the Presidential race of the last two years, I laughed every time some Tea Partier or so-called conservative blindly gushed over Donald Trump and lectured me that he should be the Republican nominee because he knows how to run a “successful business.” I wondered if these people ever read a paper or ingest a single iota of info beyond propaganda and talking points. Aside from the fact that Trump has no ideology or principles to speak of (other than “Look at me and my Saddam Hussein Palace-style apartment!”), the guy is a failure as a businessman. Most of his businesses–other than his self-promoting, boring “The Apprentice”–are failures.

The guy is only still in business because, at one time, he was “too big to fail.” Those gushing over Trump forget that at one time he was the world’s largest debtor. He was going to file for bankruptcy, but his creditors would lose so much, they couldn’t afford to let that happen. Instead, they put him on a budget of “only” $400,000 a month and tried to put things back in order, which isn’t exactly what happened. But they were left holding the bag, and Trump was laughing all the way to the bank. And this is aside from the fact that Trump’s father gave him $100,000 to start his business empire, at a time when that was real money and equivalent to a million dollars today (or more).

Now, it’s the same with his latest embarrassing failure: the sale of his Trump Plaza casino and hotel in Atlantic City at a discount of 90% from the $210 million it cost to build back in 1984. In today’s dollars versus 1984 dollars, the discount is more like 98% off. Normally, a casino like that should be worth more than a billion, maybe even multi-billions. But Trump ran it . . . into the ground.

The paltry sale price of Trump Plaza should be a huge embarrassment to Donald Trump. He’s clearly NOT a success in business. He’s a failure. “The Apprentice” is really what’s keeping him and his business name afloat. And his phony flirtation with conservatism (he’s not a conservative and supported Obama in 2008). Trump will collect big bucks in a few weeks, when he speaks in Novi, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, at the Oakland County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner.

But it’s not an embarrassment for Trump. Nothing is. The multiple wives and out-of-wedlock girlfriends weren’t an embarrassment for him in the days when societal conditions still made that embarrassing and a source of shame. His failure and near-bankruptcy wasn’t an embarrassment. And his ever-changing, chameleon-like political views aren’t embarrassing to him.

And, so, Trump acts as if selling a casino built for $210 million 1984 dollars for $20 million 2013 monopoly paper money dollars is no big deal. More:

Trump Plaza, the Boardwalk centerpiece of Donald Trump’s one-time Atlantic City empire, was sold Thursday to a California company for $20 million in the cheapest of a series of bargain-basement deals for distressed gambling halls in the struggling New Jersey seaside resort.

The Meruelo Group of Downey, Calif., plans to close the deal by May 31. It is the lowest price ever paid for a casino in Atlantic City. . . . Trump Plaza, which cost $210 million to build, opened in May 1984 as one of Donald Trump’s pet projects. The real estate mogul has since limited his dealings in Atlantic City.

The sale leaves the company he once ran, Trump Entertainment Resorts, with just one casino, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. The company sold the former Trump Marina to a Texas company that rebranded it as the new Golden Nugget in 2011. . . . Trump Plaza has struggled mightily in recent years, despite its central location. It has become the worst-performing casino in town in terms of casino revenue. Last month, Trump Plaza took in less than $4.9 million, a decline of more than 40 percent from a year ago.

For anyone else, this would be the final nail in the coffin on a failing business career. But Donald Trump thinks he’s not just anyone else. He thinks he’s special.

Sadly, gushing Republicans, conservatives, and the entertainment media, including FOX News, treat him that way. They not only ignore his long list of epic business failures, but they ignore things he’s done, like fawning over 9/11-enabling Dubai, his engineering of a Muslim Hezbollah supporter to be picked as Miss USA (and refusing to allow media to ask her about it), his continued alliance and promotion of anti-Israel, anti-Amerian Farouk Shami and Shami’s CHI hair products, and his hosting of Muammar Qaddafi on his property.

I have to admit that I enjoyed Trump’s feuds with Rosie O’Donnell and Michelle Malkin, a complete and utter fraud (he had the better of both of those morally equivalent whiners). But Donald Trump is a fake and a phony, just like Fraudkin. The Trumperor wears no clothes. And he just sold them to the Salvation Army for a 98% discount. Mitt Romney really was a successful businessman. Donald Trump is that strictly in his own mind and in media hype.

Maybe, some day, people will wake up. For now, the next season of “The Apprentice” is about to start and a man who just failed miserably for the nth time is going to lecture others on how to be successful in business.

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33 Responses

I remember the first time he filed for bankruptcy, but didn’t know about the creditors deal. What a sap.

DS_ROCKS! on February 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm

A few statements, Deb.

I don’t think Trump owned the Trump Casino in Atlantic City. He sold that years ago.

Second, most or many of the buildings with Trump’s name on it were never owned by him. He would sell his name for 10-15 million dollars.

Third, he received more than $100,000 from his father. His father had built one of the largest real estate empires in NYC. He inherited that fortune and all of the houses, apartments, etc.

Fourth, like most rich people, he does not put much of his own money into projects, at least not anymore. He plays with investor’s money, if he follows the pattern of most real estate mongrels, err, moguls.

Additionally, you are giving this scumbag way too much credit as a human being. He has a habit of cheating working people out of money. When the Trump Casino was built, he hired a small painting company to paint much of the facility. The contract was for $800,000 (alot of money, then). When the job was done, he told the painting contractor that he was only going to pay him $400,000, and if he wanted to sue, he would tie him up in court for years. The painting contractor could not afford to be held up in court, so he took what Trump gave him.

Similarly, the threat of bankruptcy was used to cheat his creditors. In fact, Trump had put up his personal assets as collateral, and a federal judge refused that part of the contract with the creditors, when some sued him (Trump’s sister is a Federal Judge).

Trump has a pattern of treating working people like garbage. If you live in one of his middle class apartment buildings in NY that his father built, don’t expect standard building maintenance, unless you are willing to pay a whopping rent increase.

Jonathan E. Grant on February 15, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Very important points, JEG.

    skzion on February 15, 2013 at 4:17 pm

The following is from Wikipedia. Trump Resorts owned the Trump Taj Mahal, not Trump.

Financial troubles

Trump Entertainment Resorts has filed for corporate bankruptcy three times, in 1991, following construction of the $1 billion Trump Taj Mahal and in 2004 and 2009.

In 2004, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts explored various options for restructuring its debt, amid speculation that it might file for bankruptcy. A possible arrangement with Credit Suisse First Boston was not completed because the bondholders rejected it.[11]

On October 21, 2004, the company announced a preliminary agreement with its investors. Trump, who has been the majority owner, would reduce his stock ownership from 56 percent to 27 percent. Bondholders would surrender some of their debt in exchange for stock. On October 27, the company announced that Morgan Stanley would be the joint lead arranger for a financing of $500 million financing as part of the restructuring plan. On November 21, the company filed for bankruptcy. Trump said the filing was “really just a technical thing” as the best way to implement the restructuring plan.[12] The plan was submitted to the Bankruptcy Court on December 16, 2004.

After the 2004 bankruptcy filing, the company changed its name from Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts to Trump Entertainment Resorts.

On May 18, 2007, the company announced that it was in the preliminary stages of negotiating a buyout with several public and private firms. On July 2, 2007 Trump Entertainment Resorts announced that they could not make a deal with any company that they were in talks with and decided to take itself off the market. The company planned to lay off employees in order to cut costs.[13]

[edit] 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring

The casino group filed for bankruptcy for the third time in February 2009 [14] owing $1.2 billion. Two sets of debt holders eventually proposed reorganization plans for the group in U.S. bankruptcy court.

Trump initially made an agreement with banker/high-stakes poker player Andrew Beal, owner of Beal Bank, which held $500 million in the group’s debt, to take over the resorts. However, citing concerns about the bank’s experience with gaming, he dropped them in favor of the hedge fund Avenue Capital Management, a plan favored by other bond-holders. Beal then partnered with investor, Carl Icahn, who had worked on restructuring another Atlantic City casino, the Tropicana. [15] In court, Trump argued that he would fight the Icahn/Beal team if they sought to use his name and likeness on the group’s properties. [16] Instead he signed an agreement with Avenue Capital in which he would receive 5% stock in the reorganized company and another 5% in exchange for the use of his name and likeness in perpetuity.

Judith H. Wizmur, Chief Judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey, eventually sided with the Trump/Avenue partnership, favored by bond holders who believed that Trump’s brand would result in a stronger company after reorganization. [17]

[edit] Post-bankruptcy

In February 2013, the company agreed to sell the Trump Plaza for $20 million to the Meruelo Group, a California-based company whose holdings include the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. The proceeds would be used to pay down the company’s debt to a level of $270 million. CEO Robert Griffin said TER would consider also selling the Trump Taj Mahal for the right price.[18

Jonathan E. Grant on February 15, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Donald Trump is successful, but he is not the wiz kid his pr people make him out to be. His buildings are architecturally garbage.

I once met this blowhard at an intellectual property meeting and heard him publicly speak. He is crude and vile. Had his father not been a rich man, he would have been nothing.

Jonathan E. Grant on February 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm


I agree. Rich people didn’t become rich by working their way up the ladder. Sure there are a few Horatio Alger stories but by and large they aren’t the rule.

If you happen to slide out of the right womb, you can be a millionaire. And most of their income is derived from investments, stocks and bonds which pay high interest not from real estate.

Rule of thumb is you will never get as much for property as you did when you bought it. It depreciates rapidly and you’ll be lucky to get back a fraction of what you paid for it.

Donald Trump is successful b/c he isn’t a risk taker; he plays it safe. That said, Jon’s right the man is a lousy human being who treats others like dirt. There isn’t much else to him besides his wealth and his fame.

NormanF on February 15, 2013 at 4:30 pm

J.E.G., the Trump Tower in Chicago is quite nice architecturally.

Ilan on February 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Ilan, that is the revised Trump Tower. The original was actually scrapped for architectural crappiness.

    skzion on February 17, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Sorry, Norm, but most people who become rich did so not by inheriting money, but by their brains. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates (whose father was as banker, but still did wonders on his own), Hewlett and Packard, Henry the anti-Semite Ford, etc.

Additionally, real estate is perhaps the best way to get rich because they are not making any more land. I know of a number of people who grew fabulously wealthy in real estate development in the DC area. In fact, most very successful people in the DC area got rich on real estate.

That said, Trump is still a low class scumbag. I forgot to mention how he developed a gold course in Loudon Virginia, and cut most of the trees on his land near the Potomac River, thus spoiling a view that existed for hundreds of years and causing chemical runoff problems that will further poison the Chesapeake Bay.

Jonathan E. Grant on February 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    There aren’t many Trumps. 14% of millionaires started from wealthy families. The rest are self-made. Many are immigrants. Your typical millionaire is a guy who started a floor tile business or a plumbing business and worked his butt off to expand the operations into multiple business units. I watched my next-door neighbor become fabulously wealthy by importing fabrics from China. He started from nothing, took huge risks, never worried about failure, worked around the clock. Things most of us wouldn’t do. Now he owns beautiful homes in resort locations all over the world.

    JJ Glanton on February 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm

NormanF, not all properties depreciate rapidly, that’s silly. Actually, if you invest in properties in good locations you can expect appreciation.

Ilan on February 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm


    I owned very desirable mountain country property I was forced to sell when the housing market went south for a loss.

    You can live in an area most people only dream of living but that doesn’t guarantee anything. If life was like that, every one would be happy.

    Being in Trump’s shoes seems like its a dream come true for many people but wealth and fame isn’t all its made out to be.

    NormanF on February 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      Your home should be your home, not an investment. You should live there because you love the area and the house.

      Italkit on February 16, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Donald Trump sold prime ocean front casino property for a loss.

There were people who got rich by their brains which is true but the rest of them belong to a blue-blood aristocracy and they’re also prominent in law, politics and entertainment.

And they do look down on every one else.

NormanF on February 15, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Prime ocean front casino property? Um, no. AC is not Las Vegas. It’s a slum and if you go one block in from the “prime ocean front” you will see it. The city began its decline in the 50’s and the Casinos were an attempt to revive it but it has not attracted the high rollers and cannot put on the entertainment that Vegas does. It’s a couple of hours from the nearest International airport and outside of the casinos, there’s no place to go. It survives on old ladies who get their charter buses during the week complete with $10 worth of quarters for the slots.

    Italkit on February 16, 2013 at 3:30 pm

hair stylist maybe?

Little Al on February 15, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Debby –

Thanks for running a great site. I learn something new every time I visit.

I was very interested in your comments on Malkin. Would you mind devoting some time to listing you you like and trust and those you don’t line or trust (and why)?

Between now and the 2014 elections (assuming we actually make it) I would like to know those I should listen to and those I should ignore. I am sure others would appreciate your insights.

Thanks again for all you do.


Toby Flenderson on February 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Say WHAT? Trump is a lot of things, but “failure” is not one of them. How many of you people actually believe that you could turn $100,000 (or fine, its 2013 equivalent) into several billion dollars? Could you lose every penny you had and turn a $400,000 per month allowance into several billion dollars, then? That is hard work. If his backers could’ve done it themselves, they wouldn’t have GIVEN him that money.

Sure, most of Trump’s success comes from marketing his name and having good business associates. I’d say those two factors reflect sound business sense on his part as well. Is he supposed to earn billions by doing something that is nonscalable, such as repairing 20 pairs of shoes every day? You may be able to point to deals in which he lost money, but he definitely comes out ahead overall. That’s generally what happens when someone who knows what he’s doing swings for the fences.

Now his POLITICS, on the other hand, are overflowing with failure. On most issues, Trump’s views are virtually identical to those of Obama. And let’s not forget his efforts to secure our shining splendid little Rominee last year.

Sta t us MoNkieY on February 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Donald Trump has been successful at promoting his image. As Debbie noted, his business acumen consists of leaving other people holding the bag. Donald Trump spends more time with personal affairs than business affairs.

Worry01 on February 15, 2013 at 6:51 pm

It was written in one of the magazines his father actually gave him Millions in which to start hsi business. You are right about his debt. He is so big his creditors reported in many NY papers they could NOT let him fail. Sad when you consider how young people are raked over the coals regarding school loans and other debt.

Plus, I guess his “Apprentice” show is not that great. Since he had one of the winners get a job with Trump where he was given some control over one of the now sold casinos.

Glen Benjamin on February 16, 2013 at 11:40 am

Trump is a complete fraud.

He not only hosted Qaddafi, he does MANY business deals with terrorist sympathizers.

He is known as a real estate fraudster around the country. He regularly sets up real estate “deals” that are rigged and will use his mob connections and muscle to cause people to default so he can get their property for nothing.

He would not hesitate to murder someone if it benefited him financially.

9sd on February 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Trump years ago sued an old lady to take away her house under a New Jersey law so he could allegedly make her property part of a parking lot. She prevailed at trial. One of the reasons she did is that he would not guarantee that the property would not be used as part of the casino structure and not part of a parking lot, which made a big difference in the value of the land. I have been telling people this for years to show that Trump is a bully, creep and liar and should not be trusted. And his claim that he made his money on his own while calling people losers who aren’t as successful as him is so hypocritical, as he initially received a large sum of money from his dad and then inherited a good chunk (in the $millions).

Concerned Citizen on February 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I don’t know where or how the myth that Donald Trump is a “great businessman” got started. But you’d think with all his failures, the recognition that it’s a myth would finally sink in. I will give Trump this, however: he is a great self-promoter, and perhaps that’s the secret to this false perception of him being a great businessman.

Now, it’s true that Trump does have considerable knowledge about real estate and real estate development, but when it comes to running a casino, he’s an idiot.

Fortunately, in life, in a good capitalist system, one doesn’t have to be an expert in everything. When you and I hire people do to things that we’re not experts in, don’t we want them to be much better and smarter at it than we are? Of course we do. So when Trump wanted to expand into the casino business, he should have hired some top talent to run his Casino. But no.

If you’ve seen the movie “Casino,” the story revolves around a time when the members of the The Outfit controlled the important casinos in Las Vegas. The family members of The Outfit wanted the casino they owned to be run right and to make a lot of money. Because they wanted the best management, they did not limit their options to people directly in the “family.” They turned to someone name “Ace” Rothstein (played by Robert DeNiro). Rothstein was based on a real-life person named Frank Rosenthal, and he was a person who lived and breathed gambling, and knew everything about it from top to bottom, and sideways.

Going back even earlier, to the days of the casinos in Cuba, Charles “Lucky” Luchiano–perhaps the greatest criminal mind of all time (if you want to rank these things)–put his friend and collegue, Meyer Lansky in charge of running the casinos. The reason? Lanksy was the supreme expert at the gambling business and everything that it involved.

And as the Las Vegas scene developed, new talent (in addition to Lansky) was brought in to run operations. The Vegas we know today was really created by former Cleveland Outfit member Morris “Moe” Dalitz. Dalitz, like Lansky, was also a supreme expert at the gambling business, and took it to even greater levels than Lanksy had. Dalitz built the Las Vegas Country Club, Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, and many other important Las Vegas institutions. He was a frequent donor to the Las Vegas Public Library system along with other community organizations in Las Vegas.

Dalitz’s business skills in particular were so extraordinary, that he virtually crossed over to the legitimate business world in all material respects. Dalitz built the Las Vegas Country Club, Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, and many other important Las Vegas institutions. He was a frequent donor to the Las Vegas Public Library system along with other community organizations in Las Vegas. He was a big booster of other talented people. Dalitz was proud of helping performers like Sinatra get their first big breaks in show business.

Dalitz also recognized other exceptionally talented people in the gambling business. So when The Las Vegas Sands changed ownership to Howard Hughes in the 1960s, Carl Cohen was brought in to run the casino. Cohen was at least 6 feet tall and looked like a bit like a bouncer, but he was a brilliant casino operator. (Carl Cohen is most known today among gambling historians and Sinatraphiles as the guy who slugged Frank Sinatra, knocking out his front teeth, and who got away with it. It’s a well documented news item, but the fight was Frank’s fault, not Carl’s.)

And today, I’d have to say that Shelson Adelson is the grand master of the casino business–certainly in Las Vegas.

So what are the takeaways from all this? That if you want to really run your casino right, you should get a great Jewish businessman with complete expertise in the gaming industry?

No, not necessarily. If you want your business to be run the best it can be, then get the best management you can, be they Jewish, Italian, Native American Indian, or whatever.

As for Donald Trump, he needs to fire himself.

Ralph Adamo on February 16, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Thanks much for the intriguing post. I knew that great story about Cohen and Sinatra, and you’re right–Frank never retaliated, even though it was rubbed in his face with posters around Vegas showing Sinatra with his teeth blacked out that said “Carl Cohen for Mayor.” Shecky Green did a joke about Frank and Mia Farrow going to bed at night, she putting in her retainer and he taking off his toupee. Frank had 2 guys hospitalize Shecky. To his eternal credit after that Shecky did a joke about how people were wrong if they thought Sinatra was some kind of hood. “He saved my life, Frank Sinatra…Yeah, a couple guys were working me over in an alley off Fremont Street, until finally Frankie said, ‘Okay, that’s enough’.”
    But I digress, I was unaware of this Dalitz character, whom I am going to Wiki just as soon as I make this period.

    Joe Guiney on February 16, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks again for bringing up Dalitz–fascinating Wiki bio. Calls him a “bootlegger, racketeer, casino owner and philanthropist” I guess in that order! From the Wiki page it doesn’t look like he was involved in the Purple Gang, despite being Jewish and based in the Detroit area. He doesn’t look like a bad guy, per se, just technically a criminal. Just giving the people what they want–booze and gambling, right?
    By any chance could you recommend a cool history of Las Vegas? Or maybe you got this from a history of Jewish gangsters? I’m going to look into this some more–quite interesting. Again, thanks for mentioning it.

    Joe Guiney on February 17, 2013 at 8:10 pm

      Hi Joe, sorry for getting back so late. But if you’re reading this, there’s a very good documentary on Las Vegas called “Vegas: The City the Mob Made.” It’s a DVD, though, not a book. It’s only a couple of years old, and it will cost you $5.00 or less (including postage) preowned (which you can easily resell, of course, if you don’t want to keep it anymore). There are several good books on organized crime, but I can’t personally recommend one that deals specifically with Las Vegas. “The Outfit,” by Gus Russo is an excellent book on the general organization, with a lot of information about the Chicago operations, but also Las Vegas.

      Ralph Adamo on February 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Gee whiz,, I had no idea there were so many reasons to utterly despise this man. If I may act as a peanut gallery devil’s advocate for a moment I’d like to ask a question of you all that Louis Jordan asked: “If you’re so smart, how come you ain’t rich?”
As I say, I really don’t know much about the guy, (actually I’ve never even seen his TV show)but to read these comments you’d think he was the worst man on Earth. I’m pretty sure he’s not the only big-time operator out there leveraged to the hilt and operating strictly on OPM; that is the modern way of our tawdry little world, kids.
Now, I have heard him blathering from time to time in the political arena, but honestly does ANYBODY take him seriously? HE doesn’t even take himself seriously.
And I must admit it’s not hard to imagine he’s a bully, but you know I think probably a lot of big shots are–certainly Henry Ford was. Anybody who ever grew up in Detroit heard stories about Harry Bennett, Ford’s thuggish enforcer. And speaking of Ford, I’m sure everyone on this site is familiar with HIS political proclivities. If memory serves he actually published a newspaper called “The International Jew The World’s Biggest Problem”! Now that’s a guy fully worthy of the kind of vitriol being shoveled over poor poor old Donald here, am I right kids?
And you know I’ve seen photos of his daughter and she looks like a nice enough person.
So I’m going to put forth here that Trump’s not all bad, okay? I certainly wouldn’t do business with him if I could avoid it, but I don’t think I want to vilify him either. C’mon, he lost his ass on this deal. Times are tough right now for every body, he IS supposed to be this big time biz guy and this is a humiliating pounding he took on this transaction. So hows about we lighten up on the poor little rich dude, huh?
BTW that photo of him makes him look a little like Butters from South Park.

Joe Guiney on February 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm

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Watch Beautiful Creatures Online Free on February 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I remember a few years ago in Southern CA. There was a huge Condo development project going on in or near Ensenada (Mexico). They promoted sales at swanky hotels in Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and other nearby affluent beach communities. Even the billboards featured a giant photo of Trump’s mug as to suggest the project couldn’t lose, and your investment was sound and protected. They showed videos of geeky guys riding horses on the beach with beautiful models, and fat chicks getting their stubby little toes painted in the spa as they sipped margaritas. Championship golf courses and all. There was no shortage of idiots who broke open their 401k’s to invest upfront for the retirement in paradise. Long-story-short: They paid Trump millions to use his image, the project went bust, the construction today sits unfinished and everyone stupid enough to participate were fleeced of their life savings. Trump is a fraud.

#1 Vato on February 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I do credit Trump as one of the few men I know of who have an even longer comb-over than I do!

CornCoLeo on February 17, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Trump’s hair looks like a Roman helmet.

Laura on February 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm

You know nothing about real estate. It’s the best investment available these days. And most wealthy lawyers and bankers did not just “slide out of the right womb”. They studied hard and worked hard. You sound a lot like an envious, liberal whiner screaming “not fair”.

*tip* Buy low, sell high

LRL on May 1, 2014 at 8:22 pm

I apologize, Norm. Your comments are usually very valuable on this website. However, general sweeping assumptions are usually not a good idea.

My father worked for a large bank in a large city during the day and went to law school at night. He stayed with the bank for 45 years and retired as General Counsel. So he was a lawyer AND a banker and worked hard for it.

LRL on May 1, 2014 at 9:11 pm

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