Eric Trump’s Transformation Has Been Turning Heads

Eric Trump's Transformation Has Been Turning Heads

Toughened by parents’ divorce

Eric Trump grew up rich but worked jobs before he was old enough to drive. From laboring on construction sites to heading up boardrooms, here’s how the former president’s son charted his own path.

Trump Tower was where Eric Trump experienced most of his extravagant upbringing, offering all the comforts that a New York real estate tycoon like Donald Trump could afford. But luxury couldn’t replace the unhappiness 6-year-old Eric felt when his dad decided to abandon his mother Ivana for Marla Maples in 1990. The divorce was painful enough, but the increase in tabloid attention didn’t help, either. If anything, Eric believed the circumstances toughened him up, telling Fox Business, “That’s probably when we first started getting a little bit of the limelight, some of the attention, and I had to learn to not care.”

While his mother took over much of the child-rearing responsibilities, Eric said his father was also influential. Donald wasn’t exactly the type to play with the kids, instead preferring to take them to the construction sites of his property developments. Eric told Fox Business, “But he was also strict. You had to do well in school. Every day I left, I was six years old, he would say ‘no drinking, no drugs, no smoking.’ That’s who he was.”

Worked construction at 11

Eric followed his father’s strict advice and stayed on a straight and narrow path while attending private schools in New York and Pennsylvania. But his father’s guidance extended well beyond the classroom. Donald made sure his kids learned the value of a buck by making them do odd jobs on several Trump properties. Eric told Forbes: “We were literally riding mowers around, we were mowing all the fields, cutting down trees. It was probably the best experience of my life.”

But learning what it was like to punch a clock like regular folks wasn’t limited to manual labor. Eric claimed his father made him work on more professional tasks, some of which were downright dangerous, given that the Trump children weren’t even adults. While appearing on Kari Lake’s talk show on X, Eric recalled, “He made us work very, very hard. I was on construction sites when I was 11, 12 years old — you know, doing [demolition], breaking down walls, concrete, sheet rock, plumbing — stuff I still do for myself these days.”

“If we wanted something we worked for it.” Once he finished school, Eric made a beeline Figuring out his destiny towards a career with his father’s real estate empire. Eric told CBS News in 2003, “My dream is definitely to be sitting in the office in Trump Tower learning from my father. I think we’re gonna be an unbeatable team.”

By 2006, Eric had joined the Trump Organization as the company’s executive vice president of development and acquisitions, a year before the global financial meltdown hit. Undaunted by the recession flattening real estate values, Eric called the period a great “opportunity,” per City & State New York, as the company bought up as much land as possible. The family business had survived, despite three of their Atlantic City casinos going bankrupt during that period.

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Rising executive star

While Eric may have grabbed a bit of the spotlight when he joined the Trump Organization, he was still operating in the shadows of his father and elder siblings. However, he was slowly coming into his own, first by taking the reins of a redevelopment project involving a world-class, Florida-based golf course. But as an executive, Eric really shined in the wine business.

In 2013, his father made him president of Virginia-based Trump Winery, a business he purchased two years earlier in a bankruptcy auction. By investing heavily into improving the orchards, installing new equipment, and creating a building specializing in producing sparkling wine, Eric quickly turned the operation around, making it the biggest winery in Virginia.

In 2014, Wine Enthusiast magazine named Eric the industry’s “Rising Star of the Year” for the Virginia establishment’s turnaround. Upon receiving his award at the ceremony, Eric told the audience, “If you would have told me that we would have owned the largest winery on the east coast, I literally would have laughed. But the more I got involved in the wine business, it really became a labor of love.”

Charity scrutinized by government

In 2006, Eric created a foundation under his own name to subsidize St. Jude’s Hospital in Tennessee on such projects as a $198 million surgery and ICU complex. Besides that stroke of benevolence, the foundation provided Eric a chance to hit some balls on the fairway, as golf tournaments on Trump courses generated much of the funds for the hospital.

But Eric’s squeaky-clean reputation was in danger of a heavy tarnish after reports started surfacing that the Trump family was skimming from the foundation coffers. One report revealed that Eric scooped up to $1.2 million, originally destined for St. Jude projects, and instead used it for operations at the Trump Organization. An additional $500,000 in donations were allegedly directed towards Trump-favored charities who paid the company to use Trump golf courses for their own fundraising tournaments.

By the time New York’s Attorney General started looking into the matter in 2017, Eric had already disassociated himself from the foundation. His departure apparently wasn’t scandal related, but was intended to sidestep any potential conflicts of interest, shortly after his father was elected president.

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Boasted about Russian funds

Unlike some members of his family, Eric Trump has preferred to fly under the radar. One of his former classmates told The Washington Post: “Eric has Trump genes, but he doesn’t have the Trump brand. I’ve always admired that he is uniquely his own in that way. Less bombastic, more thoughtful. Less self-aggrandizing, more humble. Less Trump. More Eric.”

But Eric has been known to occasionally brag. For instance, while teeing off with golf writer James Dodson in 2013, he boasted about an investment source after the financial market collapse. While speaking to WBUR in 2017, Dodson recalled Eric telling him: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

Catching wind of Dodson’s riveting comments, media outlets like Vanity Fair suggested a link between that Trump financial pipeline and alleged dealings with the Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election. Eric denied the allegations, telling the New York Post, “We have zero ties to Russian investors.”

Eric was also mentioned twice in special counsel Robert Mueller’s 2019 report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. However, both mentions involved meetings of little or no consequence.

Fought back against reputation

Despite helming a winery to prosperity and boosting the Trump Organization’s golf course count, Eric couldn’t escape a buffoonery label pasted on him. And once he and brother Don Jr. took over the family business after their father became president, the jabs multiplied. It didn’t help that Eric suffered his own case of foot-in-mouth disease, such as the time he backed his father’s support of waterboarding torture, claiming the activity was no different than a fraternity initiation. Or when he told Fox News in 2020, “After November 3, coronavirus will magically, all of a sudden, go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.”

One outlet that seemed to revel in making fun of Eric and his older brother was “Saturday Night Live.” Throughout the Trump presidency, the long-running comedy series featured a number of sketches involving the brothers, in which Eric was presented as the less smarter of the 2.

During a 2018 interview with The Washington Post, Eric said this about his portrayal on “SNL,” “Unfortunately it is the price one pays for being in a political family. They got it wrong, they detest us and they will do anything to try and undermine our credibility.”

To be fair, his response was far from the loud insults that his father and brother might have employed. But Eric has enjoyed some redemption, only because Don Jr. had been in media crosshairs more frequently.

Stephen Colbert even said in 2017, “I’d like to apologize to Eric Trump. We always thought you were the dumb one. We were wrong.”

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Biden nepotism attack backfired

Eric’s unflattering public persona aside, the chatter within the family is that he’s far more serious about the business than his elder brother Don Jr., who even remarked to The Washington Post: “I’m probably a little more relaxed about certain things. There are times he gets a little more formal, where I’m sort of almost always informal.”

But Eric has been prone to committing gaffes, such as the time he attacked President Joe Biden’s son Hunter for using his father’s credentials to take advantage of business opportunities in Ukraine. Eric told Fox News, “He didn’t know anything about the industry he was in, he didn’t have any discernible duties, and he’s getting paid $50,000 a month?”

But media analysts quickly pointed out that Donald Trump’s 3 oldest children have benefited from his tenure in the White House. When the brothers took over the Trump Organization once Trump became president, the company promised not to do any new deals, especially internationally. However, the sibling CEOs broke that pledge when they sold up to $100 million in property and $3.2 million in Dominican Republic land. Interestingly, they scuttled a domestic hotel deal out of fear of a conflict of interest. According to The New York Times, Eric said, “We live in a climate where everything will be used against us, whether by the fake news or by Democrats who are only interested in presidential harassment.”

Pushed political conspiracies

Given that Eric graduated with honors from Georgetown University, it stands to reason that he has some smarts going for him. What’s mystifying is that he willingly spreads easily debunkable political conspiracies, despite a well-rounded education. It didn’t stop him from posting a meme including a logo of QAnon, a major promoter of various conspiracy theories, on his X account. Before the election, Eric commented on a talk radio segment that New Yorkers were receiving mailed ballots already filled out with Biden’s name selected, a claim without any backing evidence.

The day after the federal election, Eric posted on social media that ballots favoring his father were being burned. However, fact checkers reported that those ballots were samples destroyed before the election. A couple of weeks later, he pressed the point that the cards were deliberately stacked against his father from the moment he kick-started his campaign. Eric lamented in an X post from November 16, “Biden couldn’t get 10 people to a rally & went days without leaving his house.” He then added that his father tallied 11 million more votes than in 2016, including twice the support from African-Americans. Eric wrote: “This election was rigged from the beginning.”

And despite no evidence, Eric apparently supported one claim that leftist activists Antifa staged the January 6 riots in a since-deleted X post.

Fraud trial testimony

Over the years, Eric has challenged some of those negative stereotypes against him, although one court appearance in November 2023 did nothing to enhance his image. It wasn’t just his profile at stake, but the well-being of the whole Trump empire. The organization was sued by New York’s Attorney General on the grounds that it falsely altered asset values to attract investors and avoid taxes.

Eric’s tenure on the witness stand was disastrous, especially when claiming he was unaware that some documents he passed along in an email to a co-defendant were statements of financial condition. This is material that would have been of particular interest to the Attorney General. He then added that his involvement in appraisals of one contentious project was limited, saying in his testimony, “That’s not the focus of my day. I focus on construction. I don’t focus on appraisals.”

Judge Arthur Engoron didn’t buy it, or any other Trump testimonies, ordering them to pay $455 million in damages when the trial concluded in February 2024. The Trump Organization was still able to operate, but in a more limited capacity and only under court supervision. Eric lividly declared on Fox News that the fix was in since day one.

It was a grandstanding display of the executive toughness he cultivated over time, but the law had other ideas.

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