Donald Trump’s reality series, Celebrity Apprentice, returned this past Sunday with strong ratings compared to its last couple of years on air. Even people who have never seen the show know his television catchphrase, “You’re fired.” It’s the shortest of his many memorable utterances, but the real estate tycoon has been quotable for decades, starting in the 1980s when he wrote the bestselling book, The Art of the Deal, filled with advice for aspiring moguls. Being as loquacious as Trump is, it's not surprising that he loves to brag about his wealth and his appeal to women. He’s like a rapper without any rhyming skills.
So in celebration of Celebrity Apprentice's 14th go-round and Trump's love of speaking his mind, here are seven of his most memorable “Trumpisms,” which trace the evolution of America’s brashest billionaire.
"When I build something for somebody, I always add $50 million or $60 million onto the price. My guys come in, they say it's going to cost $75 million. I say it's going to cost $125 million, and I build it for $100 million. Basically, I did a lousy job. But they think I did a great job." – 1984
Trump became the toast of New York City in the early 1980s when he built Trump Tower, the most luxurious building of the era, and purchased the New Jersey Generals, a football team that was part of the now-defunct United States Football League. At a team owners meeting, he put his own spin on the classic axiom “always under-promise and over-deliver.” Before he became world famous, Trump was less concerned with perfecting his image as the greatest business leader of all time. He was willing to divulge details about his tactics, admitting to a strategy that, while probably quite common in real estate development, is not entirely ethical.
"I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks." – 1987
This is the opening paragraph of Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal. It is brilliant personal branding, immediately setting him apart from other executives. Trump claims he does not have crass monetary motives. The millions of dollars that he makes are just a byproduct of his craft, which he enjoys so much that he would do it for free. It’s also at least somewhat true. Trump is hardly a self-made man. He took over his father’s already successful real estate company, renaming it The Trump Organization. He could have sold his stake to someone else and spend the rest of his life relaxing.
"Experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you’re generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make." – 1987
Trump’s most-quoted business advice also comes from his first book. It’s notable for stating the obvious. Of course trusting your instincts is a good idea. Is there anyone who thinks attempting to make money in an industry that they know nothing about is a good strategy? Everyone would agree that whenever possible one should avoid making bad investments. Trump’s true genius is making common sense seem like unique insights.
"I'm a bit of a P. T. Barnum. I make stars out of everyone." –1991
Trump’s first marriage imploded in the early 1990s when his first wife, Ivana, discovered he was having an affair with a younger woman named Marla Maples, whom he eventually married. His marital discord and subsequent messy divorce made tabloid headlines for months. In the midst of all the turmoil, Trump managed to cast himself as the benevolent ringmaster in an interview with The London Observer. It was a foreshadowing of his role on The Apprentice, which turned several memorable contestants including Bill Rancic and Omarosa Manigault into reality television fixtures, as well as Celebrity Apprentice, which has rekindled the public’s interest in numerous famous people who have fallen out of the spotlight. Of course, P.T. Barnum’s best-known quote is “There’s a sucker born every minute” which also seems relevant to Trump’s personal philosophy.
"All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me — consciously or unconsciously. That's to be expected." - 2004
The Apprentice began its life as a series in which experienced professionals competed for a legitimate job in The Trump organization. It was an instant sensation in part because the first episodes pitted the male contestants against the female contestants, with the women often winning. Many viewers saw it as proof that, when given the opportunity, women could do just as well as men in the business world. Trump capitalized on the show’s success by publishing another book, “Trump: How To Get Rich,” in which he claimed that the women on The Apprentice were actually as interested in becoming the next Mrs. Trump as they were in becoming CEOs.
"I’m in a very big business—$150 million in my business is not very much when we’re building buildings that are worth, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars. And when somebody sees ‘Trump is worth $150 million,’ that is very damaging to me." - 2005
According to the current edition of the Forbes 400 list of the world’s wealthiest people, Trump’s net worth is 4 billion dollars. In interviews, he claims that he is worth at least 7 billion dollars. In 2005, reporter Timothy O’Brien alleged in his book “Trump Nation” that Trump’s actual worth was between 150 and 250 million. Trump sued him for libel. In a deposition, the Donald argued that the public perception that he was exaggerating his wealth was damaging his ability to make deals. He also admitted that his own estimates of his net worth fluctuated depending on his mood. He lost the suit, but won the image war. Today, few remember O’Brien’s book, but everyone thinks of Trump as a billionaire.
"I do love provoking people. There is truth to that. I love competition, and sometimes competition is provoking people. I don’t mind provoking people. Especially when they’re the right kind of people." –2014
Trump has courted controversy for the past few years. In 2011 he claimed that he was not certain that President Obama was born in the United States. He has used Twitter to feud with celebrities including Rosie O’Donnell and Cher as well as journalists who are critical of him. He has also claimed he was considering running for president for the past three election cycles. In a 2014 interview with Buzzfeed, he admitted that he enjoys getting people riled up. After all, it keeps him in the news.