After the Taj opened in April 1990, the self-anointed 'King of Debt' owed $70 million to contractors employing thousands who built the domes and minarets.
The contractor who provided the onion domes for the Taj Mahal casino had to eat $2 million in losses. The contractor who supplied the Carrara marble from Italy ended up filing for personal bankruptcy. The contractor who put in the bathroom partitions had to lay off his brother.
A quarter of a century has passed since Donald Trump refused to pay in full 253 contractors who help build his Taj in Atlantic City. But for many of them, it could have happened yesterday.
“We got next to nothing,” says Michael MacLeod, whose 40-person studio made the giant elephant statues at the casino’s entrance. “I took a big hit.”
After the Taj opened in April 1990, the self-anointed “King of Debt” owed $70 million to contractors employing thousands who built the domes and minarets, put up the glass and drywall, laid the pipes and installed everything from chandeliers to bathroom fixtures.
A year later, when the casino collapsed into bankruptcy, those owed the most got only 33 cents in cash for each dollar owed, with promises of another 50 cents later. It took years to get the rest, assuming the companies survived long enough to collect.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks and Trump attorney Alan Garten did not respond to a list of questions about the candidate’s Taj dealings.
Marty Rosenberg, former vice president of Atlantic Plate Glass, says the way Trump handled the contractors shows the candidate is shrewd and clever, but Trump won’t get his vote.
“If ethics or morality has nothing to do with business,” Rosenberg says, “he’s a very good businessman.”
For the contractors, the first signs of trouble came in February 1990. Regular checks for work completed stopped arriving in the mail.
Rosenberg, who was owed $1.1 million for installing floor-to-ceiling curtain walls of glass, picked up the phone in his Atlantic City office and called one of Trump’s men overseeing construction.
“I’ll check it out, Marty, and call you right back,” the man said. A day later, he got his answer: The money’s coming in two weeks.
Five hundred miles away, in Ashtabula, Ohio, Robert Morrison of the Molded Fiber Glass Co. was pressing his workers to finish the domes, minarets and other faux Moorish ornaments in time for an April 2 opening and worrying about who was going to pay for it all.
An invoice sent weeks earlier for $1.4 million still hadn’t been paid.