By Drew Harwell
As Donald Trump hunted for a deal that would help him keep part of the bankrupt Atlantic City casino empire he’d built, fellow Queens-born billionaire Carl Icahn mounted an aggressive counterattack.
Icahn pushed in 2010 to wrest control of Trump Entertainment Resorts, backing lawyers who argued that one of Trump’s most prized assets — his brand — was a “disadvantage” that may no longer have been “synonymous with business acumen, high quality . . . and enormous success.”
These days, the tension has given way to apparent harmony. As Trump runs for president, he often fawns over the elite investor 11 years his senior, saying Icahn is one of “the great businessmen of the world” and sharp enough to master U.S. negotiations with China or run the Treasury Department. Icahn has endorsed Trump, saying the country would be “lucky” to have him in the Oval Office.
The shifting dynamic shows how these two merciless capitalists have, over decades of socializing and jousting, formed a more tortuous and even rocky relationship than comes across in their election-year alliance.
For Trump, who has taken pride in punching back hard at his attackers, his rapport with Icahn shows a side of the brash real estate tycoon that Americans rarely see: a willingness to show deference to someone who once insulted his business and who has, by many measures, been more successful.
Icahn’s $20 billion net worth dwarfs Trump’s riches. He has taken advantage of Trump’s vulnerabilities to make tens of millions of dollars — becoming Trump’s rescuer and rival.
In Atlantic City, in the early 1990s, Icahn championed the deal that helped Trump retain some power and ownership during his Taj Mahal casino’s first brush with bankruptcy.
In the aftermath, Icahn turned his Taj investment into a massive profit. Meanwhile, Trump, who owed billions of dollars in other non-casino loans, agreed to give up his private jet and mega-yacht.
Then earlier this year, with the casino still smothered in debt, Icahn took over the Taj with a promise to return it to glory — and without Trump’s ownership or control.
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To get a taste of how Icahn negotiates, see:
How Billionaire Carl Icahn Negotiates
T. Boone Pickens and Carl Icahn Talk Shop
and don't miss this:
How Carl Icahn Settled the Texaco/Getty Oil Lawsuit