You're Hired

Winning 'The Apprentice' Job Might Be The Easy Part. Here's The Reality Of What It's Like To Actually Work For Donald Trump.

April 15, 2004|By John Woestendiek | John Woestendiek,SUN STAFF

A successful boss - or so at least one school of thought holds - hires the best possible people, pays them well and gives them free rein to do their jobs.

As tonight's winner of The Apprentice will find out, Donald Trump isn't enrolled in that school.

The high-rolling real estate developer, who through the NBC series has become perhaps the nation's most famous boss, does hire the best he can find, and he does pay handsomely in the executive ranks.

But when it comes to those reins, some former employees say Trump can - and regularly does - tug on them, sometimes viciously.

"He is not an easy guy. He is very temperamental," said Bernard Goupy, who Trump - not liking the look of his Caesar salad - fired after six months as chef at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Palm Beach estate. "He swears like a truck driver."

The winner of The Apprentice - the one contestant who, in Trump's view, outshines the other 15 who vied for the honor of working for one of his companies for a year - will be named on tonight's final episode.

But aside from the $250,000 salary, the fame and the doors the job could open, is working for Donald Trump the prize the show makes it out to be, or more akin to punishment?

Former employees have described Trump as having a volatile temper, a foul mouth and little regard for lower- level workers. They say his attention span is short, except when it comes to property he wants or someone who, in his view, has wronged him.

He seeks out opinions, but doesn't put much stock in them. He is meticulous, a clean freak, quick to find scapegoats to fire. He is prone to tirades, and sometimes berates employees in front of others.

Trump employs close to 20,000, the bulk of them - nearly 12,000 - at his three Atlantic City casino hotels, Trump Taj Majal, Trump Marina and Trump Plaza.

What it's like to work for Trump varies, depending on whether you're a janitor at the Trump Taj Majal or a vice president at his Trump Tower headquarters in New York - but neither can be assured of avoiding his well-known wrath.

Among his executives, Trump likes to see high energy, big thinking, business suits (jackets kept on) and zealous dedication. He has little use for Type B personalities. He prefers "warriors."

On The Apprentice, two contestants (Bill Rancic and Kwame Jackson) remain, but one thing is sure - whoever wins tonight is probably not in for a peaceful, easy 12 months.

Perhaps the best tattletale from inside the Trump organization is John R. O'Donnell, one-time president of the Trump Plaza and author of the 1991 book Trumped! The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump.

O'Donnell quit his $260,000-a-year job in 1990 to write the book, in which he describes Trump as "volatile and unpredictable."

"He had a passion for cleanliness, and depending on his mood, a stray cigarette butt on the carpet or an employee's scuffed shoes could unleash in him a fearful tirade, always accompanied by a stream of expletives," he wrote.

O'Donnell's book recounts several incidents of Trump's going beyond yelling and cursing. Displeased with the ceiling height of a casino lounge for preferred customers, Trump rammed his fist through a tile. Dissatisfied with the interiors of a fleet of new limousines, he ripped out handfuls of upholstery.

Trump is a stickler for details, including clothing, O'Donnell wrote: "To image-obsessed Donald, a loosened tie was the sign of a sloppy mind."

O'Donnell said Trump would yell at pilots if they landed his 727 roughly, and when things went wrong at one of his casinos, he was intent on finding someone to blame and then fire.

O'Donnell, who Trump has labeled a disgruntled employee intent on maligning him, says Trump went ballistic when the opening of the Taj Majal was delayed. He quoted Trump:

"I'm gonna fire all you (expletive) ... You're all (expletive). I never had so much incompetent (expletive) working for me ... I want the (expletive) out of here. I want the incompetents out of here. I want people in here who are going to kick some (expletive). I want (expletive). What I need are more nasty (expletive) in this company. Warriors."

Norma Foerderer doesn't look like a warrior, but appearances can be deceiving, as Trump noted in The Art of the Deal.

"Charming and classy, but she's all steel underneath," he wrote of Foerderer, his vice president for media relations and human resources. She must be - having worked for him for 23 years and outlasted even ex-wife, Ivana, who initially recommended The Donald hire her.

A member of Trump's trusted inner circle, Foerderer says he is a boss that both expects and exhibits loyalty. Trump employs from 80 to 90 people in the New York office.

"The Trump Organization is not humongous. I hate to say it's like a `mom and pop organization,' but it is, in a sense, because of the kind of guy he is. He's very caring," she said.

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