Trump's right-hand man

George Ross is The Donald's behind-the-scenes adviser, and he's not likely to be fired

Book Festival

September 22, 2005|By Donna M. Owens | Donna M. Owens,Special to The Sun

If you have a television, chances are you've caught at least one episode of The Apprentice, the hit NBC reality show that made the catchphrase "You're fired" famous in households across America.

Week after week, as Donald Trump puts contestants through their paces with bold business exercises and boardroom humiliations, judge George Ross remains a faithful comrade, advising Trump as to who should make the cut, and who likely can't cut the mustard.

Like colleague Carolyn Kepcher, Ross doesn't say all that much. But when he does, it's typically delivered with a mixture of sharp insight and sage wisdom.

His new book, Trump Strategies for Real Estate: Billionaire Lessons for the Small Investor (co-written with Andrew James McLean with a foreword by Trump), was published in February; he'll discuss the book at 5 p.m. tomorrow at the Baltimore Book Festival's Literary Salon.

We chatted recently with Ross, 77, asking him about television, Trump and his impressions of "The City that Reads." How long have you been working with Donald Trump? I've been an attorney with Mr. Trump's organization for the last nine years, but I have known him a long time. I did his first deal back when he was 27 years old. What type of law were you practicing then? Real estate law. I went to Brooklyn Law School. How did you come to be on the show? It happened by accident, really. Mr. Trump came to me and asked if I would be a judge on his new reality show. I didn't really know what a reality show was, but he told me it would only take about three hours a week. I figured I could handle that. It turned out to be a lot more than that. ... We're working nine weeks straight, running around watching the contestants. When we tape those boardrooms, they can go three hours. It's not around the clock, but it doesn't let up. It's a grind, but fun. Did you ever think the show would become such a hit? It's a surreal experience, especially at my age. No one expected the rave reviews and the massive audience, especially among the 18- to 49-year-olds. It's shown in 43 countries - ... New Zealand, Australia. People recognize you. They come up to me for autographs; they want to take my picture. It's nice. Why do you think the show is successful? It has a lot of life that can be used by anyone watching it. It can teach about how to live with people, deal with people and react in the corporate world. It's a learning experience. What's Donald Trump like? He's great, very smart. I've learned a lot about the business world from watching him and basically being an adviser. In my book, I try to synthesize some of the ideas that have made him a billionaire, to the level of the small investor. One thing I have learned about the real estate field is that it takes skill. One false impression out there is that you can just go out, buy real estate and make a lot of money. But in real estate, more fortunes are lost than are ever made. Have you ever been to Baltimore? What are your impressions? Are you kidding? [Chuckles.] I love Baltimore. I hop the Acela [train], and I'm right there. It's a beautiful city.

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