Ivanka Trump talks family and business

Ivanka Trump, who has been closely involved with the renovation of the Trump National Doral Miami, on Jan. 23, 2014.
Ivanka Trump, who has been closely involved with the renovation of the Trump National Doral Miami, on Jan. 23, 2014.
Peter Andrew Bosch / Miami Herald staff

Ivanka Trump

Age: 32

Title: Executive vice president, development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization; founder and CEO of the Ivanka Trump lifestyle brand.

Education: Bachelor’s of science degree in economics from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania.

Residence: New York City.

Personal: Married to Jared Kushner, CEO of Kushner Companies and owner of Observer Media. They have two children: Arabella Rose and Joseph Frederick.

Other involvement: CEO of Ivanka Trump, a lifestyle brand distributed at retailers including Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Macy’s and others with products in categories including footwear, apparel, accessories, fragrance and home furnishings. Founding partner of UN Foundation Girl Up, a campaign that helps American girls raise awareness and money for United Nations programs that help adolescent girls around the world. Involved with Born Free, an initiative to end transmission of HIV from mothers to children.


Most people might recognize Ivanka Trump from her role as an advisor to father Donald Trump on The Celebrity Apprentice, or her years as a fashion model. But the 32-year-old is also a fixture in Doral, where she has played a key role in everything from the acquisition to the ongoing renovations of the Trump National Doral Miami.

Late last month, Trump, her father and brother Eric presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the recently completed Gary Player Villa, part of the historic resort’s $250 million renovation. The Trump Organization bought the former Doral Golf Resort & Spa for $150 million two years ago.

Since then, the Trumps have spent a significant amount of time at the resort in their quest to make it “the finest golf complex and resort in the world,” as Ivanka Trump put it during the recent ceremony.

In an interview after the ceremony, Donald Trump praised his daughter’s “great sense of fashion and design” as well as her negotiating skills and business acumen.

“She’s a very unique person,” he said. “She’s got a tremendous managerial sense and at the same time, a great design sense, and you oftentimes don’t see those two qualities together.”

Showing the recently completed pool area to a reporter, Eric Trump said he and his sister have “a fun division of responsibilities” because he focuses on construction and she on interiors.

“She puts an amazing feminine touch on that, in a company that can be pretty masculine,” he said.

Ivanka Trump sat down with the Miami Herald after the ceremony to talk about her role in the business and family life.

Q. During the course of the Doral project, you had two kids, right?

A. We bought Doral eight days after Arabella was born. I was on the phone with the seller in the hospital. And Joseph was born two months ago, so I was walking around our construction sites very, very pregnant. So it’s been interesting. We’re going to be finished renovating, I’ll probably be pregnant with a third just to keep it going. Might as well, right?

Q. How involved will you be moving forward here?

A. Very much so... it’s a true family affair; we’re deeply passionate about every last detail. I think that’s ultimately what will enable us to accomplish the goal of making it the greatest golf resort in the country, that we do care about the details, that we obsess over the details. People wouldn’t believe it, seeing my father walk the space. He notices everything. So from a punch-list perspective, everything has to be perfect. And we love that, I mean that, it’s incredibly important to us to execute well. So come the tournament, the Cadillac Championship this year, we’ll have a good portion of the villas finished, we’ll have the Bobby Jones Villa finished, obviously the Gary Player which opened today, and the Tiger Woods Villa completed. We’ll have the whole main building, main clubhouse totally completed along with our new signature restaurant, BLT. The whole pool deck already is completed, the Blue Monster obviously is completed. So really in the next month is when you’ll see, like, total transformation, and then by this time next year, the whole resort will be done so the remainder of the rooms will be finished.

Q. Once it’s done, will you get to come back and enjoy it?

A. Of course. Most people in the real estate development business bring in third-party hotel operators. We self-operate all of our hotels and have what’s now the fastest-growing luxury hotel company in the world, the Trump Hotel Collection. So we’re intimately involved in the ongoing management of the asset as well because ultimately, the experiential element and the service is as important as the physical.

Q. And are you involved on that end as well?

The Trump Hotel Collection I work on very very closely with my father, both my brothers, and it’s been amazing, it’s been incredible to see how fast that company has grown over the years. I really think it’s a testament to the strength of the brand and how the brand resonates across the globe. So we have projects everywhere from Panama to Toronto to the Philippines, so it’s really been wonderful.

Q. How is it working with your dad and your brothers? Do you always get along? Did you always want to work with the family in this context?

A. For as long as I can remember, real estate has been my passion and being in the business has been sort of the goal I was driving towards. And it’s incredible as a family. I’ve found that it’s a very binary outcome, family business. It’s either a great success or it’s a terrible failure. You don’t often hear about people, family members, working together and having an OK relationship. It’s very polarized. So it’s something you have to be cognizant of; you have to be respectful of one another. There has to be just a good dynamic, and I’m incredibly fortunate. My father’s the ultimate mentor. If you want to be in real estate, there’s no better person to learn from. So having him so active and being able to learn so much from him on a daily basis is unbelievable and incredible. And my brothers and I recognize that. That’s part of the fun. And then being able to work with one another is amazing as well.

Q. Are we in the Ivanka Trump Ballroom?

A. We are in the Ivanka Trump Ballroom, yes.

Q. When did you find out it would be called that — or did you always know?

A. We were going through the naming process of all of the different rooms at the resort and re-envisioning them. And it was my father’s idea. He called me and said, ‘What do you think of the Ivanka Trump ballroom?’ It’s great, it’s wonderful.

Q. Everybody says you made this deal happen. Can you just kind of take me back really briefly to the early stages of this and what you did to make it happen and why was it so important to you to make sure that it happened?

A. Well, it was just an incredible opportunity at the right time. I mean, if you look at what happened with real estate values, we bought Doral incredibly well, and it gave us the ability to spend the amount of money we’re spending on the renovation. In the past, people bought Doral for a fortune and then sold it for a fortune, but the reinvestment wasn’t there. So for us, because we bought the asset so well, we can justify just an unbelievable renovation, a staggering amount on the renovation. But it’s the right way to do it. We’re not looking at this with a short-term perspective. We’re a family biz, we look at assets such as Doral very much generationally. My father rightfully said there are multiple ways to do this, and for him, really the only option was to make it spectacular.

Q. You were involved in the negotiation, in making the deal happen?

A. Yeah, I actually got a call from the seller while I was in the hospital. I’d just had Arabella. And we got on a plane five days later. I remember calling my doctor and saying, ‘Is it OK if I go on a plane?’


‘Is it OK if I tour a property?’

‘Sure, is it a small one?’

‘Um, 800 acres in the middle of Miami in the summer.’

He’s like, ‘Can you take a golf cart?’

‘Uh, no.’

So it was definitely interesting, but you know it’s a great memory in a certain way because it was such a crazy thing. My father and I jumped on a plane and came down and never looked back.

Q. I don’t know if you talk about this, but I understand you kind of unplug on Fridays and observe the Sabbath. How did that come about, and why is it something that’s really important to you?

A. I tend not to talk about it because it’s very personal to me. But I think generally speaking, my husband and I, we both sort of are running at a thousand miles a minute. And we really prioritize obviously family, each other, the kids. I work really, really hard to create defined periods of time where they get me all to themselves. And that’s in the mornings and evenings. I put Arabella to bed every night and then run back to the office or run out to a work obligation. But it’s really important to have those anchors during the day, the weekends.… unless it’s something for work, I don’t make commitments during the day, even with my friends. I’m just very, very focused on my work and my family right now. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, so that’s what I’m sort of trying to do.

Q. And are you enjoying all of this?

A. I love it, I love it. It’s so exciting. One of the greatest elements of being in the real estate business is you get to actually enjoy the tangible nature of all your planning and hard work and especially in the hotel space, because you actually see people experiencing it, living with it, walking by the photographs that you’ve curated, sitting on the couches that you’ve selected. There’s a story behind everything. It’s an amazing thing.

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