Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Miami Herald on May 21, 2006.
Donald Trump and Jorge Perez, who joined forces a couple of years ago to launch Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach and are now at it again with the planned 40-story Trump Hollywood, are looking as spiffy as two billionaires can, sitting here in the Tea House at Mar-a-Lago.
The hour may call for tea, but they’re drinking Diet Cokes in their impeccable blue suits. Trump’s look is set off by a lustrous red power tie, Perez’s by an equally impressive sky blue number.
They’re nothing if not salesmen, and they’re perfectly on point about the two things they want to sell you on today. One is the super luxe Trump Hollywood, on an expanse of sandy beach just 15 minutes from the cultural meccas of Bal Harbour and downtown Fort Lauderdale. The other is the fact that they’re homeboys. They can do a deal in two minutes flat — because they’re tight like that.
“Let me tell you how much I knew Donald was going to like this project,” says Perez, head of the booming Related Group of Florida. “I actually designed the building and an entire ad campaign before I even brought it to him. We were on his golf course in Palm Beach and I said, ‘I think this is a great job for us to do together.’”
Trump didn’t waste words. “It’s great,” he said.
“This is something I never say, you have to understand,” says Trump, who keeps popping Tic-Tacs and whose signature hair is in perfect pouffyness today. “Jorge has great vision and a great design sense. I turn down 10 deals for every deal I do. With Jorge, it took me seconds, because he’s a total pro.”
Forget asking about the specifics of the deal. They’re not telling. But they don’t connect just on making money. They can break it down about all kinds of stuff. Perez reminds Trump he’s invited to catch the Heat game at sugar baron Alfie Fanjul’s new crib tonight.
“How’s the house? Have you seen it?” Trump wants to know.
“No, he just finished it,” Perez responds. “You know, he got engaged to that young lady.”
They can go on and on like this, shooting the breeze for your benefit.
Here they are mogul to mogul. On Bo Derek, who happens to be staying at Mar-a-Lago:
Trump: “She looks great. In the history of movies, there was never a more beautiful woman than Bo Derek in 10. The scene of her running.”
Perez: “She was going out with a friend of mine, a New York developer.”
Trump: “Well, she was going out with a movie actor. Now she’s going out with [Joshua] Bolten, who is head of the White House.”
But that’s not to say Trump and Perez can’t focus on priorities. Like Trump Hollywood, at 2711 S. Ocean Dr. Slated for a groundbreaking in the fall, the glass tower features beyond-posh three- and four-bedroom units, a private cinema and oceanfront cabanas. Prices range from $1.5 million to $6 million a unit.
After the Diet Cokes, Trump and Perez will greet a crowd of dressy Palm Beachites, including a bunch of star-struck real estate brokers who have been invited to Mar-a-Lago to hear the pitch over champagne, filet and sushi.
“It’s the two giants of real estate, and it’s exciting to see,” said agent Michael Moog de Medici, who is from Germany, France and Switzerland.
Trump Hollywood targets a monied, traveled set that might survive the Westin Diplomat Hotel but probably won’t spend nights strolling the Broadwalk with the masses or entertaining guests at Le Tub. Won’t that set ultimately find Hollywood a little lacking in fabulousness?
“I think Hollywood offers being in the middle of it all at the same time as being away from it all,” Perez says. “You’re within minutes of what you might be missing.”
Both are counting on South Florida growing more cosmopolitan, thanks, in part, to the deep-pockets crowd they are attracting.
“As the urban core expands, it will all read like a metropolitan area with Palm Beach almost becoming a suburb of Miami,” Perez says.
Chic as they may be, if rich new buyers are going to be around for only a few sunny weeks each year, how will a smart metropolis jell?
“People who used to stay in a hotel for a few days are buying condos and staying for a few weeks or a few months,” Perez says. “They have more of a stake in the community. But there is no question we need to attract more urban employment. We don’t want to become a city of [only] second-home owners and tourists.”
Trump, though, can spin that second-home thing easily.
“It can be an asset,” he says. “You’re going to have all these people here paying high real estate taxes who are not going to be here 12 months of the year. They’re not going to be sending their kids to [local] schools.”
Then again, are rich people really going to send their kids to public schools here?
“Well, probably not,” Trump says with a smile. “But in many respects, it’s probably a good thing they are not going to be here year-round.”
The moguls met years ago in New York, but they became friends after they met again at Mar-a-Lago in 2001.
“It was prior to him getting married,” Trump says. “He was with the woman who became his wife. I said, ‘Who the hell is this beautiful woman?’”
Is Trump interested in Perez’s wife?
“He is always interested,” Perez says with a laugh.
How did they wind up striking business? It’s not as if either really needs the other.
“That’s true. But we do better together,” Trump says. “Related has such a name for quality. I have such a name for quality. Together, we are blowing them away. Trump Towers sold right away. Trump Hollywood is 65 percent reserved and we just went out.”
“I’m looking at a site in Argentina right now,” Perez says. “I already told him it would be an incredible place to put the Trump stamp. Especially since we don’t have the exuberance in the market that we had in the last five years, the name adds an edge.”
“I think The Apprentice has changed a lot of things,” Trump says. “My father wouldn’t believe this one. It really took the brand to a different level.”
Does Trump know, walking in, which of the apprentices will deliver?
“Almost the opposite,” he says. “I have seen people who I had no doubt were going to be superstars and they fizzle. And I have had others who I don’t think much of and they turn out to be superstars. It’s like real life.”
So, is Perez ready for his own reality show?
“I have been asked. I would never do it. I would be horrible at it. I hate public speaking.”
Trump and Perez seem happy to play along today, so you might as well ask: Since they look identical but for the ties, what if they had both shown up in red ones?
They look at each other and shrug.
Trump: “We don’t ask each other what we’re wearing.”
Perez: “He has every shade of pink and every shade of red. And I have every shade of pink and every shade of red.”
Trump: “Do you wear the ones I send you?” (Trump has his own brand.)
"Perez: “I do. The Trump ties are just as good as the Brioni ties.”