1. Trump makes money from just selling his name
Part of the reason Trump’s estimations of his wealth vary so much from Fortune and other publications is because he adds a few zeros based on his “brand.” To varying degrees of success, he puts his name on mortgage companies, magazines, vodka, steaks, real estate companies, an airplane company, and various resorts and golf courses.
Many of those ventures have been backed by Trump’s own business-focused mind. But Trump also makes money by licensing his name to a variety of projects that he’s not a part of. In those cases, it’s literally in name only. As New York magazine reports, this became a popular business tactic for Trump in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when condominium developers and other real estate moguls would offer Trump a stake in their profits if he lent his name to their building. Trump, who had made his name in developing, decided this setup was a favorable one, because it’s “better than ownership, because it’s a licensing. You don’t put up money. You don’t put up anything.”
Not surprisingly, those ventures don’t always work out so well, but people are sometimes led into making sub par investments, believing Trump is actually behind the project. John Oliver walks through the issue in the clip above from Last Week Tonight (beginning around 12:38).