How good a businessman is Donald Trump?
特朗普是多出色的商人?

总统的全部身家 All the president’s moolah-书迷号 shumihao.com

“THE APPRENTICE makes me $3m a day. Ker-ching. That’s the music it makes. It sure beats bricks and mortar, hey?” So a British businessman, imitating Donald Trump’s distinctive drawl, recalls a conversation the two men had by telephone years before Mr Trump became president. It was a high point of their relationship that the Brit still savours.
“《学徒》一天能给我挣300万。哗啦啦,钱进来了。这是它的主题曲。它肯定比那些砖头水泥强,你说是吧?”一名英国商人模仿着特朗普独特的腔调,拖长了声音说道。他在回忆在特朗普当上总统的几年前两人的一通电话。这是二人交情的一个高潮,他到今天还在回味。

Broadly speaking, Mr Trump was right. As the New York Times reported on September 27th, after trawling through almost two decades of his long-concealed tax records, the president’s 50% stake in the reality-TV show, which helped craft his image as a successful tycoon and catapult him to the White House, was the shrewdest business move of his career.
大体上讲,特朗普说的没错。《纽约时报》查阅了他长期掩藏的近20年的纳税记录。正如该报在9月27日的报道中所述,这位总统在这档真人秀节目(帮助他塑造了成功大亨的形象并一跃登上白宫宝座)中持有50%的股份是他职业生涯中最精明的商业决策。

Yet the self-styled property Midas almost blew the windfall on bricks and mortar. Before becoming president Mr Trump spent much of his money on golf courses, hotels and other trophy assets that the Times says have since racked up huge tax losses. Thanks to that red ink, it said he paid a mere $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016, the year he was elected, and his first year in office—and not a cent in ten of the previous 15 years.
不过,这位自封的房地产点金神手几乎把这笔横财全都挥霍在了砖头水泥上。在成为总统之前,特朗普把大部分钱都花在了高尔夫球场、酒店和其他炫耀性资产上。《纽约时报》称,这些资产之后造成了巨大的税收流失。该报称,拜这些资产的亏损所赐,特朗普在他当选的2016年和上任的第一年都只缴纳了750美元的联邦所得税,而在此前的15年中,有10年他一分钱也没缴过。

In the presidential debate on September 29th Mr Trump disputed the account, saying he had paid “millions” in income taxes. A lawyer for the Trump Organisation told the Times that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” but only directly questioned the amount of tax the president reportedly paid. In the past Mr Trump might have shrugged it all off. In 2016 he said minimising his taxes “makes me smart”. But even if the revelations hurt him politically, many businesspeople will see them in a kinder light. For them, the most intriguing question is not whether Mr Trump is a boy scout but whether he is a good businessman.
在9月29日的大选辩论中,特朗普对该报道提出异议,称他已缴纳“几百万”美元的所得税。特朗普集团(The Trump Organisation)的一名律师回应《纽约时报》称,“就算不是全部,大部分内容似乎也是不准确的”,不过他只直接质疑了报道中所述特朗普缴纳的税款金额。过去,特朗普可能完全不会把这些放在心上。他曾在2016年说过,尽可能少缴税“是我机智”。但是即使这些披露会对他造成政治上的损害,许多商人还是会以更宽容的眼光看待它们。他们最感兴趣的问题不是特朗普是不是个正派人,而是他是否是一名优秀的商人。

It is a hard question to answer. Mr Trump has never released his tax returns, and his businesses are privately held. The financial disclosures he made as president last year covered more than 100 business entities, ranging from skyscrapers to books. He can inflate assessments of his own wealth by billions of dollars just in the course of a conversation. The Times scoop provides another important piece of the jigsaw puzzle. But because it refers to tax accounts, it probably represents what Mr Trump wants the taxman to believe, rather than the full reality.
这个问题不好答。特朗普从未公布过他的报税单,他的企业也是私人控股的。去年他作为总统披露的财务信息涵盖了从摩天大楼到图书的100多个商业实体。他光是动动嘴皮子就可能把自己的财富评估夸大数十亿美元。《纽约时报》的独家新闻提供了拼图的另一个重要部分。但因为该报道查阅的是纳税记录,所以它展现的可能是特朗普希望税务人员相信的东西,而不是完整的真实情况。

To get the measure of the business, it helps to consider the Trump Organisation, Mr Trump’s main vehicle, as a relatively modest, America-centric enterprise. Its bedrock is property. Its biggest assets are two buildings in New York and San Francisco in which Mr Trump owns a minority stake, and his two Manhattan stalwarts, 40 Wall Street and Trump Tower. The Times says that these four have produced big profits—until the pandemic, that is. But if Mr Trump, like other property barons, uses the wear and tear on his buildings, known as depreciation, to generate tax deductions, it is possible that they have done even better than the tax records make out.
要摸清特朗普的生意做得如何,更好的视角是把他的主要财务载体特朗普集团看作一家不算太大、以美国为中心的企业。它的基石是房地产。它最大的资产是特朗普拥有少数股权的两栋位于纽约和旧金山的建筑,以及他在曼哈顿的两块磐石——华尔街40号和特朗普大厦。《纽约时报》称,这四栋大楼产生了丰厚的利润——直到疫情爆发。但是,如果特朗普像其他房地产大亨一样利用建筑的磨损(即折旧)来为自己减税,那么这些房产的效益可能比税收记录显示的还要好。

Then there is “The Apprentice”. According to the tax records, his appearance on the show generated $200m, which is a spectacular result. He also reported $230m of additional income from the licensing and endorsement deals that came out of it, on everything from Trump-branded hotels to Oreo cookies. Beyond that are some puny international branding endeavours on buildings in other countries, some of which are white elephants. The tax records indicate that his biggest losses have come from golf courses, into which he has poured money over the past decade. The Times says some of the biggest ones, including two in Scotland and one in Ireland, are loss-making even before depreciation.
然后是《学徒》。根据纳税记录,他在节目中的亮相带来了两个亿的收入,令人叹为观止。他还报告了2.3亿美元的额外收入,来自该节目带来的从特朗普品牌酒店到奥利奥饼干的各种许可和代言协议。除此之外,他还在其他国家的建筑上做出了些不起眼的品牌国际化努力,其中一些成了昂贵的摆设。纳税记录显示,他最大的损失来自高尔夫球场,过去十年他在这方面投入了大量资金。《纽约时报》称,其中一些最大的球场,包括在苏格兰的两家和爱尔兰的一家,即使在折旧前也是亏损的。

How solid the Trump business remains depends on four factors about which the full picture is still unclear. The first is debt. The Times reports that he has $300m in loans coming due in the next few years for which he is personally liable. It is not known whether he mortgaged these borrowings against solid assets. If he did, they are probably manageable. If not, the debt could become contagious—but it doesn’t have to. Banks will nevertheless be jumpy. In a compliance-obsessed era, few are keen to engage with politicians of any stripe—particularly one with Mr Trump’s profile. There may be other liabilities. Mr Trump is the subject of an ongoing federal tax audit for a $73m refund he claimed a decade ago—and which he may need to return. Of immediate concern is covid-19. Many of his commercial tenants will be reeling from the pandemic. Hotels are suffering from low occupancy; high-density office buildings in New York could fall in value because of remote working; footfall has fallen among luxury retailers who occupy his buildings at street level.
特朗普的生意还会多稳固取决于四个因素,不过这些因素的全貌仍难以探清。首先是债务。《纽约时报》报道称,他有三亿美元的贷款将在未来几年到期,由他个人负责。不知他这些贷款是否以固定资产作了抵押。如果是,它们可能就还可控。如果不是,这笔债务可能就会变得有传染性——但这也还是可以避免的。尽管如此,银行还是会心惊肉跳。在一个合规至上的时代,很少有人热衷和政客打交道——不管是什么类型的政客,更别说特朗普这号人物。他可能还有其他债务。特朗普正在就10年前申领的7300万美元退税接受联邦税务审计——他可能需要退还这笔钱。摆在眼前的麻烦是新冠肺炎。他的许多商业租户将因疫情受到打击。酒店入住率低;纽约的高密度办公楼可能因远程办公的兴起而贬值;他临街建筑中的奢侈品零售店租户的客流量已经下降。

In the 18th hole?
在第18洞?

Ultimately, the future will depend on the durability and value of the Trump brand. “The Apprentice” showed how lucrative it could be. But whether he could get a similar television deal in America whenever he leaves power may depend on his popularity at the end, and the manner in which he leaves the White House. He could look for TV opportunities abroad, where his recognition is far higher now than it ever was during “The Apprentice”. There are plenty of international media moguls who would be keen to profit from another chapter in the Trump soap opera. Or he may simply retire, handing over the keys of the kingdom to his children to manage or to liquidate.
说到底,未来将取决于特朗普这个品牌的持久性和价值。《学徒》显示了它的吸金力。但是,他是不是不管何时卸任都能在美国获得类似的电视节目协议,可能要看他在最后时刻受欢迎的程度,以及以什么样的方式离开白宫。他或许可以到国外寻找做电视节目的机会,现在他在那里的知名度可比《学徒》时期高得多。许多国际媒体巨头都会很想从特朗普肥皂剧的下一个篇章捞一笔。或者他可能干脆会退休,把王国的钥匙交给子女管理或变现。

That is unlikely. The best time to do so would have been before taking office. In a new book about the president’s business interests, “White House, Inc”, Dan Alexander, a journalist at Forbes magazine, calculates that had Mr Trump done so back then and invested the proceeds in the S&P 500 stockmarket index, by March of this year he would have been richer by $415m—twice what he earned on “The Apprentice”. To a businessman that must rankle, whether he is an astute one or not. ■
这不太可能发生。真要这么做,最好的时机其实是在他上任以前。《福布斯》记者丹·亚历山大(Dan Alexander)在关于这位总统的商业利益的新书《白宫股份有限公司》(White House, Inc)中估算,如果特朗普当时这么做了,并将所得投资于标普500股市指数,那么到今年3月,他的身家会增加4.15亿美元——是他在《学徒》中赚到的两倍。这一定会令一名商人捶胸顿足,不管他精明与否。