Donald Trump, former CEO of Trump Entertainment

“You’re fired! Hands off my brand,” says Donald Trump, as he prepares to sue Trump Entertainment. Actually, we made up this quote, don’t sue us, Mr. Trump. (Image: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)

As if Trump Entertainment Resorts didn’t have enough problems, Donald Trump is now suing the company for the continued use of his name. The billionaire developer and reality TV star filed a lawsuit earlier this week, calling for the Trump name to be dropped from two Atlantic City casinos he used to own: the Trump Taj Mahal and the ailing Trump Plaza.

“I want it off both of them,” snapped Trump. “I’ve been away from Atlantic City for many years. People think we operate (the company), and we don’t. It’s not us. It’s not me.”

Trump Entertainment Resorts was founded by Trump in 1995, combining all his casino holdings into a publicly held company, with the property mogul acting as the chairman of the Board of Directors until his resignation in 2009.

Rise and Fall of an Empire

Trump began buying property in Atlantic City in the early 1980s; his first casino along the boardwalk was the Holiday Inn Casino hotel, a project he built in conjunction with Holiday Inn and Harrahs. It was completed in 1984, and Trump promptly bought out his business partners, renaming the property the Trump Plaza.

Next, the mogul turned his attentions to the Atlantic City Hilton, which he bought for $325 million after Hilton Hotels failed to obtain a gaming license. This would become the Trump Marina, which in 2011 was sold by Trump Entertainment to Landry’s, and is now the Golden Nugget.

He completed his Atlantic City casino empire in 1988 when he bought the unfinished Taj Mahal from Resorts International for $230 million. By the time it was completed in 1990, it had cost $1 billion to build, at a time when Trump and his business enterprises were experiencing mounting debt. The Trump Taj Mahal was declared bankrupt later that year.

Trump was nonetheless able to turn his fortunes around and presided over the best years of New Jersey’s casino industry. Trouble resurfaced in 2004, however, when the company filed for bankruptcy again, which he claimed was just “a technical thing” and the best way to implement a restructuring process. But in 2009, perhaps sensing the ill wind that was blowing towards Atlantic City, he decided he’d had enough of casinos and bowed out of the industry completely.

Trumpery Claims

Despite this, the Donald claims to be incensed at the way that Trump Entertainment has managed the two remaining “Trump” properties, particularly the Plaza, which has announced its imminent closure next month, unless an unlikely purchaser is found. The company, he says, has allowed the casinos to fall into “disrepair,” thus tarnishing the Trump brand name, of which he is fiercely protective. While he has had nothing to do with the casinos’ operations since 2009, however, he retains a ten percent stake, which allows the casinos to retain the Trump name.

“Since Mr. Trump left Atlantic City many years ago, the license entities have allowed the casino properties to fall into an utter state of disrepair and have otherwise failed to operate and manage the casino properties in accordance with the high standards of quality and luxury required under the license agreement,” states the lawsuit. “The Trump name … has become synonymous with the highest levels of quality, luxury, prestige and success.”

Current Trump Entertainment CEO Robert Griffin has declined to comment on the lawsuit.