Donald Trump becomes the new owner of the Mar-a-Lago estate, a 17-acre property with a Mediterranean-style mansion made up of over 100 rooms.
According to his book The Art of the Comeback, Trump heard about the mansion during a dinner one evening in the winter of 1985, took a tour, and bought it. That story, like many of Trump’s stories, is a fairy tale.
Months before purchasing the estate, Trump fed reporters and wealthy friends two contradicting lies. The first was that he already owned Mar-a-Lago. This version of events was considered old news when The New York Times briefly mentioned the purchase in an October 1985 article. (Trump used a similar strategy to buy his first hotel.)
Mr. Trump bought the late Marjorie Merriwether Post’s vast Mar-a-Lago estate. He said he and his family would winter in its 129 rooms. But Palm Beach denizens are nervous. They think he’s going to raze it for houses or a condominium.The New York Times – Oct. 29, 1985
The second lie Trump told was that he had bought the property in front of the estate and would build “a hideous home” to block Mar-a-Lago’s view of the beach — which would lower the estate’s value — unless the Post Foundation sold him the mansion. Trump did not actually buy the property, but he continues to tell this story in interviews decades later.
The scheme worked. The Post Foundation, which was operated by Marjorie Merriwether Post’s daughters, believed Trump’s lies and sold him the mansion for less than $10 million. His initial offer was between $25 million and $28 million.
Mar-a-Lago’s bargain price tag rocks community, read the headline of the January 5, 1986, Palm Beach Daily News. Adding insult to injury, Trump would later write of Dina Merrill that she was “Mrs. Post’s arrogant and aloof daughter, who was born with her mother’s beauty but not her brains.” Confronted with Trump’s assessment, Merrill told a reporter, “How lovely. He’s a charming man, isn’t he?”Vanity Fair
The New York Times – Oct. 29, 1985 (Archived)
The Washington Post (Archived)
The New York Times – January 2, 1986 (Archived)
Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty via New Yorker