1994 was the year Donald Trump broke, when the real personal bankruptcy took place, changing the course for the future; his and ours.
It was a tumultuous year, noted by horrifying and wonderful world events. I won’t go into detail, everyone knows how to use Wikipedia, but suffice it to say it was yet another year that highlighted the best and worst of people, and the power of nature.
I was two years into building a medical education marketing company with my business partner, still clinging to the life I had decided was the right path, working “just enough” to support my hobby of horseback riding and staying connected to that world. I was learning rapidly that hobbies and entrepreneurship don’t mix well, unless they are the same thing, but still steadfast in my naivete as I clung to the delusion for what would be the last year of “having time” for that passion, as the business life became all consuming.
Staring into the Abyss
It was also a time of a slew of what would become revealing interviews with Trump, who’s youngest daughter Tiffany had just turned 1, his marriage with Marla Maples was starting to crumble, and his bankruptcies were taking center stage as his standing in the business world was crumbling into chaos. His father was deteriorating into the abyss of Alzheimer’s. Trump presumably knew this meant daddy would not be able to bail him out, yet again.
Still stung by the rejection and ferocity of the disapproval of his parents over his divorce, his world was deteriorating. Personally, professionally, socially. He needed a fix. His narcissism needed feeding. The rage wasn’t working. The successes weren’t there. The media coverage was deteriorating into focusing on his failures and disappointments. He needed a win. He needed acceptance.
Seeking the Fix
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had passed away earlier in the year. While the world grieved a beloved and mysterious figure who personified elegance and strength, Trump saw it as an opening. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had been a member of the Essex Hunt Club, a hyper exclusive equestrian club in which new members are admitted for life only after the passing of a previous member. Admittance was by invitation only, reserved for the upper echelon of American Society, the elite of the elite. (link)
This was the very world Trump had always craved to be a part of, but was always excluded from.
He first privately, then semi-publicly, campaigned for her spot in the club. It is my understanding his antics were never acknowledged directly. It is my experience, as a fringe participant in this equestrian world, however, that his efforts most definitely WERE acknowledged.
Trump’s antics offered brevity and comic relief to a turbulent year for this crowd.
The Troubled World Trump Craves Admission To
In a world where dirty laundry is never aired, the community was rocked by the public airing of grievances by a disposed spouse of one of the top benefactors and supporters of the community in an ugly, very public divorce. (link)
It was also the year the community was devastated as many of their top names and talent were being taken down in a massive insurance fraud scandal that toppled one after another after another, reaching both deeply into the close knit group and the business world itself. (link)
Anyone on the inside would have known this was not the year for Trump antics to be introduced to this world. But Trump saw an opening, in a death. He incredulously believed his admission to this elite world would bring a distraction from the news.
At the time, one of the grand events was the National Horse Show, held then at the Meadowlands in NJ, having moved years before from Madison Square Garden. It was the final show of the season, held in early November, and while bestowed the titles of top riders, horses, juniors, it also was where the elite gathered if not directly at the show, around it. This year, there was no shortage of snickering, only half hidden jokes and mockery about Trump, to distract from the scandals they faced.
No, he would never be considered for acceptance. Never. They didn’t like his kind. His new money, gauche behavior was just not “their kind of people”. And ASKING to be invited to join? Oh my goodness, dear, one does not ASK to be asked. It’s just not done.
He was mocked relentlessly in a way only completely-out-of-touch heirs and heiresses can roll their insults down their upturned noses with a delayed lifting of an eyelid and a nearly imperceptible raise of an eyebrow.
After a decade of growing up knowing him to be an utter clown and con man, and connected to the mob from all corners of the world, one almost felt bad for the open torment and mockery this otherwise stoic, non-reactive crowd. The very crowd he craved, from the bowels of his soul, to be accepted by.
Refocusing the Fix
After being turned away , he set his sights on the golf world, using the same failed approach with the tony Pine Valley Golf Club in NJ. After being summarily dismissed by them as well, (cross over from the same audience, and also once again ASKING, campaigning to be invited to join), he settled on his next approach. He purchased a golf club a few miles away, and started his new empire. Always in the shadow of the world he craved to be a part of, but never being allowed in. Every single one of his golf properties is NEAR the elites, always close, but never part of that world. (The one in Bedminster NJ has always been close to his heart, it involved a very long multi-year development battle, at a time when he needed that rage and revenge outlet. And, coincidentally, less than 5 miles from the Essex Hunt Club.)
Money may buy him sponsorships, recognition, even hosting events, but never, EVER acceptance.
A Return to the Horse World
As the years passed, the scandals that plagued the members of the Equestrian Community caused damage, and they reworked the circuit schedules, locations, and governing body. Now crowning events of the circuit take place in Florida, effectively closing ranks by excluding the general public through location and timing, during the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), based in Wellington, FL 15 miles from Mar-a-Lago.
Mark Bellisimo, a long time business associate of Trump’s, is the CEO of Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP), is the organizer of the WEF, with goals of making the area THE global destination for the sport and community. (link) That takes money, and sponsors. Trump, who has always craved to be part of that world, now has an Invitational Charity Event Horse Show hosted at Mar-a-Lago. (link)
Money and connections, but still not accepted, because it is not an “Official Circuit Event”, a nuanced difference, but to a narcissist craving acceptance, and reacting with revenge, it is a tell tale sign that he is acquiescing rather than avenging, desperately trying to be a part of a world he can never be a part of, forever looking in from the outside, inching in wherever he can.
And he’ll take what he can get.
And so he has. He has found ways to influence the community, and take advantage of his other vested interests in the success of the community and goals of his business associate, Bellisimo. There is a saying in the equestrian world,
“The only way to make a small fortune in the horse business is to start with a large one.”
The surrounding businesses of the equestrian life attracts the money, and the interplay of geopolitics and business is ripe for incomparably wealthy hobbyists and investors. Equestrian investment is risky. Risky investments potentially serve, like real estate and venture capital investing, as cover for many “sins”. And what better place than Florida.
The only thing more popular in the horse world than the monied elite is the existence of LLCs. Worth a look.
Two sides of the equestrian world, the tonied elites and the “new comers”, fight in the playground of the rich and famous, (link) and in politics (link) And with politics with money and power at stake, comes holding companies, and PACs, notably Taxpayers for Public Integrity. The two sides play it out, skating on the thin ice covering the competing sides of this world. As I reach the edge of my own understanding, one group in the race wants deliberate growth and investment (the tonied group), the other, the Bellisimo (& Trump) side, prefers more ready access to permits and approvals for expansion and growth. (link)
Money does speak. And with it comes increasing, consolidated power and influence. But it still does not, and will not, buy acceptance.
Oh, and guess who’s recently split up and sold land is being viewed as equestrian properties to help further the growth of the world equestrian community …. Rybolovlev. Gotta love those holding companies.