|By Annie Sweeney, Chicago TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News |
May 15--He might be the best-known businessman in America, but real estate mogul and TV celebrity Donald Trump left nothing to chance when he took the witness stand Tuesday at a federal trial in Chicago.
"Donald John Trump," he answered when asked to state his name. Then he spelled it for good measure: "T-R-U-M-P."
The New York billionaire is defending himself in a lawsuit brought by an 87-year-old mother of four who alleges breach of contract over two hotel units she sought to purchase at Trump's namesake tower on Chicago's downtown riverfront.
Jacqueline Goldberg alleged that Trump Tower reneged on plans to let buyers of hotel units share in some of the hotel revenue after she had put down a $516,000 deposit.
But Goldberg decided not to complete the purchase after the hotel changed the terms, so her suit seeks a return of her deposit and damages in excess of $500,000.
Goldberg's attorneys allege that Trump controlled everything about his brand and business and was central to the plan to lure her in with the profit-sharing ideas.
But during his testimony, Trump insisted he sought to distance himself from major decisions made about Chicago's Trump Tower.
The idea for the development on the site of the former Sun-Times building, Trump said, came from the former owners of the newspaper.
When pressed on that, Trump explained: "They presented it to me and I selected the site."
And the famous spire planned for the top? "It was Mayor Daley," Trump said. "He really wanted to see it built."
Trump, who controls the fates of would-be apprentices on a TV show with his famous "you're fired" bark, said he must delegate many responsibilities and rely on the "thousands" of people who work for him.
"I have great people," he said. "I can't do it all myself. I have to rely on people."
Yet the famously coiffed Trump managed to offer several asides about the success of his real estate properties, referring to them as "phenomenal" and "tremendous." He also bragged about the fine dining he offers at Trump International Hotel & Tower.
"I don't want to be 'braggadocious,'" he said. "I build great buildings. ... And they sell."
At several points, Goldberg's attorney, Shelly Kulwin, asked for Trump's answers to be stricken from the record, saying he was making speeches and "filibustering."
"This is not a commercial," Kulwin said at one point.
Moments before walking into the courtroom Tuesday, Trump adjusted the lapels on his dark suit with a firm grasp. Once on the witness stand, he smiled at the jury briefly before beginning his testimony.
He is scheduled to return to the stand Wednesday morning for at least another half-day of testimony.
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