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October 26, 2014

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Growing up Trump means learning to thrive in two very different worlds

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Bryan Steffy / Courtesy photo

Eric Trump talks about his upbringing, the value of the Trump name and what sets Trump International apart in a city with dozens of competitors in the luxury resort industry.

Eric Trump is a look-you-in-the-eye kind of guy.

Most of the time, anyway.

But there are moments when his gaze drifts, as he spots an object of particular interest.

A piece of furniture, for instance.

“What I’m looking at now — the mattresses,” Trump says while chatting in the master bedroom of a 3,000-square-foot suite on the 60th floor of Trump International Las Vegas. “I’m just reminded of when we were picking out the mattresses for the hotel collection, we went to every mattress company in the world and said, ‘Give us your best mattresses.’ We laid them out on an empty office floor, and we had 50 mattresses and we sat there for a couple of hours, literally lying on mattresses.”

This was the whole Trump clan.

“It was myself, Ivanka, Don and my dad,” he says, smiling. “We’re literally writing on Post-It notes, rating the mattresses.”

As Trump says, the strategic recreation session worked.

“I’m always asked, ‘Where do I get one?’ ” Trump says, chuckling.

Best-known as a “Task Adviser” on his father’s network empire, NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” Trump is at the core a real estate executive. He’s one of the city’s most prominent resort officials as executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization and the top-ranking official at Trump International Las Vegas.

Recently, Trump sat down to talk about the Vegas property, which is nearing its sixth birthday on March 31. Some of the highlights from the conversation:

On maintaining a personal touch at a resort offering more than 1,230 suites: “When you look at Vegas and all of the rooms here, everything is incredibly big and incredibly flashy. It’s hard to have a true five-star product, but when we came into Las Vegas, we wanted a true five-star, New York-style product with white-glove service and when you walk into the building, the doorman calls you by your first name. ‘Hi Mr. So-and-So, welcome back to Trump International Las Vegas.’

“Somebody stayed here a couple of weeks ago, and they had ordered a bottle of wine up to their room on their previous trip, about a year ago. When they showed up a couple of weeks ago, the bottle of wine was there with a note from the sommelier saying, ‘I remember the last time you were here you ordered this bottle of wine. This is compliments of the Trump family.’ It’s hard to do that in a place that has a lot of slot machines.”

On staying grounded: “My mom (Ivana) came from Czechoslovakia and was a skier on the Olympic team over there. As a 6-year-old, I would go to Czechoslovakia, before it became the Czech Republic, and spend three months a year in what was then a Communist country with my grandparents in a very, very different world than the kind of world that we were growing up in. I think they did an amazing job of keeping us grounded. We saw a different side of life, in a tough country, grounded by very hard-working, blue-collar people. … We were brought up well, in amazing houses and were given the best educations, but we were never spoiled in the proverbial way.

“I spent every summer of my upbringing cutting rebar on construction sites, or driving backhoes, or doing electrical work, because my father wanted to teach us the value of a dollar. He wanted us to be out learning the trades we would be involved with when we ultimately would do projects like (Trump International).”

On the equity of the Trump brand: “Our greatest benefit is the name. It’s our golden goose. It is our most important asset. We have to nurture it, take care of it. We’re the last family you’d see in a nightclub, dancing on a table, because we would be executed (laughs). We don’t fit that model. We all work very hard.

“It’s funny, most family businesses are total disasters, but if you look at Don, Ivanka, myself and my father, we couldn’t be closer. We’re focused on great projects, always traveling together. It’s the closest we’ve ever been in our lives, and it’s been great.”

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