According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Donald Trump is worth $2.9 billion, or $220 million less than last year—the lowest he’s been worth since the 2016 presidential campaign.
It’s hard to believe that any President of the United States would have a lower net worth two years into his presidency, given how valuable the office is itself. Bill Clinton, for instance, entered office with very little wealth to speak off, but between 2001 and 2013 earned more than $100 million in speaking fees alone. Not every ex-president will need or want to leverage his status as an ex-president to its full income potential, but who doubts that Donald Trump will?
Whether it's the launching of the media company that was rumored back when the whole world was expecting Trump to lose, or cashing in on his status as the most famous man in the world through book deals or speaking gigs, the Donald will put all past occupants of the Oval Office to shame in making money from a post-presidency. These cash flows are nearly as certain as those from his real estate holdings, and any legitimate estimate of the president’s wealth should take into account how valuable attaining the highest office in the land will be to him.
The Bloomberg analysis also ignores the rampant self-dealing of the Trump White House, as the president has done nothing to stop those affected by his decision from attempting to seduce him with official favors and new business. Foreign governments from Indonesia to Panama have been tripping over themselves to give favors to Trump licensed properties. The government of Bali, for instance, recently announced the construction of a toll road that will cut the time it takes to get from the airport to the Trump International Hotel and Tower Bali in half. In countries where such government favor can make or break a project, a partnership with the Trump Organization could be priceless.
It is true that Trump’s brand has taken a hit in New York City and in parts of Canada and Europe, as the cosmopolitan tenants in his Trump luxury towers chafe at living in a building emblazoned with the name of the world’s most famous defender of Neo-Nazis. But the Trump Organization has blunted the effects of this and more with moves like doubling the initiation fee at Mar a Lago following his inauguration. Forbes values the club at $160 million, estimating that the revenue at the resort has risen 25% since Trump was elected to $29 million. “Those eager (and wealthy enough) to rub shoulders with a sitting president appear to be flocking to the club, hoping to bend the commander in chief’s ear,” according to Forbes.
Assuming the president is able to avoid any serious legal entanglements that might arise from a future Democratic Congress subpoenaing his business records, Donald Trump winning the presidency will be the best thing to happen to his bottom line since being born the son of Fred Trump. And even in the case of serious legal trouble, Trump’s earning potential as a martyred hero of the white-nationalist right is limitless. Fox News alone earns nearly as much in ad revenue every year as the value of Trump’s entire real estate empire, and the network has become little more than a medium for the the president’s personality cult. How exactly Trump monetizes the anger and paranoia of his base is not yet clear, but the money he stands to make from being the ex-star of the Trump White House will mean that the ebbing of Manhattan commercial rents will be far from the largest factor affecting his wealth.
Christopher Matthews is a writer who splits his time between New York City and Accra, Ghana, with an interest in the intersection of markets, the economy, and public policy. He previously held staff positions at Axios, Fortune Magazine, and Time Magazine, and has been published in Forbes and Debtwire.