Donald Trump: Gurus and Demons

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I once heard a saying that I will never forget: "The raised nail gets hammered." It's true. When I see the big boys flying above the radar, they are often targets for the small fish swimming around, wishing they could be "like Mike" (i.e., Michael Jordan).

In today's culture of risk and reward, we all have our mentors. Whether it's Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates or Donald Trump.

Sometimes our mentors take risks and soar, becoming larger than life. Other times, they lose focus and make some bad bets.

That's the case with Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. Both legendary athletes became holistic, and the risks they took weren't measured by integrity, but by ego. In other words, the bets they took were driven more by self worth than by net worth.

Now Donald Trump is in the news.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a $40 million lawsuit against the legendary real estate developer. The state is contending that Trump defrauded students who paid thousands of dollars to learn the tricks of the development trade at seminars given by one of Trump's namesake businesses, Trump Entrepreneur Initiative (formerly Trump University).

So what was Trump doing that caused the state to sue him? After all, he is already rich, so why would the legendary developer intentionally defraud 5,000 students?

Well, according to the lawsuit, students were steered into purchasing expensive and useless seminars, hoping they would grow rich like Trump.

Trump says that most of the students were satisfied with the education and he boasts that the school has a 98% approval rating. According to a Trump-originated Web site (98percentapproval.com), Trump students had "overwhelming satisfaction with the program."

The program, which has no actual campus, offers a three-day real estate investment seminar that costs $1,495, a "Trump elite" package for $10,000 and a personal mentorship for up to $35,000.

Trump maintains that he could settle the $40 million lawsuit, but according to a Today Show interview, Trump said, "I didn't want to settle the lawsuit, on principle. The school is a great school, and it's really a shame."

I applaud Trump for standing up to Schneiderman. The Trump U lawsuit seems foolish and unfounded. I see no basis for the arguments that students were oversold or duped.

He was likely targeted by people who want all of the glory without getting into the trenches. His program works, according the majority of his students. So I believe this case will come and go, but Trump will remain the victor.

We all know that Trump became internationally famous for making big bets. He has amassed an enviable fortune and has transcended from being just a real estate mogul into a global brand. But what is his true net worth and what is the value of his global empire?

Clearly, the $40 million lawsuit is a drop in the bucket for the Donald, but how big is the bucket?

Nobody has ever been able accurately to detail the real net worth of the Trump Organization ... until now. Check back, as I plan to examine Trump's global real estate portfolio in an effort to provide the true value of the Trump brand.

Really, how big is that raised nail that's getting hammered?

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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