Coming Up; Trumps; When DONALD TRUMP'S EMPIRE Crashed He Was Snubbed by One-Time Friends. Now He's Back on Top . . . with a Thirst for Revenge. by PETER J. WILSON

Article excerpt

Donald Trump is slap in the middle of an ugly divorce battle, but he sits back in one of the world's most splendid homes with the contented look of a man who has found religion. The bit that deals with an eye for an eye, to be exact.

Donald, the man who crashed to earth and rose richer than ever, is into Old Testament style revenge. But his vengeance is not directed against the succession of women who have come and gone in his colourful life ("I bring out the craziness in them," he explains).

It's against the former fair-weather friends who abandoned him when his property empire collapsed in 1991. Overnight he was pounds 52 billion in the red - pounds 600m of which he had personally guaranteed.

The thing that devastated him most was that the people who had sworn eternal friendship - and the people he had given a helping hand to - never called.

The one person he says did phone was his ex-wife Ivana, with whom he had a pre-nuptial agreement. She called to say: "Donald. I vant my money now . . . I vant a cheque for 10 million dollars."

It was during that low moment that Donald swore to get to the top again - and get even. Now he's done it the only way he knows - right between the eyes.

He's published a new book, Trump - The Art Of The Comeback, which is already a bestseller in America. Once again he's the local hero in the land that kicked him when he was down - and hundreds of people, mainly adoring women, line up at the bookstores he attends for signing sessions.

But for The Donald, as Ivana christened him, the book is part of payback time. It is devastating in condemning and naming the "jerks", bankers and business people he says let him down.

Example: "She (a top woman banker) is a tough, hard woman with few social graces - she thinks she's hot shit, but believe me, she's not."

No one can deny, that Donald, 51, has made one of the most remarkable comebacks in history. He's paid off all his debts and his new showpiece properties include the Empire State Building. He has also begun the biggest building project in New York history by buying former railway sidings to build offices and 600 luxury homes.

Already he has a net worth of pounds 2 billion, owns the Miss Universe competition, and is planning to build a yacht to replace the one he had to sell during the property crash.

We meet in Mar a Largo, a sumptuous 58-bedroom mansion in Florida's Palm Beach. He has turned it into a top people's club - with fees starting at pounds 45,000 a year.

I wonder whether to bow because, in his book, he makes a great thing about how he hates to shake hands because it's unhygienic. He strides toward me and warmly grabs my hand. I like him immediately.

He's also happy to talk about the Trump line in revenge - and I like him even more.

"I believe in the Old Testament philosophy of an eye for an eye," he says. "People were not there to help me - even the people I made rich didn't lift a finger. Now I try to make them poor.

"Clergymen contact me to say that was not what the Bible really meant. But I just believe in it . . . perhaps vindictive is the word. But that doesn't make me a bad guy."

Former friends who write to him for help, forgetting they spurned him during the bad times, get a touch of the fury he feels.

He returns their letters with "F**** off" scrawled on the top. He laughs: "Yeah, I do that as often as I get the chance."

But Trump the triumphant is a man of contradictions. He speaks warmly of his latest estranged wife, former model Marla Maples, even though she is reported to be asking for more than the pre-nuptially agreed pounds 600,000 in cash and the same amount in property.

And he still talks fondly of his ex-wife Ivana. His marriage to her collapsed after Marla confronted her on the ski slopes to say she had been having an affair with Donald. …