Donald Trump is set to testify Tuesday at a civil trial where the developer-turned-TV personality is accused of enticing investors to buy condos at his namesake skyscraper in Chicago with promises of profit-sharing, and then quietly reneging on those promises.
Attorneys for both sides suggested in their opening statements to jurors Monday that a key aspect of the trial will be the management style of Trump, who has gained famed for firing contestants he deems incompetent on his popular TV show, "Celebrity Apprentice."
The trial stems from a lawsuit filed by 87-year-old investor Jacqueline Goldberg, who in 2006 bought two condos for around $1 million apiece at the Trump International Hotel & Tower -- a luxurious, 92-story building in downtown Chicago that boasts more than 300 hotels room and nearly 500 condominiums.
Goldberg's lawyer portrayed the sale of the condos to his client as a bait and switch, where Trump and his executives sold properties with the assurance they would reap a percentage of profits from banquet hall rentals, food and beverage sales and other building services.
"`Who better to go into the hotel business with than Donald Trump?' she thought," the attorney, Shelly Kulwin, told jurors, referring to Goldberg.
By the time Goldberg went ahead with the purchase in 2006, Kulwin claims, Trump and other executives already knew the profit-sharing offer would be withdrawn. It was only formally withdrawn in 2009, a few months before the tower's grand opening, he said.
"She's been the victim of a fraud," Kulwin said. "They made a deal and then they said, `Surprise! No deal."'
In his opening, however, Trump attorney Stephen Novack said Goldberg was a sophisticated investor who signed documents giving Trump executives the power to cancel the profit-sharing offer.
"Nobody forced her to," he told jurors.
In an apparent bid to deflect any blame from Trump himself, Novack repeatedly sought to counter the plaintiff's portrayal of Trump as a hands-on executive.
"Donald Trump delegates most decisions," Novack said, noting he had 2,500 employees. "It would be impossible for him to be in the details of each project."
He insisted the decision to change the profit-sharing provision was someone else's and it was one that Trump only agreed to later.
Trump is expected to be on the stand for at least one day, and possibly longer.