Donald Trump’s grand escalator entrance to the presidential race was meant to be treated as one of those ‘gotcha’ moments, a prank that wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. The world wasn’t holding its breath and it only fueled online parodies– neither of which hurt Trump’s resolve. As the celebrity roasts escalated – pun intended – so too did Trump’s conviction in his quest for the presidency.
One of his main talking points was, “I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”
“I’m using my own money,” said Trump to curious journalists, in his usual matter-of-fact manner.
That statement probably didn’t age well five years later, now that Trump’s campaign needs every penny it can muster to sustain itself. An entire billion dollars have already been sunk into Trump’s reelection efforts– only to trail behind Joe Biden in polls. It’s clear Trump needs all hands on deck to keep his head above water, and his billionaire confidantes are hard at work to ensure his victory in November’s elections.
Below is a compilation of 10 billionaires who have contributed to Trump’s political campaign, ranging from $125,000 to over $1 million.
1. Charles & Helen Dolan
Net Worth: $4.7 billion
Charles Dolan is a cable television pioneer who owns a major stake in the Madison Square Garden Company and AMC Networks. Dolan was the brains behind Cablevision which he launched in 1973 to a steady base of 1500 clients. He sold the company to Altice for a whopping $17.7 billion. His son, James Dolan, who owns New York Nicks, donated $125,000 to Trump after he told NBA champion Golden State Warriors that they were no longer welcome at the White House.
It is worth noting that, like many other Trump backers, Dolan didn’t contribute to his 2016 campaign. Dolan currently serves as the chairman emeritus of the Lustgarten Foundation, the world’s largest funder of pancreatic cancer research.
2. Ronald Perelman
Net Worth: $7.3 billion
Ronald Perelman built a business empire that spans pharmaceuticals, military vehicles, and candy. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, his trade secret is buying out companies that are grossly undervalued in the market. Perelman’s shrewd business tactics allowed him to grow his fortune to over $7.3 billion. In September 2017, Perelman contributed a single large donation of $127,000 to Trump Victory.
Ronald Perelman’s art collection alone is worth several billions of dollars and comprises 20th century works with sculptures by Jeff Koons and paintings by Ed Ruscha. His fortune shrank from $19 billion in January 2018 as his company Revlon, juggles stiff competition and a high debt load.
3. Ken & Sherrilyn Fisher
Net Worth: $4.4 billion
Ken Fisher has close ties with Trump who was with him since 2016. He gave $50,000 to Trump’s 2016 campaign and contributed $250,000 with his wife to Trump Victory. Fisher’s primary source of wealth is Fisher Investments, which he founded in 1979 with only $250. Today his website says that it manages over $71 billion in investments for large institutions and individuals alike.
Ken wrote 11 books, 6 have become national bestsellers. He also writes for USA Today, the Financial Times, and other major publications. Like many eccentric entrepreneurs, he dropped out of school believing that it was a ‘waste of time’ and headed to community college for ‘better classes’.
4. Peter Thiel
Net Worth: $2.3 billion
Peter Thiel backed Trump in 2016 with a sizable donation of $250,000 and recently contributed $250,000 to his reelection campaign. He is a venture capitalist who went on to invest in Facebook in its earliest days. While Thiel sold most of his stake in Facebook, he still sits on the company’s board. He also co-founded the CIA-backed startup, Palantir, a big data company that has been valued at around $20 billion.
He also co-founded PayPal with Elon Musk, which raked in total revenues of $17 billion in 2019 alone.
5. Stewart Rahr
Net Worth: $2.3 billion
Stewart Rahr inherited his father’s company, Kinray, a pharmaceutical distributor and sold it to Cardinal Health in 2010 for over $1.3 billion. He’s been a longtime friend of the Trump family and its customer. Rahr’s foundation rented the 24th floor of Trump Tower, just two levels below Trump’s old office. He also bought the apartment from the Trump Organization for $13 million, making him neighbors with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
He is reputed to have a fondness for celebrities and collecting art. Forbes once did a story on his apartment, the walls of which were lined up with the works of Picasso, Koons, and Miro.
6. Stephen Schwarzman
Net Worth: $16.8 billion
Stephen Schwarzman had humble origins. He was the son of a dry goods store owner but went on to found Blackstone, a private equity firm in 1985. Blackstone eventually grew into the world’s largest buyout firm, with over $545 billion in assets. Schwarzman got his foot in the door at Lehman Brothers and published his 2019 memoir, detailing all the mistakes by management that led to the firm’s downfall.
He did not contribute to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
7. Jeffery Hildebrand
Net Worth: $2.5 billion
Jeffrey Hildebrand founded Hilcorp with two partners in 1989. He already had a lot of experience with oil fields due to his career at Exxon and had a keen eye for proven oil fields. His company grew by purchasing oil fields that larger competitors deemed to be too small. Jeffrey leveraged advanced machinery to boost well production and became famous for sharing his trade secrets.
In 2011, each of Hilcorp’s 699 employees received a $50,000 bonus, as reward for doubling the company’s production rate, value, and reserves over five years. He gave the Trump campaign $2,700 in 2016 and scaled that up to $775,000 to bolster his reelection efforts.
8. Kenny Troutt
Net worth: $1.5 billion
Kenny Troutt is the brains behind Excel Communications, a long-distance phone company that was founded in 1996. Troutt sold Excel Communications to TeleGlobe for $3.5 billion and reinvested the profits in bonds, stocks, and horses. He contributed $200,000 to Trump’s 2016 campaign, making him one of his oldest backers.
9. Dennis Washington
Net Worth: $5.9 billion
Contributions: $1 million
Dennis Washington is a construction and mining magnate who used a loan of $30,000 to start Washington Construction. His long-held fascination for machinery gave him significant leverage in industries such as railroads and mining (specifically copper and diamond mining). Washington is fond of boats and owns a total of 9 yachts, one of which featured in the movie Overboard.
He didn’t contribute to Trump’s 2016 campaign but doled out $1 million for his reelection efforts.
10. J. Joe Ricketts
Net Worth: $2.1 billion
Joe Ricketts is a pioneered online stock trading and founded Ameritrade, a stoke brokerage firm. He took it public 1997. In 2016, he bought TD Waterhouse for $2.9 billion in cash, and rebranded it to TD Ameritrade. Although Ricketts no longer sits on the board of directors of TD Ameritrade, he still has 7% of the company.
Joe Ricketts happens to be Trump’s biggest billionaire donor, which is ironic because he spared no efforts in fighting his presidential campaign in 2016. Once a staunch Republican adversary, now a close aide to Trump. This is a tell-tale turnaround story if there ever was one.