Donald Trump's life story: From real estate to politics

Donald Trump in 2022
[Getty Images]

Long before his three consecutive bids for the US presidency, Donald Trump was America's most flamboyant billionaire.

The New York real estate mogul's life was splashed all over tabloids and television in the decades leading up to his improbable 2015-16 run for the White House.

His household name and outrageous campaign style helped him defeat seasoned politicians - but a controversy-filled tenure saw him booted from office after a single term.

Now 77, the Republican is again defying the odds as he mounts a stunning political comeback that could end with him retaking the president's seat behind the Oval Office desk.

The heir

Donald Trump at Trump Tower
He took the reins of the family business in 1971 [Getty Images]

Mr Trump is the fourth child of New York real estate tycoon Fred Trump.

Despite the family's wealth, he was expected to work the lowest-tier jobs within his father's company and was sent off to a military academy at age 13 when he started misbehaving in school.

After earning an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, he became favourite to succeed his father when his older brother, Fred, chose to become a pilot.

Fred Trump died at 43 from alcoholism, something that his brother says led him to avoid alcohol and cigarettes his entire life.

Donald Trump in 1976
He shifted the company's focus from Brooklyn and Queens to glitzy Manhattan [Getty Images]

Mr Trump says he got into real estate with a "small" $1m loan from his father before joining the company.

He helped manage his father's extensive portfolio of residential housing projects in the New York City boroughs, and took control of the company - which he renamed the Trump Organization - in 1971.

His father died in 1999. "My father was my inspiration," Mr Trump said at the time.

The brand

Donald Trump in 1987
His celebrity and media profile expanded with his business empire [Getty Images]

Under Mr Trump, the family business shifted from residential units in Brooklyn and Queens to glitzy Manhattan projects.

The famed Fifth Avenue became home to Trump Tower, arguably the mogul's most famous property and his home for many years. The rundown Commodore Hotel was restored as the Grand Hyatt.

Other properties bearing the Trump brand name - casinos, condominiums, golf courses and hotels - were erected too, from Atlantic City, Chicago and Las Vegas to India, Turkey and the Philippines.

His rise to stardom continued in the entertainment world - first as an owner of the Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants, then as creator-host of NBC reality show The Apprentice.

Mr Trump with his eldest children, Donald Jr and Ivanka, on a live episode of the Celebrity Apprentice in 2010
He hosted 14 seasons of The Apprentice, a reality show that also featured his kids [Getty Images]

Over 14 seasons, as Apprentice contestants competed for a management contract in his business empire, the trademark "You're fired!" line made "the Donald" a household name.

Mr Trump has written several books, appeared in movies and pro-wrestling programming, and sold everything from beverages to neckties. Forbes places his net worth at $7.5bn.

But Mr Trump has filed business bankruptcies on six separate occasions, and several of his ventures - including Trump Steaks and Trump University - have collapsed.

He has also shielded his tax information from scrutiny, and reporting in 2020 from The New York Times revealed years of income tax avoidance and chronic financial losses.

The family

Ivana and Donald Trump in 1989
His marriage and divorce to Ivana Zelnickova were the source of intense public interest [Getty Images]

Mr Trump's personal life has received extensive publicity, especially his three marriages.

His first, and arguably most famous, wife was Ivana Zelnickova, a Czech athlete and model. The couple had three children - Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric - before their divorce in 1990.

Their acrimonious court battle made the front pages of gossip columns, and the late Mrs Trump's allegations of domestic abuse - which she later downplayed - feature in a new movie about Mr Trump.

He married actress Marla Maples in 1993, two months after the birth of their only child Tiffany. They divorced in 1999.

Donald, Melania and Barron at Ivana Trump's funeral
He shares one son - Barron, 18 - with current wife Melania Trump [Getty Images]

Mr Trump's current wife is former Slovenian model Melania Knauss. They married in 2005 and share a son, Barron William Trump, who recently turned 18.

The candidate

In a 1980 interview, a 34-year-old Mr Trump describes politics as "a very mean life" and says "the most capable people" instead choose the business world.

By 1987, he began teasing a presidential bid. He briefly explored entering the 2000 race with the Reform Party, then again in 2012 as a Republican.

Mr Trump was among the most vocal proponents of "birtherism", the conspiracy theory questioning whether Barack Obama had been born in the US. He did not admit it was a lie until 2016 and never apologised.

Donald Trump at Trump Tower
It all started with a ride down the golden escalator at Trump Tower [Getty Images]

It was not until June 2015 that Mr Trump formally announced a bid for the White House, declaring the American Dream dead but promising to "bring it back bigger and better".

The freewheeling address saw him flaunt his wealth and business success; accuse Mexico of sending drugs, crime and rapists to the US; and, promise to make the country pay for a border wall.

Dominating displays on the debate stage and a controversy-riddled policy platform attracted adoring fans and fierce critics in equal measure, as well as a torrent of media attention.

Trump at a 2015 Republican primary debate
He dominated the 2015-16 Republican primary [Getty Images]

Under the 'Make America Great Again' campaign slogan, he easily muscled past rivals in the Republican Party to face off against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The novice campaign was marred by controversy, including a leaked audio tape of him bragging about sexual abuse, and he trailed in opinion polls throughout the general election.

But Mr Trump had the last laugh against pundits and pollsters with his stunning victory over a veteran politician. He was sworn in as the country's 45th president on 20 January 2017.

The president

From the very first hours, he brought unrivalled drama to the job, often making formal announcements on Twitter/X and clashing openly with foreign leaders.

Heads of state at the 2018 G7 Summit
The Trump presidency was an uncertain time for US allies [Getty Images]

He withdrew from major climate and trade agreements, banned travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, issued other tough immigration restrictions, launched a trade war with China, implemented record tax cuts, and reshaped Middle Eastern relations.

For nearly two years, a special counsel probed alleged collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia. Thirty-four people faced criminal charges - on matters such as computer hacking and financial crimes - but not Mr Trump. The investigation did not establish criminal collusion.

Soon after, Mr Trump became just the third US president in history to be impeached, over accusations he pressured a foreign government to dig up dirt on Democratic rival Joe Biden. He was impeached by a Democrat-led US House of Representatives but acquitted in a Republican-led Senate.

His 2020 election year was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.

He faced intense criticism for his handling of the crisis as the US led the globe in deaths and infections and for controversial comments, like suggesting research into whether virus might be treated by injecting disinfectant into the body.

He was forced to take a break from the campaign trail in October after he was diagnosed with Covid-19 himself.

Though he eventually received 74 million votes - more than any other sitting US president - he lost the race to Democratic rival Joe Biden by more than seven million votes.

From November 2020 to January 2021, he amplified claims of widespread electoral fraud and that votes were stolen - claims that were knocked down in more than 60 court cases.

Refusing to accept the results, Mr Trump rallied supporters in Washington on 6 January, urging them to converge on the Capitol as Mr Biden's victory was to be formally certified by Congress.

That rally devolved into a riot that placed lawmakers and his own vice-president in danger and led to a historic second impeachment. Mr Trump was again acquitted by the Senate, albeit more narrowly.

His actions on the day are now the focus of two criminal cases.

The comeback

Mr Trump's political career appeared as good as dead after the storming of the Capitol. Donors and supporters vowed never to support him again, and even his closest allies publicly disavowed him.

He skipped his successor's inauguration and moved with his family to Florida but, with a loyal army of fans still behind him, retained massive influence over the Republican Party.

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of his presidency came after it ended - when the three right-wing justices he had nominated to the Supreme Court during his time at the White House helped end nearly 50 years of national abortion rights.

Despite being blamed for poor Republican returns in the 2022 midterm elections, Mr Trump announced another run for president and soon became the clear Republican frontrunner.

More than a dozen opponents, including his former vice-president, challenged him but fell short as Mr Trump avoided the debate stage and trained his fire on Mr Biden.

A historically unpopular president, the Democrat's tenure has been marked by a post-pandemic economic recovery but also high inflation, a crisis at the border and foreign policy chaos.

In July, Republicans will officially coronate Mr Trump as their presidential candidate for a third consecutive time, setting up a rematch of the 2020 election.

He is again attracting controversy on the campaign trail, and currently faces 91 felony charges across four criminal cases.

National polls indicate either a narrow race between him and Mr Biden, 81 or him with a slight advantage - and he has promised his supporters that 5 November 2024 will be "the most important date in the history of our country".