Tapes purport to show Donald Trump ‘exaggerating own wealth' to get on Forbes 400 list

Colin Drury

When financial reporter Jonathan Greenberg received a call from an aide to a young businessman called Donald Trump in 1984, he did not think too much of it.

The journalist was working on the famed Forbes 400 list of America’s richest people and Mr Trump’s vice-president of finance, John Barron, was keen to help him get all the facts about his boss’s wealth.

There was just one slight problem.

Barron was, it seems, actually Mr Trump disguising his voice. And Mr Greenberg now says the facts he offered were lies – made in an attempt to get himself placed higher on the list.

The reporter has released the tapes in an article for The Washington Post. He says he has done so because he believes such tactics eventually allowed the now president to make bigger deals, increase his profile and, eventually, run successfully for office.

In the tapes, the so-called Mr Barron asks if he can speak off the record and then claims that his boss has taken control of his father’s business, which would make him a billionaire. Mr Trump’s then lawyer, Roy Cohn, would also call to make similar assertions, though always declining to offer proof.

The magazine eventually estimated Mr Trump’s fortune that year at $400m (£285m).

But Mr Greenberg now says he now believes that Trump – who has been revealed to have repeatedly used the unremarkable alias while dealing with the press – probably should not have appeared on the lists at all.

He says the entrepreneur, who later went bankrupt, overstated both his real estate stock and his share of the business he ran with his father.

Mr Greenberg concludes that his wealth in 1982, when the magazine estimated it at $100m was probably closer to $5m.

He adds that while many developers and entrepreneurs shied away from the list, Mr Trump would repeatedly contact Forbes to suggest his wealth was being undervalued.

Since running for president, Mr Trump has repeatedly declined to publicly share his tax returns meaning his actual value remains unknown – though he claims to have a net worth “in excess of $10bn”.

The White House and Trump Organization both declined to comment on the Washington Post story.