The Trump Card


Until business colossus and “The Apprentice” star Donald Trump cuts checks for Patricia Kluge’s foreclosed properties—the 45-room Albemarle House mansion, the unrealized luxury real estate development Vineyard Estates and the 900-acre Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard—the three parcels belong to three separate banks, which hold combined liens totaling $65 million. However, sources close to negotiations say The Donald could move quickly to purchase all three properties from the banks—and could potentially keep Kluge and husband William Moses involved in winery operations.

Albemarle House

At a foreclosure auction last Wednesday, local attorney Steve Blaine and Washington, D.C.-based business advisor Les Goldman cast a few bids on Trump’s behalf for Albemarle House, former residence of Kluge and Moses and subject of a $22.8 million Bank of America lien. Blaine, who described Kluge, Moses and Trump as “social acquaintances,” said a deal for the properties “could happen readily, if there’s a deal to be had.”

Trump has also been in touch with Farm Credit of the Virginias, which holds a $34.8 million lien on the Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard and bought the property back for $19 million at a December foreclosure auction. William Shmidheiser III, an attorney representing Farm Credit, says he spoke with Trump on several occasions and Trump’s questions “indicate serious interest” in the properties.

“Farm Credit would love to sell the former Kluge real estate to him or to anyone—at a price,” says Shmidheiser. The question, according to Shmidheiser, is whether Trump and the banks can agree on price points. In the case of the Kluge Estate Winery, Shmidheiser says Farm Credit is willing to sell the property and business—“the wine, equipment and real estate”—for $20 million.

On Wednesday, Blaine and Goldman cast bids between $2 million and $3.6 million before Bank of America bought Albemarle House back with a $15.26 million bid. The pair previously made a $1 million opening bid at a Vineyard Estates foreclosure auction in January; locally based lienholder Sonabank purchased the property for $4.9 million.

During the last two decades, Trump placed multiple hotels and casinos into bankruptcy protection and staved off personal bankruptcy by reducing a reported $900 million in personally guaranteed debt. The Trump Organization’s real estate portfolio includes the private Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, and The Estates at Trump National, a collection of multi-million-dollar homes near Los Angeles—some sold, some still available, according to the development’s website.

Asked whether Trump, Kluge and Moses were coordinating an effort to preserve the winery, Albemarle House and Vineyard Estates, Goldman told C-VILLE there was a “potentially cooperative effort,” but emphasized that no such effort is absolute or final at this time. However, he added, cooperation among Kluge, Moses and Trump “could provide [Kluge and Moses] with the opportunity to continue to be involved with a big part of their life’s work.”

“And that could be a way to address the problems that have developed as a result of the recession and having overbuilt this facility,” said Goldman. “It’s unfortunate, but maybe some aspect of it could be saved in somebody else’s hands, and they could still be some part of it.”

Another purchaser isn’t entirely out of the question. “There isn’t a day since November 15 that I haven’t talked to somebody that expresses an interest in the Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard,” says Shmidheiser. In the case of Albemarle House, Trump reportedly holds a right of first refusal on Albemarle House via an interest in a 200-plus acre tract of land currently held in the John W. Kluge, Jr. Trust. A separate seven-acre tract was moved into the Kluge, Jr. Trust in September, and is the subject of a fraudulent land transfer suit filed against Kluge and Moses by Farm Credit.

The Donald vs. The Kluge

Trump: 64
Kluge: 62

What’s in a name?
Trump: Ex-wives keep his name
Kluge: She keeps her ex-husband’s name

Signature beverage
Trump: Trump Super Premium Vodka: "Quintuple-distilled in Holland"
Kluge: Chelsea Clinton sipped her winery’s Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine at her wedding rehearsal.

TV/film work
Trump: “The Apprentice"
Kluge: The Nine Ages of Nakedness

Press credentials
Trump: Referenced in 1990 People article: “Marriage with a Midas Touch”
Kluge: Ditto

Media confidence
Trump: “America is missing quality leadership. I am well acquainted with winning."
Kluge: “Put your notebook away. Just enjoy your dinner and drink my wine.”