Ivana Trump died yesterday at the age of 73 at her Manhattan townhouse on the Upper East Side. While the cause of death is still pending, the Associated Press reports that the first wife of former President Donald Trump is thought to have suffered cardiac arrest during a fall down a staircase.
Born in 1949 in the Czechoslovakia Socialist Republic, then a part of the Soviet Union, Trump fled communism in the late 1960s. After a brief marriage to an Austrian ski instructor in order to obtain citizenship there, Trump immigrated to Canada — and then the United States — in the 1970s.
She met Donald Trump in New York City while testing the modeling market. The couple married just a year later in 1977. While Ivana throughout her life was known as Donald Trump’s first wife and the mother to his three children — Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric — Ivana was certainly no stay-at-home mom.
Ivana played an integral role in her husband’s venture into the gaming industry by way of Atlantic City. Trump, who made his early millions in New York City commercial real estate, decided to bet big on the New Jersey casino town.
The gamble paid off for at least Ivana, who will be remembered by many for being one of the first females to oversee a major casino resort in the United States.
Woman Casino Boss
A year after Trump opened his first casino in Atlantic City with the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino on the Boardwalk, the businessman in 1985 acquired the nearly finished Atlantic City Hilton on the Bay for $325 million.
Trump finished and opened the property in June of that year as Trump’s Castle Casino Hotel Casino. It was renamed Trump Marina in 1997 and is today the Golden Nugget.
Ivana Trump, who insiders say was a key decisionmaker behind-the-scenes of her husband’s budding gaming empire, initially took the reins of running Trump’s Castle.
I can tell you that Mrs. Trump was demanding, yet you always knew it was because she wanted the property to shine, be opulent, and positioned to serve the guests at the highest level,” Harry Hurley, who served as director of hotel operations at Trump’s Castle, explained on WPG Talk Radio.
“During Mrs. Trump’s time as CEO, she was engaged and committed to excellence and the overall quality of the product. She fiercely protected Mr. Trump’s brand and reputation in the hotel casino industry,” Hurley added.
Tom Cantone, a friend of Hurley’s who spoke with him regarding Ivana’s passing, was the senior vice president of entertainment, marketing, and advertising for Trump’s casinos in the 1980s. He said he believes Ivana was the first woman to oversee a major casino in the US.
“I believe she was the first … and I was honored to be part of her team at the Castle,” Cantone said.
Mrs. Trump, Not Ivana
Hurley said employees had a profound sense of respect for their boss, who was always to be called Mrs. Trump — not Ivana. He finished his memorialization of Trump by telling a story of her last day as CEO of Trump’s Castle.
“In a distinct show of respect, employees lined the first three levels of the property to see her off. All of the gathered employees gave Mrs. Trump a standing ovation,” Hurley concluded.
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