No Electricity and Bouncing Paychecks: What It Was Like to Work for Trump Magazine

Election '16

In an extensive tell-all written for Politico, a former employee for Trump Magazine documents a cash-strapped and dysfunctional company where paychecks bounced, the power was shut off due to unpaid bills and important health insurance was cancelled — after a cancer diagnosis.


One might call it a preview of Trump’s America.

According to Carey Purcell, she took a position as a receptionist with Trump Magazine — originally called Trump World — in 2006 when it was under the direction of publisher Michael Jacobson, who had come over from Gear magazine. She states that Trump’s involvement with the magazine stemmed from a pitch from Jacobson who was hired on the spot by the New York businessman, flush with success from his Apprentice TV show and with a new casino, Trump Tower, under development in Vegas.

In an interview with the New York Times about his magazine venture, Trump stated the target demographic for the magazine bearing his name would be “a reader that buys a lot, that spends a lot of money.”

As far as money went, Trump himself was paid a licensing fee of $120,000 per issue as of 2005, which was increased to $135,000 per issue in 2006. His hands-on involvement — outside of using the magazine to promote his name, his ventures and his family — was to sign off on each issue, making notes on proofs with a Sharpie and ensuring that he and his family looked good inside the magazine.

According to the magazine’s former creative director, the rest of every issue was filled with “wealth porn.”

Purcell notes that four months into her $25,000-a-year job answering phones and opening mail, her first paycheck bounced.

“The first time it happened, it seemed like an accident, or maybe an oversight. The office accountant quickly issued a new payment and covered the fee for the check bouncing,” she wrote. “But then it happened again. And this time, the company didn’t reissue a check. Instead, I was handed a brown paper bag filled with hundred-dollar bills to cover for the company’s lack of payroll funds.”

She points out that the inner workings of the magazine was a mess with “no company-wide database for subscriptions; all the information was stored in Excel spreadsheets that were emailed back and forth,” odd and extravagant expenses charged to the magazine, and a publisher who increasingly disappeared for days at a time.

Employees began fleeing for more secure jobs as the power was cut off several times due to unpaid bills, and the magazine bled money, losing $3 million by the end of 2005.

As for Purcell, she wanted to leave the magazine, but needed the health coverage after she discovered that she had thyroid cancer.

“When I was diagnosed in mid-March 2007, I immediately met with Trump magazine’s human resources manager,” she wrote. “Her advice? Get the treatments over with as quickly as I could, because she couldn’t promise medical coverage lasting beyond the next eight weeks.”

While this was going on, the magazine received an eviction notice from the landlord.

While Purcell was completing her treatments for cancer, she found another job — albeit without benefits.

“I needed health coverage to continue seeing my surgeon and endocrinologist every few weeks—and to fill a prescription for the synthetic thyroid hormone I have to take every day as well as the various supplements I’ve been prescribed to counter the long-lasting side effects of radiation treatment,” she explained. “So I wrote a hefty check for my first month of COBRA and was assured by Premiere Publishing that I would have the option of continuing it for the next 90 days.”

“But as with so many other promises Jacobson made, he broke this one as well,” she continued. “A few weeks later, he emailed me to say Premiere had been declared insolvent and that my medical coverage through UnitedHealthCare had been terminated. My COBRA check would be returned, he said, and he ‘strongly recommended me finding a new carrier for my personal insurance needs.’ He said he was sorry for the inconvenience.”

Purcell’s tale of working at Trump Magazine carries echoes of stories told by former employees of Trump University, where the namesake collected big paychecks as the company was run in a slipshod and — in the case of the so-called “university’ — possibly criminal manner.

Purcell, now a theater critic, concludes: “As a candidate, Trump has built his campaign on his success as a businessman, boasting about his successful deals, the jobs he claims he has created and his personal wealth. But in the case of Trump magazine, he licensed his name to an inept and irresponsible businessman who broke promises, put its staff out on the street, and left a cancer patient without health care. Almost 10 years have passed since this took place. It has left me hoping that come Nov. 8, DonaldTrump will add another item to his long list of failures.”

You can read the whole story here at Politico.

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