Donald Trump Remembers Real Estate Legend and Rival Leona Helmsley

This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," August 20, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, sad news about real estate icon Leona Helmsley, known as the queen of mean, passing away today at the age of 87. Her interests included managing the Empire State Building. She was a tabloid favorite back in the '80s during her tax-evasion trial, once telling her housekeeper, only the little people pay taxes. She denied making that statement.

Nevertheless, reaction now from another real estate icon and someone who she famously battled with very, very publicly, Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump, what do you think? She's gone.

DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: Well, she was a tough woman. I will say that for Leona. She was the queen of mean. And, frankly, you know, they did a television story on her. I think it starred Suzanne Pleshette.


TRUMP: When people said, "How was it?" I said, she didn't get her. She wasn't mean enough. So, it's just one of those things.

But Leona was a mean woman, but she liked being that way. That was her thing.

CAVUTO: And she began liking you and then hating you and fighting with you constantly. Was it just bad blood...


TRUMP: Well, she actually did like me. And, then, when I bought the land under the Empire State Building, all of a sudden, she did not like me so much. But she did start liking me quite a bit at her party.

She used to give a party for Harry. She was married to a great man named Harry Helmsley...


TRUMP: ... one of the greats in the history of real estate.

And, you know, in all fairness to her, she really made him happy, except for the last two years of his life, where he was going through all of this hell because of things that she caused with her tax evasion and various other — which was so foolish, because he was such a rich man.

But she was a tough woman. She was a nasty woman, but she was a character. And she added something to New York, in a very perverse way.

CAVUTO: Well, one of the things — you know, like or dislike her, Donald, you know, she was known as being the real fuss pot when it came to her hotel, the Helmsley Hotel, and that they would be experiences, because she was just a perfectionist, that you almost wanted to stay there for that, and that that, I think she had said, would be her legacy.


CAVUTO: Do you agree with that?

TRUMP: Well, she had very famous commercials, where she was in every ad and every commercial on television and in the newspaper.

And, you know, it was very interesting. Her ads were very effective. She really worked hard. And, again, somebody said, how did she create her wealth? I said, she married Harry Helmsley. I mean, Harry Helmsley had this stuff before her, but he did change a lot after he married Leona. She was a successful real estate broker, and then she became a very, very strong and powerful woman in a sense, in a New York sense.

CAVUTO: Let me ask, finally, there's this talk that Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, they could all be future apprentices. Is that true?

TRUMP: Well, it is possible.

I mean, a couple of them really want to be on the show. We're negotiating with them now.

CAVUTO: Who? Who?

TRUMP: The fact is that everybody, so many celebrities — you know, Neil, you don't realize know how many so-called celebrities there are in the world until you have a show like "The Apprentice."

It's called "The Celebrity Apprentice." What we are doing is the same format as has done so well, except, this time, instead of college students, et cetera, et cetera, we are picking celebrities. And we have over 150 people, many of them big names, wanting to be on the show. So, we're making a determination.

CAVUTO: Can you tell me a couple? Can you tell me?

TRUMP: Excuse me?

CAVUTO: Can you tell me a couple?

TRUMP: I can't tell you now. I will tell you over the next two or three weeks, but you will be one of the first to know, if not the first. You have great power over me, Neil.

CAVUTO: Oh, yeah.

But Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan, I can't imagine either wanting to do it. But they're — they're interested?

TRUMP: Well, we will see.

If you remember, Britney had a show — it was somewhat of a disaster - - on — on cable television, like you're on. Of course, you get much higher ratings than she did.


TRUMP: But she had a show on cable, and it was a small basic show with her and Kevin Federline. And I used to criticize Kevin Federline all the time. And then he said his hero is Donald Trump. And now I tell people he is a great guy.


CAVUTO: Now he's brilliant.

But, you know, it would an interesting way to sort of freshen up "The Apprentice" franchise, and — now that NBC has brought it back. Is this a key to what we're going to see in the future, that "The Apprentice" is completely different now, more celebrity-stoked? Or how do you see it?

TRUMP: Well, we don't want to freshen it up too much, Neil. You know, it did very well. It continues to do very well.

It became, actually, the number-one show on television for a period of time, for a long period of time. And it got good ratings the last time, even though it was on, on a Sunday night. And the first thing — as you know, Ben Silverman, who took over NBC, said his first call was to Donald Trump because he wanted to do a deal for "The Apprentice."

And they renewed it for two more seasons. And, you know, it just does terrifically. So, this is very different. But I actually think it is very exciting. It is different even for me. I mean, handling some of these people is not going to be easy.


CAVUTO: But, if anyone can do it, you can do it.

The one thing I have always had to ask, when you fire someone in real life, do you do it like to do it on the show, like, "You're fired"?

TRUMP: Well, it depends on what kind of person I'm firing. If it is a thief or somebody that you catch with the hand in the cookie jar, then it is even more vicious, I guess.


TRUMP: But when it's a firing because the person did not have it, there is something missing, it's as gentle as I can possibly do it.

But, you know, in the end, they still hate you, Neil. You fire somebody, if it is gentle or if it's tough, they wake up the next morning, and they say, you know, Trump fired me. I can't stand that guy.

CAVUTO: Yes, you can't win.

TRUMP: That's just the way it happens. So, you can't really win.

CAVUTO: All right, Donald, great seeing you again. Good luck with this, all right?

TRUMP: Have a good time. Thank you very much.

CAVUTO: Donald Trump.

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