Friday, February 11, 2005

Kelly Perdew, recent winner of the popular reality TV series The Apprentice, learned quickly how to finagle assignments out of his new boss, real estate tycoon Donald Trump.
"If you stand by his office, you get picked," Perdew said. "You want something to do, you just walk by the office."
Take his first day on the job, Jan. 10. Showing up for a 9 a.m. appointment inside Trump's office, the apprentice ran into a group of developers from Tampa walking out. They had just publicly revealed plans to build Trump Tower Tampa, a high-priced condominium project in downtown Tampa that, at 52 stories, would be the tallest building on Florida's west coast.
"They start talking about Tampa and I say, "I'm from Sarasota and I lived in Tampa,' " Perdew recalled. "Mr. Trump hears it and says, "Kelly's going to come down and help you guys.' "
So began an unprecedented marketing push for a high-rise project that touts 190 condominium and penthouse units priced from $700,000 to $6-million apiece.
Last month, Trump indicated that buyers had reserved 70 percent of the units and developers predict the project will be sold out.
Skeptics wonder just how far the Trump name can carry the project. They point out only a dozen condos sold for more than $1-million in Hillsborough County in the past four years. Moreover, the 10 percent deposit for a reservation is refundable. Once the sales phase begins Feb. 18, buyers will need to plunk down a nonrefundable 20 percent deposit.
Nevertheless, Perdew and Jody Simon, part of a local development team partnering with Trump, said they are confident an "exceptionally high rate" of people will move from reservations to sales contract. And they downplay speculation that many buyers will be speculators out for a quick profit by flipping units.
"It's going to turn out to be a lot of these people's primary residence," Perdew said.
Perdew swung through Tampa on Thursday, promoting the Tampa high-rise a week before Trump comes to town to kick off sales. The 38-year-old software executive, whose father lives near Sarasota, talked with the St. Petersburg Times about his multiple roles in the Trump organization, the prospects of Trump Tower Tampa and whether his boss is pushing his name too far.How far can the Trump brand name go?
Look at his success and the way the brand's been used. The books are one thing. They've been off the chart. He's got a clothing line at Macy's . . . Trump's suits sold five times more than (Macy's) best-selling (specialty lines) ever had before. There's the cologne. Where can't the brand go? You tell me.Aren't you concerned about overkill? Can too much Trump be bad thing?
Too much by definition is too much. But if he takes that brand and focuses it for the right reasons . . . it's a pretty compelling brand. People have attached to (the name) luxury, the best things in life, billionaire status.Are your Tampa duties confined to marketing?
I'm not a real estate expert, so my objective for this was to be an apprentice and learn as much as possible. It's a lot easier to do sales and marketing when you're first starting than try to do operations. I'm not going to pretend to come in and build the building.What other tasks are you handling for Trump?
There's 40 Wall Street - 1-million square feet of commercial office space. I'm working closely with (Trump protege) George (Ross) in understanding everything about the commercial market: managing brokers, which is always a fun task, and managing leases.
And I'm (marketing the water brand) Trump Ice. It's a great opportunity for us to partner with the distributors and area bottlers and do some fun marketing things. Something Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory-esque. You know, the golden ticket. You win a trip to New York City and have dinner with The Apprentice or come to the live finale.How much of your time will be spent on the Tampa project?
It will be front-loaded for this with the expectations that things are going so well . . . Next Friday is the official sales launch . . . The following week I'm going to be here for the Outback Pro-Am golf tournament, with a lot of media attention, and be able to talk about the project.And get a few swings in, too?
Well. A lot of swings. The way I look at is I'll have one of the best pros there (as a partner) because I'll be one of the worst amateurs.


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