May 18, 2009 / 9:44 PM / 10 years ago

Trump lawyers demand trial in defamation case

CAMDEN, New Jersey (Reuters) - Lawyers for real estate mogul Donald Trump urged a judge on Monday to allow his defamation case against a journalist to go forward, saying the writer damaged his reputation by contending he is not a billionaire.

But lawyers for author Timothy O’Brien and his publisher, Time Warner Inc unit Warner Books, denied Trump had lost business opportunities as a result of the 2005 book, and urged New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michele Fox to dismiss the lawsuit.

Fox, after a two-hour hearing, said she would rule within two months on whether the case should be thrown out or go to a jury trial in October.

Trump, who filed the lawsuit in 2006 and is seeking billions in damages, did not attend the proceedings.

The book, “Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald,” cited three unnamed sources estimating Trump’s worth at $150 million to $250 million, much less than the billions that the developer and television personality has said he is worth.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Monday, Trump said he is worth $5 billion, not counting the value of his brand name.

That follows a deposition given to O’Brien’s lawyers in which Trump put his wealth at more than $4 billion, the Journal said.

In 2005, Deutsche Bank estimated his net worth as $788 million in a calculation made for the bank’s underwriting of a $640 million construction loan for some of Trump’s Chicago properties, the newspaper reported.

In court, Trump attorney William Tambussi attacked the credibility of O’Brien’s anonymous sources, saying their estimates of his client’s net worth widely varied.

“The same source can’t go from $60 million to $250 million and be considered reliable,” Tambussi said.

Trump’s reputation was damaged by the book’s statements including that he was the “court jester of the American business scene” and that “As a businessman, he is a train wreck,” Tambussi told the court.

Andrew Ceresney, an attorney for O’Brien, said his client had worked with the sources cited in his book before, and was confident that they had inside knowledge of Trump’s finances. He said O’Brien had not acted maliciously.

Ceresney also said Trump had not lost business opportunities as a result of the book, which he said did not sell very well. He questioned Trump’s claim that he had lost four overseas development projects as a result of negative publicity surrounding the book.

“There is no evidence in the record that these four even existed, save for Mr. Trump’s own self-serving statements,” Ceresney said.

Reporting by Jon Hurdle; Editing by Richard Chang

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