Trump demonstrates how to get rich -- quick

Times Staff Writer

In his new book, “Trump: How to Get Rich,” Donald Trump dispenses secrets on impressing your boss and getting a big raise.

Clearly, this is a topic close to Trump’s heart. The brash Manhattan dealmaker won a hefty pay hike for his NBC hit series “The Apprentice,” even if -- we know this is hard to believe -- he’s exaggerating shamelessly about the size of his salary.

When “Apprentice” turned into a huge hit earlier this season, Trump and his representatives, using a familiar TV industry ploy, forced NBC to renegotiate the original deal for the series.


While Trump confirmed to The Times that he earned about $50,000 per episode for the show’s current run (which ends Thursday with a live finale), sources close to the series say his pay at least doubled in the new deal, which covers two cycles of 16 episodes apiece that will air during the 2004-05 season.

That means Trump will gross at least $3.2 million for the new episodes, and that doesn’t include his producer’s fee, his cut of merchandise sales or the boost the show is giving his book sales. Last week, NBC announced an entire line of official “Apprentice” products, including $14 coffee mugs emblazoned with Trump’s catchphrase, “You’re fired!”

“When we put the old deal on, we didn’t know [the show] was going to be a smash hit,” Trump says. “I’m not going to reveal what I’m getting” under the new deal, he adds, but it’s “much more” than his current pay.

Even so, Trump is almost certainly stretching the truth when he says, as he has repeatedly, that he is now the highest-paid star in prime time.

“Well, that’s my understanding,” he says when asked about the claim. “The ‘Friends’ people get a million [dollars] an episode, and there’s six of them.” (Actually, it’s $1 million per episode for each of the six.)

Yes, but “Friends” has been a hit for 10 years.

“Everything happens quicker with me,” Trump deadpans. Asked for a reaction, an NBC spokeswoman said, “We don’t comment on salaries.”

The TV business is getting used to Trump’s fanciful statements. Last week, his grandiose claims during a conference call with reporters about the ratings for “Apprentice” immediately drew mocking press releases from CBS and Fox.

Whatever the exact figure, Trump’s pay bump offers further proof of the growing importance of unscripted series to the broadcast networks. With “Friends” leaving the air next month, “Apprentice” is expected to be a linchpin of NBC’s Thursday schedule next year.

Trump is not alone. Simon Cowell, the tart judge on Fox’s smash “American Idol,” is earning a reported $3 million for the show’s third cycle, or roughly $75,000 for each of the 40 episodes. Since “Idol” airs two shows a week -- sometimes three -- Cowell actually makes at least $150,000 per week. That’s at least a 50% increase over his pay for last year’s “Idol” run. And it doesn’t include his cut from various “Idol” ancillaries.

On a smaller scale, Jeff Probst, host of CBS’ “Survivor,” has also seen a pay surge, from roughly $10,000 per episode a few seasons back to about $40,000 now, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations.

The salary inflation for Trump and his reality counterparts is a sore subject for actors who are already alarmed by the rise of unscripted TV.

One agent declined to comment for this story, saying, “I represent too many actors who aren’t happy about” the trend.

Still, the Donald has a long way to go before he matches Ray Romano’s reported $40-million-plus annual haul for “Everybody Loves Raymond.” “It’s nothing close to Ray Romano or [Jerry] Seinfeld,” one agent says.

But hyperbole might be a success secret not found in “How to Get Rich.” According to several sources, Jim Griffin, an experienced TV agent at William Morris, helped Trump with his NBC deal. “I’m sure he would tell you that I did the negotiation, but he was deeply involved,” Griffin says.

Well, not exactly. Asked who did the deal, Trump says flatly, “It was me.”



The money train

Donald Trump has claimed that he is prime time’s highest-paid star. But he’s actually far from the top of the pay pack, as this sampling of some of TV’s most amply compensated stars indicates.

*--* Actor Show Estimated pay per episode* Ray Romano “Everybody Loves Raymond” $1.8 million to $2 million Kelsey Grammer “Frasier” $1.6 million “Friends” cast $1 million each Noah Wyle “ER” $500,000 Martin Sheen “The West Wing” $300,000 Brad Garrett, “Everybody Loves Raymond” $250,000 apiece ** Patricia Heaton, Peter Boyle, Doris Roberts William “CSI” $225,000 Petersen Donald Trump “The Apprentice” $50,000 to $200,000 Jennifer Garner “Alias” $175,000 Charlie Sheen “Two and a Half Men” $170,000 “The Simpsons” $125,000 apiece cast Jill Hennessy “Crossing Jordan” $100,000 Simon Cowell “American Idol” $75,000 Jon Cryer “Two and a Half Men” $45,000 Jeff Probst “Survivor” $40,000 *Does not include possible additional pay for producing or for syndication or other revenue streams. ** Contractual increase to $315,000 per episode apiece if it’s renewed for next season