How Ivana Trump went from impoverished Czech immigrant to multi-million dollar QVC empire 

How Ivana Trump went from impoverished Czech immigrant to multi-million dollar QVC empire 

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Ivana Trump’s sudden death at the age of 73 has shone a light on the impressive rise of Donald Trump’s former wife, from poor Czech immigrant to business tycoon.

Her success – fueled by a hefty $14 million divorce settlement – was so notable that she even landed a cameo role in 1996 movie hit The First Wives Club.

That saw Ivana advise three Manhattan divorcees – played by Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton – ‘Don’t get mad, get everything.’ 

And Ivana certainly followed her own advice after splitting from Donald, turning her attention to fashion and jewelry lines, writing and a return to a modeling career that began during the 1970s. 

At the time of Ivana’s death, her fortune sat at an estimated $100 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth 

Ivana was born in the Czech city of Zlin in 1949, to electrical engineer father Miloš Zelníček and telephone operator mom Marie Zelníčková.

She was a prodigious skier. It was that talent – encouraged by her father – that proved the key to her escape from the gloom of Communist life behind the Iron Curtain.

Ivana Trump’s amazing life took her from humble beginnings as a Czech skiing prodigy to one of the world’s best-known socialites who bagged a famous cameo in 1996 movie The First Wives club, which saw her poke fun at her divorce from Donald Trump  

Ivana became manager of the Plaza Hotel while her husband owned the famous property, and is pictured outside the building in 1990

Ivana became manager of the Plaza Hotel while her husband owned the famous property, and is pictured outside the building in 1990

Ivana became manager of the Plaza Hotel while her husband owned the famous property, and is pictured outside the building in 1990 

After marrying Austrian ski instructor Alfred Winklmayr – the first of her four husbands – Ivana was able to move to Canada in the early 1970s, where she worked as a ski instructor and model.

The sportswoman said she never considered modeling more than a temporary job.

But it ultimately led to her first meeting with Donald Trump during a booking in New York City in 1976. 

She recounted in her memoir how Donald secured her and her friends a table at a hot Manhattan restaurant, paid the check and chauffeured her back to her hotel in a Cadillac.

‘My instincts told me that Donald was smart and funny – an all-American good guy,’ she wrote in her 2017 memoir ‘Raising Trump.’

That encounter helped propel Ivana to a life of unimaginable wealth and luxury – although she used her famed work ethic to turn her $14 million divorce settlement from Donald into an even greater fortune.

Rather than rest on her laurels during the Trumps’ tempestuous 15 year marriage, Ivana worked as executive vice president of interior design at the-then property mogul’s businesses.

That included overseeing the décor at Trump Tower in Manhattan – including its famed pink marble interior.

Ivana also oversaw construction of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in NYC, as well as the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic city. 

She later became the manager of New York City’s iconic Plaza Hotel after Donald bought the Central Park South property in 1988.   

Ivana's 1977 marriage to Donald helped propel her to fame and fortune. Rather than laze around and enjoy life as a trophy wife, she decided to oversee interior decoration at Trump's properties (The Trumps are pictured with their three children Don Jr, Ivanka and Eric in 1986)

Ivana's 1977 marriage to Donald helped propel her to fame and fortune. Rather than laze around and enjoy life as a trophy wife, she decided to oversee interior decoration at Trump's properties (The Trumps are pictured with their three children Don Jr, Ivanka and Eric in 1986)

Ivana’s 1977 marriage to Donald helped propel her to fame and fortune. Rather than laze around and enjoy life as a trophy wife, she decided to oversee interior decoration at Trump’s properties (The Trumps are pictured with their three children Don Jr, Ivanka and Eric in 1986)

After the Trumps divorce was finalized in 1992, Ivana was handed $14 million in cash, as well as multiple properties - including a Connecticut mansion she later sold for $18 million. They're pictured together in 1985

After the Trumps divorce was finalized in 1992, Ivana was handed $14 million in cash, as well as multiple properties - including a Connecticut mansion she later sold for $18 million. They're pictured together in 1985

After the Trumps divorce was finalized in 1992, Ivana was handed $14 million in cash, as well as multiple properties – including a Connecticut mansion she later sold for $18 million. They’re pictured together in 1985

Ivana’s relationship with Donald seemed to begin well, with the two marrying just over a year after they met – on April 7, 1977 in a private wedding officiated by author Norman Vincent Peale.

Just a couple months later, in October 1977, the couple welcomed their first child, Donald Jr. They then went on to have Ivanka Trump in October 1981 and Eric Trump in January 1984.

At the height of their relationship, the two were business partners, working on some major projects like development of  Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the renovation of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City and the construction of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

But by 1989, there started to be some trouble in paradise for the couple – as they were observed fighting while on vacation in Aspen, Colorado after Ivana discovered that Donald was having an affair with Marla Maples – who would go on to be his second wife.

When Ivana’s marriage to Donald imploded in 1990, she was able to leverage a pre-nuptial agreement that had been updated four times during their marriage, to secure what was then one of the biggest divorce settlements in history.

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She pocketed a cool $14 million after the split was finalized in 1992.  

As well as that lump sum, Ivana was also given a 45 room Connecticut mansion and an apartment at Trump’s New York Trump Plaza apartment complex.

She went on to sell the Connecticut mansion for $15 million in 1998, almost doubling her assets at a stroke.  

Ivana was also granted the run of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago country club in West Palm Beach, Florida, for a month a year. 

Despite the couple’s torrid divorce – triggered by Donald’s affair with Maples – they reunited for a pithy Pizza Hut advert in 1995 which mocked their own relationship.

The commercial saw the pair pretend to flirt on screen while implying that getting back together would be ‘wrong’.

They then revealed that they were actually discussing eating pizza crust-first. 

That advert typified Ivana’s need to work, as she sought to build her own career, rather than just fritter away her divorce settlement. 

She designed multiple fashion lines inspired by her famously glitzy taste in clothes and jewels, which were sold on TV channels the Home Shopping Network and QVC.

Recognizing the power of her image, Ivana would herself appear on TV to sell her wares to viewers.

The secret of her success was to make fans feel as if a purchase from one of her lines would help give them a foothold into an enviable lifestyle like hers. 

Despite divorcing in 1992, Donald and Ivana reunited in 1995 for a Pizza Hut commercial, which saw them poke fun of their tempestuous marriage

Despite divorcing in 1992, Donald and Ivana reunited in 1995 for a Pizza Hut commercial, which saw them poke fun of their tempestuous marriage

Despite divorcing in 1992, Donald and Ivana reunited in 1995 for a Pizza Hut commercial, which saw them poke fun of their tempestuous marriage 

Ivana, pictured in an undated photo, also developed a successful career as a fashion designer, and sold glitzy clothes and jewels on QVC and the Home Shopping Network

Ivana, pictured in an undated photo, also developed a successful career as a fashion designer, and sold glitzy clothes and jewels on QVC and the Home Shopping Network

Ivana, pictured in an undated photo, also developed a successful career as a fashion designer, and sold glitzy clothes and jewels on QVC and the Home Shopping Network 

Amid her rise to independent stardom, Ivana married Italian entrepreneur and international businessman Riccardo Mazzuchelli in November 1995, but the two divorced in 1997.

He had apparently wooed the newly-single ex-model with jewelry, according to People, as he drove a Rolls-Royce and owned a pricey townhouse in London while also keeping an apartment in Manhattan.

Following their divorce, Ivana, then 48, sued the 54-year-old entrepreneur for $15 million, alleging he breached the confidentiality clause in their prenuptial agreement, while he countersued her and Donald in a British court for libel.

That suit ended with an undisclosed settlement. By the summer of 1997 she began dating Italian aristocrat Count Roffredo Gaetani dell’Aquila d’Aragona Lovatelli.

The two met in Monte Carlo and enjoyed a whirlwind first few years together, with Lovatelli telling the New York Times in 1998 that he whisked her away to the Ferrari factory in Italy, where she drove an F1.

‘She controlled the car very fast,’ he said. ‘All the test drivers were very impressed. And the way she skis – I have never seen a woman go down a hill like that.’

The two stayed together for years, but were never actually married.

International businessman Riccardo Mazzucchelli was able to woo the newly-single Ivana Trump with his expensive belongings, as he drove a Rolls Royce and owned a pricey townhouse in London while also keeping an apartment in Manhattan

International businessman Riccardo Mazzucchelli was able to woo the newly-single Ivana Trump with his expensive belongings, as he drove a Rolls Royce and owned a pricey townhouse in London while also keeping an apartment in Manhattan

International businessman Riccardo Mazzucchelli was able to woo the newly-single Ivana Trump with his expensive belongings, as he drove a Rolls Royce and owned a pricey townhouse in London while also keeping an apartment in Manhattan

Their relationship, though, only lasted two years and ended in another tumultuous divorce as she sued him for $15 million for allegedly breaching the confidentiality clause in their prenuptial agreement, while he countersued her and Trump in a British court for libel

Their relationship, though, only lasted two years and ended in another tumultuous divorce as she sued him for $15 million for allegedly breaching the confidentiality clause in their prenuptial agreement, while he countersued her and Trump in a British court for libel

Their relationship, though, only lasted two years and ended in another tumultuous divorce as she sued him for $15 million for allegedly breaching the confidentiality clause in their prenuptial agreement, while he countersued her and Trump in a British court for libel

By the summer of 1997 she began dating Italian aristocrat Count Roffredo Gaetani dell'Aquila d'Aragona Lovatelli

By the summer of 1997 she began dating Italian aristocrat Count Roffredo Gaetani dell'Aquila d'Aragona Lovatelli

By the summer of 1997 she began dating Italian aristocrat Count Roffredo Gaetani dell’Aquila d’Aragona Lovatelli 

The two met in Monte Carlo and enjoyed a whirlwind first few years together, with Lovatelli telling the New York Times in 1998 that he whisked her away to the Ferrari factory in Italy, where she drove an F1. They are pictured here attending the premiere of the film Frequency

The two met in Monte Carlo and enjoyed a whirlwind first few years together, with Lovatelli telling the New York Times in 1998 that he whisked her away to the Ferrari factory in Italy, where she drove an F1. They are pictured here attending the premiere of the film Frequency

The couple was never actually married, but they stayed together until he died in 2005. They are pictured here in 1998

The couple was never actually married, but they stayed together until he died in 2005. They are pictured here in 1998

The two met in Monte Carlo and enjoyed a whirlwind first few years together, with Lovatelli telling the New York Times in 1998 that he whisked her away to the Ferrari factory in Italy, where she drove an F1. They were never married, but they stayed together for years 

She then dated actor and model Rossano Rubicondi for six years before they married on April 12, 2008  — when he was 36 and she was 59. 

Their $3million wedding was attended by 400 guests at her famous ex-husband’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach and set to the theme of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream, with daughter Ivanka as her maid of honor.

They divorced less than one year later, but their on-again, off-again relationship continued until 2019 when she ultimately called it quits. 

But friends of the two said they had grown closer before his death from melanoma in October.

‘Lately he got closer to Ivana Trump and many thought they also wanted to remarry,’ Roberto Alessi, an Italian film director, told Italian website Corriere della Sere.

He and Ivana were often seen together out and about in New York City and were last photographed walking arm in arm in July 2021, just months before his death.

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In fact, throughout 2021, the pair were seen enjoying one another’s company on at least five occasions. 

Following the couple’s divorce in 2009, Rubicondi married Milu Vimo in 2011 and according to Italian news outlets have never divorced. Either way, he remained friends with Ivana for the rest of his life. 

And after he died, she tweeted: ‘Rossano … Thanks for the journey we made together, for the good times and the bad, and also the tears and laughter, so many, and everything that we did together. Farewell. RIP.’

Ivana Trump and Rossano Rubicondi divorced less than one year later, but their on-again, off-again relationship continued until 2019 when she ultimately called it quits. But friends of the two said they had grown close prior to his death in October. They are pictured as guest dancers on the Italian version of Dancing with the Stars in May 2018

Ivana Trump and Rossano Rubicondi divorced less than one year later, but their on-again, off-again relationship continued until 2019 when she ultimately called it quits. But friends of the two said they had grown close prior to his death in October. They are pictured as guest dancers on the Italian version of Dancing with the Stars in May 2018

Ivana Trump and Rossano Rubicondi divorced less than one year later, but their on-again, off-again relationship continued until 2019 when she ultimately called it quits. But friends of the two said they had grown close prior to his death in October. They are pictured as guest dancers on the Italian version of Dancing with the Stars in May 2018 

Ivana, Donald, Eric and Ivanka, at Mar-a-Lago in 1998, a year before their divorce

Ivana, Donald, Eric and Ivanka, at Mar-a-Lago in 1998, a year before their divorce

Ivana, Donald, Eric and Ivanka, at Mar-a-Lago in 1998, a year before their divorce 

Ivana with her three kids in 2011 at the launch of the 'Ivana Living Legend Wine Collection' in New York City

Ivana with her three kids in 2011 at the launch of the 'Ivana Living Legend Wine Collection' in New York City

Ivana with her three kids in 2011 at the launch of the ‘Ivana Living Legend Wine Collection’ in New York City 

Ivana Trump poses with her children, Donald Trump Jr. (L), Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump (R) after lunch at Frederick's Madison November 16, 2006 in New York City

Ivana Trump poses with her children, Donald Trump Jr. (L), Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump (R) after lunch at Frederick's Madison November 16, 2006 in New York City

Ivana Trump poses with her children, Donald Trump Jr. (L), Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump (R) after lunch at Frederick’s Madison November 16, 2006 in New York City

The pinnacle of Ivana’s career as a fashion plate came in 1995, when she opened the House of Ivana fashion and fragrance company on New York’s Park Avenue. 

In 1998, Ivana dabbled in the world of media, acquiring a stake in Croatia’s Slobodna Dalmacija newspaper, which was later sold as the publication’s fortunes declined.

She dabbled in property development, but enjoyed her most consistent success by marketing her own image.

Ivana published multiple autobiographical tomes, including For Love Alone and Free To Love.

She also penned a 1995 self-help book called The Best Is Yet To come, and even turned her attention to an agony aunt column.

It was called Ask Ivanka and ran in Globe for an impressive 15 years, from 1995 to 2010. 

During her later years, Ivana largely dropped out of the spotlight. In 2017 she published Raising Trump, the definitive account of her marriage to the then-newly elected president.

The tome also focused on Ivana’s relationship with the couple’s three children; Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric. 

Ivana relished her role as a loving mother and proudly described how she raised them without their father's help. Ivana (right) is pictured with her then-husband Donald (left) and their infant daughter, Ivanka (center)

Ivana relished her role as a loving mother and proudly described how she raised them without their father's help. Ivana (right) is pictured with her then-husband Donald (left) and their infant daughter, Ivanka (center)

Ivana relished her role as a loving mother and proudly described how she raised them without their father’s help. Ivana (right) is pictured with her then-husband Donald (left) and their infant daughter, Ivanka (center)

Her only daughter, Ivanka Trump, posted to Instagram shortly after the news broke with a series of photos of them together throughout the Trumps' lives

Her only daughter, Ivanka Trump, posted to Instagram shortly after the news broke with a series of photos of them together throughout the Trumps' lives

Her only daughter, Ivanka Trump, posted to Instagram shortly after the news broke with a series of photos of them together throughout the Trumps’ lives

Her youngest son, Eric Trump, posted this photo of the two of them Thursday evening to Instagram

Her youngest son, Eric Trump, posted this photo of the two of them Thursday evening to Instagram

Her youngest son, Eric Trump, posted this photo of the two of them Thursday evening to Instagram

Ivanka and Ivana in 2001

Ivanka and Ivana in 2001

Ivanka and Ivana, left, in 2001 and right with Don Jr. The kids remained close with their mother until her death

Ivanka and Ivana, left, in 2001 and right with Don Jr. The kids remained close with their mother until her death

Ivanka and Ivana, left, in 2001 and right with Don Jr. The kids remained close with their mother until her death

Ivana relished her role as a loving mother and proudly described how she raised them without their father’s help. 

After Donald took presidential office and even for years privately beforehand, it was Ivana who took credit for the three kids, their success and their mild manners. 

She fought ferociously for them during her divorce from their father, and wrote in her memoir that it was she who raised them – not their dad who ‘provided’ for them but had no interest until they ‘could talk business with him’. 

‘I got total custody of the kids when I divorced Donald. That was non-negotiable. But even if Donald and I had stayed together, I would have raised the kids,’ she penned.

‘Donald was the kind of father who was at the office at 6 in the morning. 

‘I would take the kids to his office after the breakfast and they would play on the floor with the Legos while Donald was on the telephone.

‘He provided for them and he loved them. But he does not know how to make small talk and he certainly was not going to say, “Oh, choo, choo, choo, choo. How cute we are today. Let’s go to the park in the stroller.” No.’ 

Ivana and Donald Trump are toasting with champagne from a NYC rooftop

Ivana and Donald Trump are toasting with champagne from a NYC rooftop

Ivana and Donald Trump are toasting with champagne from a NYC rooftop

Ivana lounging in what looks like Mar-a-Lago, just a breeze from Florida's beach on the Atlantic

Ivana lounging in what looks like Mar-a-Lago, just a breeze from Florida's beach on the Atlantic

Ivana lounging in what looks like Mar-a-Lago, just a breeze from Florida’s beach on the Atlantic 

Ivana and Ivanka at a fashion show

Ivana and Ivanka at a fashion show

With Eric in 1994

With Eric in 1994

‘I got them up at 7 and to school by 8. After school, Ivanka had piano lessons and ballet lessons and ice-skating lessons. Donald Jr. and Eric had karate or golf or whatever it was. Then they did their homework. By 7:30 they would be in a coma and in bed asleep. If you keep them busy, they have no time to get into trouble,’ Ivana said previously of her parenting

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Ivana spent years working as a model - which is how she first met Trump, who, she was introduced to at an event in New York City

Ivana spent years working as a model - which is how she first met Trump, who, she was introduced to at an event in New York City

Ivana spent years working as a model – which is how she first met Trump, who, she was introduced to at an event in New York City. She is pictured at an event in 1983

‘That was not his kind of thing. He only started talking to them when they were in university and they could talk business,’ she told The New York Post in 2018. 

She was ‘devastated’ by Trump’s lawyers’ claims during divorce negotiations that she was a bad mother. 

She also recalled one near stalemate where Trump announced: ‘I’m keeping Don Jr.’ 

She shot back: ‘Keep him. I have two others to raise,’ and told fondly how Don Jr., then a boy, was back in her arms within hours. 

‘I knew Donald would not know what to do with him. It was hurtful, but I could not be intimidated.’ 

She maintained that the key to keeping the kids grounded was ‘discipline’. 

‘I got them up at 7 and to school by 8. After school, Ivanka had piano lessons and ballet lessons and ice-skating lessons. 

‘Donald Jr. and Eric had karate or golf or whatever it was. 

‘Then they did their homework. By 7:30 they would be in a coma and in bed asleep. If you keep them busy, they have no time to get into trouble.’ 

Ivana, a businesswoman and former model, was married to Donald for 15 years from 1977 to 1992. The couple are pictured together in July 1988

Ivana, a businesswoman and former model, was married to Donald for 15 years from 1977 to 1992. The couple are pictured together in July 1988

Ivana, a businesswoman and former model, was married to Donald for 15 years from 1977 to 1992. The couple are pictured together in July 1988

Ivana with Eric Trump in September 2015. He paid tribute to her on Thursday after her death at the age of 73

Ivana with Eric Trump in September 2015. He paid tribute to her on Thursday after her death at the age of 73

Ivana with Eric Trump in September 2015. He paid tribute to her on Thursday after her death at the age of 73 

Eric Trump arriving at his mother's home on Thursday after the news of her death at the age of 73

Eric Trump arriving at his mother's home on Thursday after the news of her death at the age of 73

Eric Trump arriving at his mother’s home on Thursday after the news of her death at the age of 73

Former President Donald Trump shared the news of his ex-wife's passing on his Truth Social account on Thursday afternoon, revealing she died in her home on New York's Upper East Side

Former President Donald Trump shared the news of his ex-wife's passing on his Truth Social account on Thursday afternoon, revealing she died in her home on New York's Upper East Side

Former President Donald Trump shared the news of his ex-wife’s passing on his Truth Social account on Thursday afternoon, revealing she died in her home on New York’s Upper East Side 

In his statement, Trump, 76, paid tribute to Ivana as a 'wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life'

In his statement, Trump, 76, paid tribute to Ivana as a 'wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life'

In his statement, Trump, 76, paid tribute to Ivana as a ‘wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life’ 

In the last years of her life, Ivana – who was once a regular on the New York social scene – had shied away from glitzy public events, instead maintaining a much more low-key lifestyle.

She was spotted on occasions stepping out in the Upper East Side neighborhood where her townhouse was located, either on shopping trips, or for meals that she often enjoyed with Rubicondi, before he passed away.

In recent months, she has been accompanied by an unnamed female aide, who was frequently seen by her side whenever the socialite was pictured out in public.

 

Ivana Trump is pictured with one of her ten grandchildren. Her son Eric paid tribute to her in an Instagram post on Thursday

Ivana Trump is pictured with one of her ten grandchildren. Her son Eric paid tribute to her in an Instagram post on Thursday

Ivana Trump is pictured with one of her ten grandchildren. Her son Eric paid tribute to her in an Instagram post on Thursday

She died Thursday of a suspected cardiac arrest at the age of 73 after being found ‘unconscious and unresponsive’ in her New York City townhouse.

It was reported that the socialite was found at the bottom of a set of stairs in her Manhattan home, however an official cause of death has yet to be confirmed.

News of Ivana’s death was shared by ex-husband via a post on his Truth Social account on Thursday afternoon.

 ‘I am very saddened to inform all of those that loved her, of which there are many, that Ivana Trump has passed away at her home in New York City,’ Donald wrote.

‘She was a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life,’ he continued. ‘Her pride and joy were her three children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric.

‘She was so proud of them, as we were all so proud of her. Rest in Peace, Ivana!’

Ivana’s son Eric confirmed the news of Ivana’s death to DailyMail.com, saying in a statement issued on behalf of the family: ‘Our mother was an incredible woman – a force in business, a world-class athlete, a radiant beauty, and caring mother and friend.

‘Ivana Trump was a survivor. She fled from communism and embraced this country. She taught her children about grit and toughness, compassion and determination.

‘She will be dearly missed by her mother, her three children and ten grandchildren.’

Eric also took to Instagram to post a tribute to his late mother, sharing several images of the socialite and her children over the years, including photos of Ivana with her children when they were younger.

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