This has been a banner year for Donald Trump. He is listed on Forbes' Billionaires ($2.7 billion) list again, his television show "The Apprentice" remains at the top of the ratings, he has unveiled his online University, he formed his own golf management company, he married the very beautiful Melaina Knauss, in what many have billed the wedding of the century, there is talk of a Broadway Musical, and his Resort Casinos are out of trouble and poised to take over Atlantic City.

Although Trump's interests are prospering now, it has been a rough two to three year's for his top executive, Mark Brown. "We are out of the woods now, and it is time to move on," said Brown.

The Atlantic City Weekly said it best:

"Mark Brown, who had served as president of the Trump Organization's casinos, resigned from the company last week. Brown worked his way up the success ladder from being an 18-year-old blackjack dealer to president of the Trump Organization. He took the company through its most trying times and continually steered that ship successfully. Though limited in spending dollars, Brown was able to keep the ship floating in the right direction. It is doubtful that he will be sitting on the sidelines for too long."

Over the past years, we have done several successful events for Trump Casinos in Atlantic City, so we have watched first hand over the years the continuing saga of Trump properties in New Jersey. The financial condition of Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (THCR) has been a real concern to us, so it was great news when New York: US bankruptcy judge Judith Wizmur approved a plan that lets Donald Trump shed hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and gives him $500 million to upgrade his Atlantic City casinos and expand into other gambling markets. "The plan meets all confirmation requirements," said Judge Wizmur, who approved the debt-for-equity deal swiftly before a packed courtroom in Camden, New Jersey.

This was the second trip through bankruptcy for Trump's three Atlantic City casinos, which employ about 10,000 and collectively have not turned a profit in almost a decade because of their heavy property debt load. Actually, in the pre-Borgata years, the Trump properties garnered over 33% of gaming revenue in all Atlantic City, and operations were always brisk after a young executive took the helm in 2000. It has been our privilege to watch this local boy rise within the Trump Organization and help steer THCR out of bankruptcy.

Mark Anthony Brown was the quintessential “Apprentice.” Starting out as a dealer on the Boardwalk at Resorts Hotel & Casino, he has risen to the top of the heap within Trump Entertainment Resorts. Fans of “The Apprentice” will recognize the handsome youthful face on the first episodes when he replaced George Ross (pictured at left with Brown and Taj Mahal's Lady Luck Model winner Autumn Marisa).

Brown (44 years old) has been serving as the President and Chief Executive Officer of THCR’s Casino Operations Group since June 2000. Also since then, Brown has been serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of Taj Associates, Plaza Associates, Marina Associates and Trump Indiana, Inc. From November 1997 to January 2000, Brown served as the President and Chief Operating Officer of Marina Associates. From July 1995 to November 1997, he served as the Executive Vice President of Operations of Marina Associates. Brown is also Chairman of Atlantic City’s Convention and Visitor’s Authority.

Brown wasTrump’s main man in Atlantic City based at the Trump Taj Mahal Resort and Casino (pictured at right). Trump will own 30 percent of the reorganized company, renamed Trump Entertainment Resorts. Bondholders will own 65 percent. Trump will remain Chairman and will chair a nine-member board of directors.

“The funds from Morgan Stanley and UBS AG will include a $200-million five-year revolving credit, a $150-million seven year-term loan and a $150-million ‘delayed draw’ loan that the company has a year to decide whether to use,” Brown said.

Trump will invest $55 million in Atlantic City, NJ-based Trump Hotels and remain chairman and chief executive with a 30 percent stake, according to the bankruptcy filing. Bondholders will have a controlling stake.

Lawyers for Trump distributed a list of the reorganized company's nine directors. Among them is former New Jersey Governor Jim Florio, now Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Xspand, a consulting firm in New Jersey. Scott Butera, President and Chief Operating Officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts, said Florio would help with expansion plans. "With his experience, he will be an asset to the company," he said.

Butera, a former Wall Street investment banker was hired by Trump in September 2004. Butera was responsible for negotiating a restructuring of the company's $1.8 billion debt with its bondholders.

Butera was pleased with the court approval. Under the plan, Trump can tap a $500 million line of credit from the investment banking firm of Morgan Stanley to renovate and expand his casinos. Butera said adding a $300 million hotel tower to the Trump Taj Mahal, its flagship property in Atlantic City, was a priority. This latest bankruptcy will let Trump realize his ambition of expanding into other markets. He has expressed interest in entering Philadelphia, which is likely to host two poker machine parlors under Pennsylvania's gaming law.

"It is exciting to be joining a company with such a bright future. Mr. Trump has assembled a portfolio of some of the finest gaming and entertainment assets in the country. I have tremendous respect for the job Mark Brown and his teams have done in optimizing the Company's cash flows. Now is time to focus on the Company's strategic direction and capital structure," said Butera.

Brown took over as President and CEO in 2000 because of his outside-the-box thinking, a reward for turning the once-struggling Trump Marina into one of the hippest, hottest casinos in Atlantic City, attracting a young, affluent crowd with a series of rock concerts by groups such as Van Halen, Alice Cooper, Sting and Prince. Employees said Brown made the Marina "the cool casino." Donald Trump promoted Brown from the Marina to the Taj presidency Jan. 1, 2000 hoping -- no, demanding -- that he make it profitable. (Trump and Brown pictured a right with winners of 5th Annual Trump Style Model Search at the Casbah).

In short order, he made Trump Taj Mahal the real jewel of Atlantic City. The Casbah nightclub, Brown’s brainchild, a place to see, and be seen, is very much an icon on the Boardwalk.One of the first things Brown did at the Taj was scrub unprofitable entertainment contracts. One headliner was signed for 11 appearances that year at $100,000 a pop. Brown used an escape clause to drop that to three appearances and use the savings to sign different entertainers who will attract their own followings. He also restructured and coordinated critical departments such as Marketing and Slot Operations, terminating some high-level executives in the process. That savings alone was reflected in the quarterly financial report. Also reflected were common sense issues. At one point, Brown said, "We were running three simultaneous promotions to the same customers."

Less tangible, but also important to the bottom line, Brown says, is employee morale. "I want everybody on the same page, working in the same direction," he says. “To do that, the employees have to know the direction,” Brown adds. As he did at the Marina, Brown held meetings with employees soon after he arrived at the Taj to tell them exactly what he intended to do with the property and how he intended to do it. What are his plans?

“The Taj Mahal has always been and continues to be the must-see property in Atlantic City. It really is our employees who are the key to the property’s success. The excellent customer relationships that have been established since the property opened continue to this day,” said Brown. “In a best-case scenario, we would want to build an additional tower including a suite product, which would be second to none in the industry. Additionally, I would like to expand our restaurants to include a more cutting-edge variety than we have seen to date. I would also envision in addition to restaurants, exclusive shopping, bars and lounges, and other amenities for our guests.

Brown has a good reputation in the industry as a highly competent manager, says Michael Pollock, publisher of “Gaming Industry Observer”. Nor is that reputation tarnished by Brown's termination of those high-level executives, he says. "By and large, it's expected to some degree," Pollock says.

Lynn Rublack, (pictured at left) Executive Assistant to the President & CEO, started with Brown at the Marina in 1998 and has been with him ever since. She began at Trump Marina in 1995 in slot operations, and has seen a lot of change over the past 10 years.

"I know he is making the right decision, but I hate to see him go," said Rublack, "In my view, the most important measure is how he was regarded by the people who worked for him, and Mark Brown was well-liked by the people at Trump gaming at all levels. He surrounded himself with talented, competent and loyal people from the ground up." Rublack is right and we have had the fortune to meet many of them. They are all in agreement.

Lou Crescenzo, (pictured at right at Trump Style Finals) Senior Vice President of Slot Operations for all Trump Casinos has been with Brown for over six years.

"Mark Brown is a very hip, young guy who instituted all the cutting edge ideas that comes with his operational style," says Crescenzo. "I've been with Trump Gaming for over 10 years and through a lot of presidents, and he's the best leader we've ever had. All of us admire him a great deal, and will miss him dearly."

Paul Ryan who followed Brown as Chief Operating Officer at the Marina has subsequently become Executive Vice President of Hotel/Food and Beverage Operations for all Trump properties. “Mark is a great communicator,” exclaims Ryan. All agree Brown's greatest asset is his easy way of relating to people. "I guess he grew up with working people and worked his way up through all the ranks, so he really does have an open-door policy and can relate easily with everyone," Ryan adds. Ryan (pictured at left with Brown and Vittorio Gai, International General Manager 5 Star Diamond Award and his guest at the 11th Annual International Star Diamond Award Ceremony at Hotel Adlon, Berlin, Germany) also serves as President of Atlantic City’s Hotel and Lodging Association.

“The Taj will always be on the cutting edge of entertainment thanks to Mark's vision,” said Steve Gietka, Vice President of Entertainment (pictured at right with Trump Style winner Suzie Tran). "The best business advice given to me by Mark Brown was 'just book it, we will make it work.' It continues to work. We strongly believe our company under Mark's guidance revolutionized the entertainment market in Atlantic City and we will continue to do so. We will always focus on the biggest names in the entertainment business, but we will only book shows that make sense for the Etess Arena in terms of being a profitable business decision.”

"Mark has so much class and a sense of style that all the Food and Beverage employee’s loved working for him," said Chef Freddy Rieger.(pictured at left with Brown) who oversees the restaurants of Trump Taj Mahal. “The respect that he showed us, just turned back into loyalty towards him. For Mark’s 40th Birthday our Italian restaurant was renamed Mark Anthony’s in his honor."

Brown was born in Atlantic City and grew up in adjacent Brigantine. He started out as a dealer and worked his way up. He knew the one thing the city always needed was a cool place for young people to hang out. He gave them the Marina, with its Wave nightclub and Rock the Dock summer concerts, and year-round concerts by contemporary stars. The Wave has become so popular many “locals” consider it the place to go.

“Having worked his way up definitely gives him a realistic perspective from an employee point of view. He understands what they go through every day and how hard they work because he has experienced it,” said Richard M. Santoro, Senior Vice President of Corporate Security (pictured at right).

One of Brown's most poignant compliments comes from Trump's biggest competitor in Atlantic City: "I have known Mark for a long time. He is a great leader in the resort gaming business, and has taught me very much." Brown's protégé Larry Mullin served under Brown at the Marina, then President & COO of the Marina when Brown moved to the Taj Mahal. Mullin is now Vice President Marketing at the competing Borgata Resort Casino. (Mullin, who was President of Trump Plaza in 2000 is pictured at left with 2nd Annual Trump Style Winners Amanda Henkel and Irina Ovinchinkova of Estonia.)

“The majority of the executives on my management team have careers that mirror mine and have a better connection with their employees as a result," said Brown. "I have consistently said that I don’t pay much attention to titles because in our company, we are all truly in this together. There are outstanding employees in this organization and they play an integral part in the success of the organization. I have always had a management style in which I speak candidly with employees on issues that some industry executives may believe they do not understand—subjects such as debt structure, cash flow and EBITDA, for example. Employees don’t get enough credit for how much business acumen they have. They appreciate the fact that I have honestly communicated with them, both in good times and bad. Employees are incredibly loyal and as a result of that, have played a significant role in working with me during the more difficult times. They also understand that they are rewarded when times get better.”

Times are getting better because Trump reached agreement with a majority of bond holders on his plans before filing for Chapter 11 protection on November 21 last year. The shareholders also dropped their efforts to propose a competing reorganization proposal.

Trump Entertainment has now emerged from bankruptcy and is moving forward on their plans for the future. For Donald Trump’s real life Apprentice, well, look out for Mark Brown. There’s no stopping him!