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Howard Stutz

 

'Apprentice' champion steps out of the tube, onto the Strip

27 Sep 2007

By Howard Stutz

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Stefanie Schaeffer is no longer the apprentice. She's the boss.

The Los Angeles attorney, who won a yearlong job in the spring working for New York billionaire Donald Trump through the reality television series "The Apprentice," recently took over as the head of sales and marketing for the $1.2 billion Trump International Hotel and Tower behind the shuttered New Frontier. The old hotel-casino is being demolished and will be replaced with a $5 billion version of New York's Plaza Hotel.

The move to Las Vegas was something Schaeffer, 33, requested. The bulk of her original task with the New York-based Trump Organization, overseeing sales of $350 million in cliffside real estate in the Dominican Republic development of Cap Cana, ended quickly. Schaeffer is still involved with construction and development for the project. Schaeffer, who served as master of ceremonies for the topping-off ceremony for the Trump International in May, asked to become part of the Las Vegas venture. Trump's first 64-story hotel and 1,282-unit condominium and condo-hotel tower is expected to begin accepting residents by next February. Reservations are being accepted for the second 1,282-unit tower, which is not expected to break ground until sometime next year. Schaeffer also hopes to take part in planning a grand opening celebration. "I'm involved full-scale on the project,' Schaeffer said Tuesday. "I would imagine any grand opening would be something in true Trump style. To borrow my own phrase from 'The Apprentice,' 'the height of luxury' should be part of the event."

One of the final tasks Schaeffer performed on an episode of "The Apprentice' was developing a marketing plan for the second tower. She and five other contestants spent a summer day in Las Vegas touring the construction project and meeting with Trump's partner on the tower, former Frontier owner Phil Ruffin, and Jack Christie, who was then the project's vice president of sales and marketing. Schaeffer and fellow contestant James Sun presented the ideas to both Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

"That was probably my favorite task," Schaeffer said. "That day, when I arrived here on the construction site, I fell in love with the project. I had no idea a year later I would be winning the show and be back here. I asked for this."

Christie, who had been with the project for three years, decided to leave in July, opening the door for Schaeffer, who lives in Agoura, Calif., in the northern end of the San Fernando Valley. She plans to spend at least three days a week in Las Vegas.

Schaeffer doesn't view herself as a reality television show winner who now has to work for a living. The Trump sales offices has about 18 employees.

"I'm not afraid of hard work. I come from a sink-or-swim theory," Schaeffer said. "When you walk into uncharted territory, you better learn how to survive and make yourself part of the team. I have experience in sales. I have experience in marketing, real estate and law. So have I have a strong foundation for what I'm doing here."

Schaeffer is already tuned into the Las Vegas real estate market, where housing sales have slumped in the past year. She said the luxury condominium offerings shouldn't be affected because the clientele is much different from the average home buyer.

"Las Vegas is a place onto itself unlike anywhere else in the world," Schaeffer said. "We're targeting a customer that expects to see the luxury lifestyle offered by a Trump product."

She does hope to trade on her fame from "The Apprentice" by getting involved with Las Vegas community organizations. She hopes that will help raise awareness of the Trump project.

Before trying out for "The Apprentice," Schaeffer was a trial lawyer for a Los Angeles law firm, defending employers against workers' compensation claims. Her background also includes experience defending real estate developers in construction defect litigation. Los Angeles magazine named Schaeffer a "Super Lawyers Young Rising Star" in both 2006 and 2007.

She is the only "Apprentice" winner (there have been five other winners) still working for the Trump Organization. Her contract expires April 23 but she hopes to still be part of the organization on April 24.

***

Ex-Trump official exploring opportunities

Jack Christie, who served as the vice president of sales and marketing for the Trump International before resigning during the summer, said Tuesday he's exploring different consulting opportunities.

The first tower was quickly reserved and Christie led the operation to convert the reservations into official sales. He said the timing was right to move on because only a few units remain available.

"We had a great accomplishment with the first tower and my separation was very positive," Christie said.

"Besides, I told Donald he wasn't going to fire me on national television," Christie said in reference to Donald Trump's trademark "You're fired" line that is part of "The Apprentice" reality television series.

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