‘A Survivor’: Trump Family in Mourning After Ivana Found Dead at Home

·7 min read
Dave Kotinsky
Dave Kotinsky

Ivana Trump, former President Donald Trump’s first wife and the mother of his three oldest children, was found “unconscious and unresponsive” in her New York City home on Thursday, authorities said, after she reportedly fell down a flight of stairs. She was 73.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, the Trump family confirmed her death, calling the former model and socialite “an incredible woman—a force in business, a world-class athlete, a radiant beauty, and caring mother and friend.”

Married from 1977 until their separation in 1992, Donald and Ivana Trump shared three children: Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric.

The NYPD said officers received a 911 call on Thursday and found Ivana unconscious at about 12:40 p.m. “EMS responded to the location and pronounced the victim deceased at the scene,” the statement said. “There does not appear to be any criminality. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death.”

Two sources told The New York Times that authorities were investigating whether she had fallen down a flight of stairs in her four-story Upper East Side townhouse.

Ivana’s most recent ex-husband, Rossano Rubicondi, died last year. She told People at the time that she was “devastated” by the Italian actor’s passing.

The former president took to Truth Social on Thursday to announce the news of his ex-wife’s death. “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,” he wrote. “She was a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life.”

Born in 1949 under Communist rule in what was then Czechoslovakia, Ivana Zelníčková was a competitive skier and model who moved to Montreal in the early 1970s. But it was on a fateful trip to New York City in 1976 that she first met a young Donald Trump. They were married three weeks later, according to a 1990 New York profile, and moved into an eight-room apartment overlooking Central Park.

Ivana “was an appendage” to the image-obsessed real estate scion, who made his wife the chief executive of an Atlantic City hotel in 1985, a friend told the magazine. “But she loved it,” the pal said. After having two children, Ivana flourished as a businesswoman, often spending half the week working outside of New York.

But by the second half of the decade, the power couple’s marriage was strained. Not only were they apart more often than not, Donald was also increasingly jealous of the media coverage afforded his ambitious wife. He reportedly went “berserk” any time he saw her name in print, a friend recalled to New York.

And then there were his philandering ways, which came to a head on a Colorado ski vacation in 1989 when a woman named Marla Maples approached Ivana. In her 2017 book Raising Trump, Ivana recounted the incident.

“This young blonde woman approached me out of the blue and said ‘I’m Marla and I love your husband. Do you?’” she wrote. “I said ‘Get lost. I love my husband.’ It was unladylike but I was in shock.”

Their marriage crumbled soon after and the bitter divorce battle in the early 1990s was the stuff of tabloid dreams, with New York City’s gossip columns lapping up the rumors of his cheating, delighting as it exploded into all-out war.

Ivana kept her ex-husband’s surname, as well as more than $14 million and a 45-room mansion in Connecticut, according to The New York Times.

Ivana never forgave Maples—who she called “the showgirl”—for stealing her husband. After the affair, Maples and Donald Trump were married in 1993. In her memoir, Ivana said that Trump’s infidelity put her “through hell,” and left her with “deep scars.”

“I’m not saying that if it weren't for the showgirl, Donald and I would still be together or that my life since our divorce hasn't been a wonderful adventure of love, travel, success, and laughter,” she wrote. “I’ve had a fabulous life.”

Two years after her divorce, Ivana married Italian businessman Riccardo Mazzucchelli, but the union lasted last than two years. She had a longer relationship with the Italian Count Roffredo Gaetani dell’Aquila, who died in 2005. She married Rubicondi in 2008 after six years of dating. Their $3 million wedding ceremony was hosted by the then-future president at the Mar-a-Lago Club, according to People.

Ivana and Rubicondi divorced within a year, but the split was “amicable,” according to her, and the two maintained an on-again, off-again relationship until 2019.

Rubicondi’s death last October reportedly “devastated” Ivana, who was allowed by his parents to keep half of his ashes. The parents told People that the ex-model had cared for their son throughout the final year of a secret battle with liver cancer.

In Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, published in 1993, author Harry Hurt III dug up a claim of sexual assault made by Ivana against her ex-husband three years earlier. In a divorce deposition, Ivana claimed that an enraged Trump had raped her after a “scalp reduction” surgery left him in pain. Hurt wrote that two of Ivana’s friends corroborated details of the alleged assault.

The rape allegation resurfaced during Trump’s first presidential campaign. The candidate’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, told The Daily Beast that Trump had “never raped anybody.” He also claimed, inaccurately, that “you can’t rape your spouse.” Cohen later apologized for the comment, but not without separately calling a Daily Beast reporter an “idiot” and threatening to do “something disgusting” to him.

Ivana, for her part, disavowed her testimony in a statement given to Hurt by Trump and his lawyers. It was printed on the first page of Lost Tycoon, with Ivana claiming that her earlier words had been taken in the wrong sense.

“[O]n one occasion during 1989, Mr. Trump and I had marital relations in which he behaved very differently toward me than he had during our marriage,” she said. “As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”

Ivana also actively supported her ex-husband’s bid for presidential office, telling the New York Post in 2016 that she was advising him on his campaign.

“I suggest a few things,” she told the paper. “We speak before and after the appearances and he asks me what I thought.” She added that she’d attempted to quell what she called Trump’s “outspoken” nature, counseling him to “be more calm.”

She told ABC’s Good Morning America a year later that she had a “direct number” to the Oval Office. “But I no really want to call him there because Melania is there and I don’t want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that, because I’m basically first Trump wife, OK? I’m first lady, OK?” she continued, laughing.

Ivana’s business acumen also flourished over the decades following her first marriage. A formidable real estate investor in the U.S. and Europe, she ran her own clothing, beauty, and jewelry lines. In addition to Raising Trump, she penned several other books and maintained an advice column for the tabloid weekly Globe.

“Ivana Trump was a survivor,” the Trump family said Thursday. “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 & 10 grandchildren.”

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