NEW YORK (AP) — Ivana Trump, a skier-turned-businesswoman who formed half of a publicity power couple in the 1980s as the first wife of former President Donald Trump and mother of his oldest children, has died in New York City, her family announced Thursday. She was 73.
The former president posted on his social media app that she died at her Manhattan home.
“She was a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life,” he wrote on Truth Social. The couple shared three children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric.
“She was so proud of them, as we were all so proud of her,” he wrote. “Rest In Peace, Ivana!”
Two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that police are investigating whether Ivana Trump fell down the stairs and believe her death was accidental.
She was found unconscious near a staircase in the home, the people said. The people could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. The medical examiner’s office will determine an official cause of death.
“It’s been a very sad day, a very sad day,” Eric Trump said as he left his mother’s home near Central Park.
In a statement, he and his siblings called her “an incredible woman — a force in business, a world-class athlete, a radiant beauty and caring mother and friend.”
“She fled from communism and embraced this country,” the three said. “She taught her children about grit and toughness, compassion and determination.”
Ivanka Trump posted childhood photos of herself laughing and smiling with her mother, who she described as “brilliant, charming, passionate and wickedly funny.”
A Czech-born ski racer and sometime model, she met the future president in the 1970s and quickly perceived him as “smart and funny — an all-America good guy,” as she wrote in a 2017 book. The couple married in 1977.
She became an icon in her own right, dripping with ’80s style and glamor, complete with her signature blonde updo. She influenced the look of the over-the-top Patsy Stone in the classic British sitcom “Absolutely Fabulous,” with the character extolling Ivana as “tremendous” in one episode.
Trump herself would eventually appear in the 1996 hit film “The First Wives Club” with the now-famous line, “Ladies, you have to be strong and independent, and remember, don’t get mad, get everything.”
The Trumps became partners in love and business. She managed one of his Atlantic City casinos and helped make Trump Tower an image of ’80s success (or excess, to some).
She overruled the architects to get a 60-foot waterfall installed in Trump Tower’s atrium, and she went to an Italian quarry to pick out the rosy-beige Breccia Pernice marble that famously lines its floors and walls, according to a biography of Donald Trump by Wayne Barrett.
Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization executive who was in charge of the skyscraper’s construction, recalled Ivana helping the decorator and taking a strong interest in such details as the doormen’s uniforms.
“She did all that to impress Donald, to win his approval,” Res said. “She was traveling back and forth all the time, and leaving her kids. She had a tremendous work ethic.”
The two were fixtures of New York’s see-and-be-seen scene before their equally public, and messy, 1992 divorce. Donald Trump had met his next wife, Marla Maples.
“I couldn’t turn on the television without hearing my name,” Ivana Trump wrote in her book.
During the split, Ivana Trump accused him of rape in a sworn statement in the early 1990s. She later said she didn’t mean it literally, but rather that she felt violated.
Donald Trump would say at times that he regretted having Ivana join him in business and blamed it for the unraveling of their marriage.
“I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing,” he told ABC News in the early ’90s. “If you’re in business for yourself, I really think it’s a bad idea to put your wife working for you,” he said, complaining that when she turned into a businessperson, “a softness disappeared.”
Nevertheless, Ivana ultimately remained friendly with her ex-husband, whom she famously called “The Donald.” She enthusiastically backed his 2016 White House run, saying he would “make big changes” in the United States, and told the New York Post that she was giving him suggestions on his campaign.
“We speak before and after the appearances and he asks me what I thought,” she said. She said she advised him to “be more calm.”
“But Donald cannot be calm,” she added. “He’s very outspoken. He just says it as it is.”
However supportive, she occasionally ruffled feathers.
In 2017, while promoting her book, she told “Good Morning America” that she spoke with the then-president about every two weeks and had his direct White House number, but didn’t want to call too frequently because of then-first lady Melania Trump’s presence.
“I don’t want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I’m basically first Trump wife, OK?” Ivana said with a laugh. “I’m first lady, OK?”
Melania Trump’s spokesperson at the time responded, saying there was “clearly no substance to this statement from an ex, this is unfortunately only attention-seeking and self-serving noise.”
Ivana Trump had continued her business ventures in recent years, promoting an Italian weight-loss diet plan in 2018.
“Health is the most important thing we have. Let’s keep it that way,” she said at the time.
Her death came during a fraught week for the Trump family. Two of her children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, and the former president are due to appear in coming days for questioning in the New York attorney general’s civil investigation into the family’s business practices.
Ivana Trump was born Ivana Zelnickova in 1949 in the Czechoslovak city of Gottwaldov, formerly Zlin, which had just been renamed by the Communists who took over the country in 1948.
She was married four times, most recently to Italian actor Rossano Rubicondi. The two divorced in 2009 after a year of marriage but continued to see each other off and on until 2019, when she told the New York Post the relationship had run its course. He died last year of cancer at 49.
Associated Press writers Bernard Condon and Michael Balsamo in New York and Jeff McMillan in Scranton, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.