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Ivana Trump, first wife of Donald Trump, dies at 73

A police spokesman says she was found dead on the stairs and that foul play is not suspected.

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Ivana Trump attends the 2018 Angel Ball at Cipriani, Wall Street on Oct 22, 2018 in New York City. Photo: AFP
Ivana Trump attends the 2018 Angel Ball at Cipriani, Wall Street on Oct 22, 2018 in New York City. Photo: AFP

Ivana Trump, the first wife of former US president Donald Trump and the mother of his three oldest children, who helped her husband build some of his signature buildings including Trump Tower, has died at age 73, Donald Trump said on Thursday.

"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 said in a post on the social medial platform Truth Social.

The couple married in 1977 and divorced in 1992. They had three children together: Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric.

"Ivana Trump was a survivor. She fled from communism and embraced this country. She taught her children about grit and toughness, compassion and determination," the Trump family said in a statement. She grew up under Communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia.

Neither the Trump family statement nor the post from the former president mentioned the cause of death, but a police spokesman said she was found dead on the stairs and that foul play was not suspected.

The New York Times, citing unnamed law enforcement officials, said it appeared accidental and she may have fallen down the stairs.

The Fire Department of New York said paramedics responded to a call to her apartment for a cardiac arrest.

Born Ivana Zelnickova, she grew up in Gottwaldov, Czechoslovakia, a town near Prague that is now known as Zlin, according to her biography posted by CMG Worldwide, a business agency for celebrities that represented her.

She spent much of her youth in competitive skiing for the Czechoslovakian national system, later competing for Charles University in Prague, where she earned a master's degree in physical education and languages, the CMG biography said.

After university, she followed her love interest at the time, professional skier George Syrovatka, to Canada, and later began modeling for the Audrey Morris agency in Montreal, CMG said.

While on a modelling trip to New York in 1976, she met Donald, CMG said, and they were married nine months later.

Ivana played a role in building up the Trump media image in the 1980s, when they were one of New York City's most prominent power couples.

While Donald took the credit for his early success breaking into the highly competitive Manhattan real estate market, Ivana also filled an important role in the family business soon after their marriage, the New York Times reported.

She worked alongside her husband in developing Trump Tower, his signature building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and other high-profile projects such as the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Times said.

Ivana was the vice-president for interior design for the Trump Organization and managed the historic Plaza Hotel, which Donald acquired in 1988 all while raising their three children.

Their divorce, which came after Donald's highly publicised affair with Marla Maples, whom he later married, was fodder for the New York tabloids.

A New York judge cited "cruel and inhuman treatment" by Donald in granting Ivana's request for divorce.

She appeared in the 1996 film "First Wives Club," in which she tells three women whose husbands dumped them for younger women, "Don't get mad. Get everything."

In her divorce settlement, Ivana received US$14 million plus US$650,000 per year to support their three children, a 45-room mansion in Connecticut, an apartment in Trump Plaza, and use of the Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida for one month a year, the New York Times reported.

Ivana is survived by her mother, her three children and 10 grandchildren, the family statement said.

She married three other times, including once before she met Donald in what she described as a Cold War marriage to obtain an Austrian passport. Her two later marriages also ended in divorce.