I hope, when I get really old, that I don’t become addicted to the Weather Channel although I’m finding that even younger people talk about the weather, especially if it’s bad. Well, it seems we moved to Montreal just in time to catch the rainiest summer in quite some time. And, it’s not just drizzles. I love the rain; I love walking in it (provided it’s not accompanied by low temperatures and blustery winds) but I can assure you that I have not once this summer had to water my lawn or shrubs it’s just that it’s hard to find a window of opportunity when the lawn is dry enough to mow (I use an old-fashioned hand push variety referred to on some websites as “classic.”) I guess I just realized that classic and old have synonymatic connections.
I get a number of industry newsletter and news blasts. All offer value and are mostly focused on the deal side of the business. Over the years I’ve periodically asked people “what is a must-read industry publication for you?” and, as new publications surface each year, sometimes those answers change. I have not had a chance to do one of my unofficial surveys recently (although I think if I did, many would say that the Financial Times has become a must-read as the real estate industry has become more global and as the Wall Street Journal has become more tabloid-like (probably an exaggeration but certainly under their new ownership experiencing a sea-change of sorts).
For the record, I read the New York Times Online every day. I can’t find a place near me that sells it and although I must admit I like holding and folding the paper while I read it, this is a fair substitute (even if I don’t get to see the whole paper). Not that you asked me but I also read The Economist and The New Yorker. As far as industry media, here’s what I either scan or read (some are publications and some are email news summaries):
1. PERE Daily Digest
2. IPE Real Estate
3. Commercial Real Estate Direct
4. Reuters Real Estate Monitor Alert
5. INSIGHT - THE GLOBAL COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE NEWS REVIEW
6. Europe Real Estate News
7. Globest.com Alerts
8. CPN Daily Alert
Last week I had my first Skype experience with a call from London. While I had signed up for Skype when they first launched I never got around to using it or encouraging the group of people that I speak with regularly to engage. That changed yesterday when one of my sons called me using Skype. It was amazing how clear the connection was. Skyper-Skyper calls are free. If you use Skype to call a non-Skyper there’s a charge but a friend of mine in London says that by using Skype their company saves 35% on their telephone bill. Not too shabby. Today I buy a good headset and start encouraging certain friends and business colleagues to sign up (P.S. Skype also has a camera feature and as my new MacBook Pro has a built-in camera it’s easy for people to see me through the Skype connection). Now, if I choose to use that feature I better be sure that I’ve combed my hair first!
Follow up: I’ll be moderating an timely panel called: The Influence of Foreign Banks on Today's Market at the RealShares Investment & Finance Conference in New York on September 10. Joining me on the will be Doug Harmon, RBS and Andy Cooper, Westdeutsche ImmobilienBank AG. We’ll be adding one or two more panelists by show time all of whom are ‘in the game’.
A number of months ago, my friend Jean-Guy Talbot of Presima (http://www.presima.com/en/index.html) recommended a book called “Blue Ocean Strategy.” I read it this week and it is very stimulating. I’ve done up a summary (a rather comprehensive one as I think I would like to try to implement their plan in the future). If you’d like a copy please email me at: (email@example.com). The other book I recently finished (even though I started skipping over sections towards the end is Alan Greenspan’s autobiography, The Age of Turbulence. Learning that he grew up in New York, is a musician and a tennis player (all three which relate to me as well) gave me some new perspective on him. However, while many of his anecdotal stories were interesting I found it too heavy (for me anyway) on the economic analysis; maybe I’m just too simple and really want to learn about the person. There are 226 reader reviews on Amazon.com. Here are some of the ‘headlines’ from the reviews that are really all over the board (star rating):
1. Pulls No Punches
2. Intelligent and Fascinating
3. It's Not My Fault!
4. Blinded by his own arrogance
5. Greenspan: Architect of the Next Great Depression
6. Worth it just for the stories
BTW, this is about only the second time in my whole life that I’ve looked at Amazon.com reader reviews. There seems to be a culture of people who use that platform as a place to postulate but if you take stuff with a grain of salt it could be a good barometer of a book. I don’t know how you find books you read. For me, it’s either a referral (I’ve had good luck reading some of the books shelved under “Staff Recommenations” at bookstores or just the mood I’m in. I have a bunch of classics that I’ve either never read or don’t remember that I’ve been starting to work my way through. Because I’ve been seeing Ayn Rand’s name (Einstein and she were friends) I’m thinking of re-reading Atlas Shrugged but I don’t think I’m ready just yet). Anyway, I found the biography of Albert Einstein much more engaging.
What I’ve been hearing/reading is:
1. It’s not easy to raise institutional money, but…
2. Boring is good today (referring to raising money by those companies who in many cases have “boring” stories: they’ve stayed focused on a single strategy, have been relatively conservative, with stable management teams, provided true transparency and solid returns and have been through some industry cycles).
3. In a market like today, there’s no substitute for experience.
4. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, other than feeling that this is far from over.
5. The single-family home market in much of the U.S. just plain sucks.
6. Banks continue to restrict draws on home equity loans.
7. Asset valuations are difficult to calculate. The value is set when someone buys a property.
8. CMBS issuance is very slowly rebuilding itself.
9. Retail bankruptcies are fracturing CMBS portfolios and CMBS delinquencies continue to climb.
Some headlines from this past week:
1. Chicago’s Retail Spaces Still Hold Global Allure
(SF Comment: Upper Michigan Avenue is one of the most visually pleasant shopping streets in the world. I love the flowers and fountains). P.S. Rockefeller Center in New York has made some wonderful additions to it’s visual esthetics as well).
2. JLL and Centurion announce largest deal in history of Russian commercial real estate.
(SF Comment: There are still a lot of folks that are gun-shy about investing in Russia but deals like this are bound to turn some heads).
3. AIG CEO to take scalpel soon to big insurer
(SF Comment: One phrase in the article says a lot: ““A less complex AIG will be a better competitor”).
Mike Myatt’s Blog in CPN’s Daily E-Mail News Alert this week was about Six Mistakes Real Leaders Avoid
I want to share it with you:
1. Poor Character
2. Little or No Track Record
3. Poor Communication Skills
4. Self-Serving Nature
5. One Size Fits All Leadership Style
6. Lack of Focus and Follow-Through
The moral of this story is leaders need to be honest, have a demonstrated track record of success, be excellent communicators, place an emphasis on serving those they lead, be fluid in approach, and have laser focus and a bias toward action. If these traits are not possessed by your current leadership team you will be in for a rocky road ahead.” Read the full story here (http://cpnmhn.typepad.com/management_matters/2008/08/six-mistakes-re.html).
In one of my recent jobs, while there was no company policy, I initiated a 360 review of myself to present to top management. It was very interesting, although I must admit, rather positive. Here’s a good overview of the process.
Musician of the Week: Steph Shaw (http://www.stephshaw.com).
Where will I be?
Sept. 10: New York for RealShares Investment & Finance Conference (http://www.almevents.com/conf_page.cfm?pt=/CustomerFiles_sri/agenda/detailed_agenda.cfm&web_page_id=9491&web_id=1147&instance_id=28&pid=758&iteration_id=854) where I’ll moderate a panel called “The Influence of Foreign Banks on Today’s Market.”
Sept. 10-11: New York to attend CityScape USA (http://www.cityscape.ae/index.html).
Sept. 11: New York for FIABCI-USA UN Luncheon (http://www.fiabci.com) where Bob White, Founder of Real Capital Analytics will be the keynote speaker (http://www.rcanalytics.com).
Oct. 1-3: Chicago for PREA’s 18th Annual Plan Sponsor Real Estate Conference (http://www.prea.com).
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