UBS Global Real Estate recently sent out this message: “We are saddened to inform you of the passing away of our colleague and friend, Larry Dobb. His gifts of commitment, respect, excellence and hard work will be remembered within our firm, among our clients, and within the real estate investment management community. He will be missed. Those who wish to may make a memorial donation to a charity selected by his family, The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network,
www.pancan.org which seeks to improve detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.” While I didn’t know Larry well, I knew him. He was a good guy. Each time we lose a friend or colleague it is more and more poignant. We feel for the family and we feel for ourselves because we are all just “shadows in the wind.” And, while it shouldn’t take the passing of someone we know personally or just someone we know of (Tim Russert, Tony Snow), it’s a reminder to us to not keep putting off things and to appreciate every day we have here.
I was in London this week and got a chance to spend some time with the Morley/Aviva team. As you may know, Aviva (the fifth largest insurance company in the world) owns Morley. Morley is one of the UK’s largest active fund managers. In Europe, it is one of the biggest property investment managers with £29.4 billion / €37.4 billion/ $59.4 billion USD of property assets under management. Morley group companies have assets of £157.5 billion / €200.6 billion/ $318 billion USD under management. Earlier this year, Madison Harbor Capital, a New York based multi-manager investment firm was acquired by Morley/Aviva. There’s an interesting story unfolding here and in the fall you’ll be hearing much more about these guys. I know more than I’m saying here but no one would ever talk with me if they thought that I couldn’t keep my shut about certain things. Of course, there’s the other side of the coin where people talk with me or want to meet with me because they know I won’t keep my mouth shut! Anyway, balance is everything, right?
Just as ususal, I’ve been making a point of reaching out each week to people in our industry to take their temperature, as it were and as many of you will probably concur, things are not necessairly going in the right direction. The economists who this spring were all saying ‘short and shallow’ regarding the “recession” have changed their song but the new one is not attempting to predict how long it will take to come through this (no one really knows anyway) nor what the new ‘normal’ will look like; it’s agreeing with each other that we aren’t sure how much deeper this thing gets before we start to see the daylight.
For those raising or topping off their funds, it’s a challenge (not that it isn’t hard work all the time) but the denominator effect continues to spread and, well, putting new money out into real estate funds when in some cases the last piece of change has not yet been invested is a tough decision to make. Of course, you always have the more aggressive institutional investors who have thrown money at the ‘distressed funds.’ but even there, the pricing on those portfolios, principally of loans (as the hard asset real estate distress in commercial real estate has not yet really active), is rising with more competition. The key to making money is on the buy and the fewer cents on the dollar that you can take down a portfolio of distressed loans, the more room you have to make money on the turn, provided there’s someone who is next in line. Anyway, there are a lot of you out there who are dealing with things that you’ve either never had to deal with (depending on when you started your business) or haven’t had to deal with in a long time. It’s very important to continue to visit your investor clients during this period, especially when you’re not marketing a fund.
Congratulations to my friend, Glen Esnard who has joined Grubb & Ellis and is growing their Capital Markets team.
On a recent flight (which is where I see most of my movies) I watched the Scorcese film, “Shine A Light”, a documentary on The Rolling Stones concerts in New York last year (http://www.scene-stealers.com/print-reviews/scorsese-shines-a-light-on-the-rolling-stones). There’s some great footage of the band and some interesting side interviews pulled from the archives (going back to the early days). Christina Aguilera joins Mick for “Live With Me.” Man that girl can sing! I got my first ever chance to see the Stones in Munich last year or the year before and it’s just a great show: a sing-along with 60,000 people and Mick just showing unbelievable energy. A side note: Blondie Chaplin, a versatile musician who toured with, among others, The Beach Boys years ago, is a singer/sideman for the Stones. I saw Blondie in the mid-70’s at the Lone Star Cafe in New York when he was with Rick Danko and Richard Manuel of “The Band.” That night, I had an experience that still gives me the chills: during the Band classic, “The Unfaithful Servant” when it came time for the sax solo, instead, you hear a sweet and beautiful harmonica being played but you don’t see anyone on stage. After a few bars, coming down the stairs that led from the dressing rooms directly to the stage, you see Paul Butterfield, a legendary blues player joining them on stage. It a beautiful musical moment that is frozen for me.
Last weekend I was part of a very special experience at my old summer camp (http://www.campwalden.org). Without rambling on too much (I wrote about this last week), the dedication of the memorial bench went beautifully but something else special happened. Two members of our group brought the words to old camp songs that had been lost over the years. First we sang them to the assembled multitude (330 campers and 140 staff) and then they sang along with us. One of the songs, Terra Toma, is an especially moving song best sung around a large campfire. It gave us the chills. We feel strongly that this group of campers and staff will adopt those songs and pass them along to future generatations. There are many ways which legacies continue and this is one of them.
Also, happy 80th birthday to Dolph Schayes, NBA (National Basketball Association) Hall of Famer and voted one of the top 50 basketball players of all time. He was a co-owner of Camp Walden and was there last week for the festivities. He is, beyond a doubt, one of the nicest (and funniest) men I have had the privilege of knowing.
Many of you have been asking me “What are you going to do next?” Well, rest assured, you’ll be the first to know and because some of the things I’m working on putting together are quite unique I don’t want to spoil the surprise (or give anyone a chance to steal my ideas-it wouldn’t be the first time.).
I look forward to hearing from you. The best way to reach me is: (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thanks.
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