Friday, September 2, 2011

Labor Day 2011

So, the big news this week was the announcement that The Townsend Group had sold a 70% interest in their firm to a start-up private equity group.  Congrats to Townsend on what appears to be an excellent deal.  Also good to read was that the remaining 30% still to be controlled by Townsend has been divided amongst a number of their current 'internal' partners.  A classy move I'd say as there have been too many of these type deals, not necessarily in our industry, where a few people get really rich and the rest of the employees basically suck wind.  I guess one thing that crosses my mind in reading the news is whether Townsend will continue to focus on growing their investment management business vs. their advisory business and how their advisory clients are going to react (if at all) to this deal.  I guess, there's a lot more buzz amongst the consulting community who may be licking their chops feeling that Townsend's advisory client list is ripe for picking off.  It could be an interesting story unfolding right before our eyes.

Well, the summer is over...can it possibly be?  But, I see it in some ways as a time of renewal, or perhaps renewed energy.  In some ways Europe basically shuts down as people are off on their holidays and it's difficult to either get to someone or get an answer on something.  In the U.S., from where I sit, it was a confusing summer and perhaps we all should have taken the summer off as well.  But with the crisp mornings and clear skies (at least in Napa) it's energizing.  Those who are looking for new jobs are hoping that the fall brings with it more clarity; those that are looking to raise capital hope that the uncertainty that has constrained some institutional investors from making commitments, is over completely, that it's understood or accepted enough to allow them to move forward; those of us who attend fall conferences are finalizing our travel schedules and those who need to be 'on the road' to get their job done are looking at how to arrange everything they want to accomplish without going nuts.  There's a lot going on!

I guess that by next week virtually all public school systems in the U.S.  will be back in session.  I remember those years, going shopping for school supplies which included loose leaf binders, dividers, pencil cases (I know, sounds nerdy but we all had them), book straps (dangerous elastic things that allowed us to carry a number of textbooks to and from school; book bags have made that easier).  It all sounds antique now.  But other than during the years that I went to summer camp and the end of the summer (for those of us teenagers and older) meant teary good-byes, I don't remember ever feeling bad about going back to school.  In fact, I wouldn't mind going back now but perhaps as a teacher (although aren't we always students?  A friend recently told me, "When a student is ready, a teacher will appear").  I've approached my local community college about teaching some classes on improving presentation skills (aka how to live without PowerPoint slides), networking skills and managing a contact database, public speaking skills, you get the idea.  I don't think too much of this is actually taught these days although I do know that some schools do offer interview skills classes.  Anyway, I wrote to the President of the school this week and I'll let you know if anything transpires.

My life is people.  I love learning about people, not just what they do but who they are, where they grew up, went to high school, etc.  .  And what's great is that people love sharing stuff about themselves; all you have to do is ask them. It really brings us closer together.  When I was running an RTC contractor office and had hired 55 people in short order to work out hundreds of troubled loans and assets, I started a Friday morning "Bagels and..." session.  At these, each week, three people would tell the group about themselves; stuff we might not know and also about their background in the real estate industry and skills they'd developed.  Not only did we learn more about each other as people we also learned who had specialized experience in this, that or the other thing so that when something came up regarding one of our assets, we knew who the 'go-to' person was.  It's the true value-add.   Do you know who in your shop knows more than they may be asked to do on a day-to-day basis?  It might be interesting finding out, don't you think?

"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City.  The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker."  

The preceding is from the U.S. Government website.  It seems a little self-serving, perhaps typically American.  Another way to look at it might be simply that it's time to give each other a little pat on the back because, when you come down to it, all of us who work for a living are connected. Perhaps it's time to revisit the definition of Labor Day and use it as a way to bring America together again.

On the Road:

September 11-16:  New York
September 20-21:  Amsterdam to moderate a panel at the PERE Global Forum
September 26-28:  Colorado Springs to attend the NAREIM Executive Officers Meeting
October 4-6:  Las Vegas to be a panelist at CBRE’s Americas Summit on “The Commercial Real Estate Industry of the Future: A 5-10 Year Outlook.”
October 17-19:  Chicago to attend the PREA fall meeting
November 1-4: Washington, DC to attend the CRE Annual convention
November 9-10: New York to moderate a panel at the PERE  Forum-North America
November 17-18:  Frankfurt to moderate a panel at the PERE Forum-Europe

Congratulations to my friend Wietse de Vries who has joined Almazara Real Assets Advisory as a partner. The firm advises pension funds, insurers and other institutional investors on their investments in real estate and infrastructure.

Congratulations to my son, Brian and his wife, Bridget on the birth of their second son, Gavin who is being kissed by his older brother Sean.  A very sweet picture!

These are my views and not that of my employer.

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