Saturday, April 21, 2018

In memoriam: Frank Tansey co-founder of DRA Advisors

I learned this morning that Frank Tansey died a few days ago. 

Here is the message that DRA Advisors sent to their investors: 

It​ is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Frank Tansey, our co-founder, long-term Partner and friend.

Frank co-founded DRA's predecessor company, Dreyfus Realty Advisors in 1986 along with David Luski and served as our President until his retirement in 2010. He was a bright and independent thinker.  He was an investor who could identify value-added potential but was relentless in protecting investor capital. Frank was iconoclastic, contrarian, and demanding.  While he was not always "user-friendly", he cared passionately about delivering consistent results to our investors; he did not want to disappoint.  His defining legacy is the enduring success of our mission and the shaping of our culture that rewards achievement and cares about our associates and their families.  His influence will forever be ingrained into the fabric of our organization.

Googling Frank I found the following (which while a bit dated provides the path of Frank's commercial real estate career).

Mr. Francis X. Tansey is currently employed at DRA Advisors LLC in the position of Chief Executive Officer, President, and Chief Investment Officer, and was previously a Director at Tower Realty Trust, Inc. He was the President at Capital Automotive LLC. He is also the Co-Founder of DRA Advisors LLC. From 1984 to 1986, Mr. Tansey was a Trustee and Manager-Investment Financing of the General Electric Pension Trust (“GEPT“). In that capacity, Mr. Tansey was responsible for the management of assets valued in excess of $20 billion, as well as the investment portfolios of affiliated mutual funds, foundations and insurance companies. From 1981 to 1984, he was the Manager-Fixed Income of GEPT, responsible for the management of real estate, taxable and tax-exempt bonds and cash. From 1970 to 1981, Mr. Tansey was both Investment Manager and Manager-Real Estate of GEPT, responsible for the management of its real estate portfolio. Mr. Tansey graduated in 1966 from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics.

Frank was a judge for the first Cornell University Real Estate Case Competition. He joined Martha Peyton (TIAA-CREF – Now TH Real Estate), Steve Vittorio (Prudential Real Estate Investors – now PGIM and several other industry folks are known for their willingness to ‘give back’ to the industry they love.
How Frank and I first met: It was 1995. I had been hired by Bill Farber at Levin Management Corp. to grow a fledgling institutional third-party shopping center management / leasing business.  In my networking around I went to meet with DRA Advisors, who owned a bunch of shopping centers.  The original meeting included Frank, Paul McEvoy (Managing Director), David Luski (President and CEO) and Andy Peltz (Managing Director who, at that time oversaw the firms retail acquisitions and asset management).  

My recollection of that meeting was that Frank was a no-nonsense guy.  He lead the meeting (what, you thought I did? 😀 Frank was a true real estate guy, through and through.  He loved the industry and, along with David and Paul built what is considered today one of the most highly regarded and respected real estate firm.  Modest as they are, DRA's folks would not necessarily say that about themselves...I did.  Over the years, as things evolved, DRA and I reconnected during the years I was at IREI (Institutional Real Estate, Inc.) where they have been a long time 'sponsor.'  Over the years, from time to time, I’d see Frank at an industry event or when I’d stop up at their office. He was a true gentleman – and a tough negotiator.

When you think of legendary names in the real estate and institutional real estate investment management business, Frank Tansey is in the elite group at the top of the heap.  

My condolences to Frank's family, friends and DRA colleagues.  Another sad piece of news for our industry in a time that has taken all to many of us in too short a period of time.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

In Memoriam: Jeff Barclay

Jeff Barclay has passed away.  Jeff and I had known each other for a really, really long time.  He was a key player in the growth and evolution of Clarion Partners.  Leaving Clarion almost 8 years ago, Jeff joined Goldman Sachs where he built a real estate 'practice' that achieved great success.

Jeff was a generous soul.  For many years he was an adjunct professor at Columbia University Business School.  He was a tireless mentor to many young people, especially those with a passion for the commercial real estate industry.

Over the years, Jeff and would see each other at various industry events, especially the NAREIM (National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers) Executive Officers' Meetings where he is a former chairman.  He and I would also have breakfast, usually a couple of times a year, at New York's Pershing Square Restaurant which, for those that aren't familiar, is one of the busiest breakfast places in midtown (make a reservation).  It's also frequented by commercial real estate never know who you might run into.

Jeff's enthusiasm and love for the commercial real estate industry was contagious.  He always had a smile on his face and carried with him a special kind of energy. 

In January, I reached out to Jeff, as I wanted to interview him for my series I’ve been publishing here.  We spoke on the phone and he told me that he had esophageal cancer and was on leave from his job at Goldman.  As has happened too often all I could say him was, ‘Shit. That sucks.” As you might imagine, he whole-heartedly agreed.  He was interested in doing the interview but needed to run it by his company first. 

On March 20 I told him I’d be in NYC soon and would love to come up and visit him.  He wrote back saying he appreciated the offer but the past few weeks had been pretty challenging.  Then, just this morning, I heard the news.

My sincerest condolences to Jeff’s family, friends and colleagues.
Another huge personality in our industry has passed into the future…where I’m pretty certain they’ve formed their own trade association which might be called “Real Estate Angels” and hang out together, sharing stories and watching those of us ‘down here’ with some big smiles.  The industry will miss will I. 


Friday, March 30, 2018

A friend who has made a difference in the commercial real estate industry: Brad Hutensky

Brad is the Founder and CEO of Hutensky Capital Partners a fund manager that invests in value add retail real estate in large U.S. markets. He has extensive experience in the acquisition, management, leasing and redevelopment, financing and disposition of shopping centers.

Brad has been an active with the 70,000 member International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) on its Board of Trustees and served as ICSC’s 53rd Worldwide Chairman from 2012 – 2013.  Brad is also a Governing Trustee of the Urban Land Institute (ULI). He frequently speaks on retail real estate topics for the ICSC, ULI and other organizations.

He holds an M.B.A. from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business and an A.B. degree from Dartmouth College.

Brad and I met as a result of both of us being involved in ICSC. At that time we were based in the Northeast – he in Connecticut and me in New York City so we’d see each other more often than just at the annual convention, now called RECon where tens of thousands of our closest friends would gather.  I always respected Brad’s enthusiasm and drive – he was always thinking ahead.  Small world that our industry is, a number of years ago, a long-time friend, George DeMuth joined Hutensky Capital Partners and they are having a lot of fun together – as the business has grown and expanded.

Q.  How did you get your start in the commercial real estate industry?

A.  My first job out of college was working as a financial analyst for Winthrop Financial, a Boston-based real estate syndicator. I worked 80-100 hours per week modeling potential investments.  The great thing was that I really learned to understand the numbers of real estate.  I was taught about net present value and IRR and cap rates. More importantly I learned how critical it was to understand what is behind the numbers; what assumptions were made, etc. I learned that numbers can be manipulated and not to believe everything you see on a piece of computer paper. Understanding the numbers is critical to success in real estate and business in general.  As a result, today I have a healthy distrust of any numbers people give to me:  - where are they coming from and what is the story that is being sold?

After about a year and a half in that position, there was talk of potential change in tax law and the company reorganized.  I was shipped to New York City to lease office space.  I had visited New York but I’d never leased space and certainly didn’t know a lot about the office market in New York.  The first few weeks I was there the NYC brokers crushed me but, over time, I started to figure things out and soon made the transition from modeling office space projections to doing the leasing.  In the course of two years I learned financial modelling and how to lease space - two really important skills in the business.

Q.  What advice would you give someone who has been in the industry a short time or a student looking to get his or her start?

A.  I’d tell them a couple of things.  Most important is your reputation. You only have one reputation and once it is tarnished, it is very difficult to get it back. I learned long ago that operating in the ‘gray area’ is not acceptable; go above and beyond even when no one is watching. It’s a lot simpler to always be honest because you never have to remember what you said - it’ll be the truth. Second, I would definitely advise someone starting out to learn a skill.  Don’t initially try to be a developer or an acquisitions person.  Learn something about finance; about leasing or selling properties; about property management; about construction. Those are some of the foundation skills that will serve you well later and help you understand more about investing in real estate. A lot of people just want to jump ahead. I think it’s so important to learn the basics first. 

Q.  As you look back on your career, is there anything you wish you had done differently?  If so, what?

A.  You know with all my fancy education it took a while to realize that in a capital-intensive business like real estate, access to capital is really important.  I was in the business for 15 years before I started to raise my first fund, which gave me the capital to operate.  The great thing about capital is that provides opportunity. When you have capital you can seize upon an attractive investment. If you find an opportunity, and then have to raise the capital, it can be a lot harder.  Being with a company that has access to capital is key and allows you to focus on real estate without always being constrained by how you are going to pay for your investment.
Q.  Who have been the major influences on your career?  Why? How?

A.  I look at the thousands of retail real estate professionals I’ve met in ICSC. That organization has always been a big part of my life. I’ve had volunteer roles at from committees on the state level to serving on the Board of Trustees and being chairman from 2012 – 2013. I’ve learned something from every single one of those people that I’ve met.  They’ve become my friends and my sources of information. Some of the retailers have become tenants in my shopping centers, and some of the developers have become joint venture partners. I’ve always felt that each person I meet along the way is someone who could help me in my business or my life going forward. I believe in treating everyone as potentially the most important person you’ll ever meet.  It’s a good way to go about a people business and that’s what real estate is…a people business. 

In working with my father Allan for 22 years I learned a lot of important lessons. First of all I learned the importance of honesty and reputation that I mentioned before.  I learned by example – he taught me well.  Secondly I learned that in negotiation it’s more important to listen to what people mean than what they actually say.  Be a great listener. Those are important lessons.  It was wonderful to watch my father operate as both an entrepreneur and a good negotiator. Those of you who have worked with a parent may agree: it can be one of the most wonderful experiences, but it can also be difficult – you have to find a way to work things out that you might not agree with. We had a rule: never speak about business at the family dinner table.  If we needed to talk about something business related it would happen in another room. Working with my father was a wonderful experience for me.

Felix / Weiner "Elite" Behavioral Presentation Coaching Workshop
April 2 (next Tuesday) in New York City
4-hours; maximum 8 participants
Click here to learn more and register

Happy Holidays to all!


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Commercial Real Estate Women on Board / NYC Workshops week of March 26

Felix / Weiner Commercial Real Estate Women on Board

The response to the launch of Felix / Weiner Women on Board has been wonderful.  Based on our interaction with hundreds of commercial real estate women via our Women’s Leadership Workshops, Liz and I decided to create a non-profit organization to help women in the global commercial real estate industry connect with firms seeking more diversity on their boards.

Women: to join, please send us your resume and a note about what you're interested in at

Companies: please contact us at describing the board opportunity you have so that we may connect you with candidates.  We welcome the opportunity of a phone chat with you to further understand your requirements.

Liz and I will update you on the events we have planned to bring the women of commercial real estate closer together.

We look forward to hearing from you

Liz & Steve

NYC Workshops week of March 26

March 27:  Women’s Leadership Workshop.  Highly interactive 4-hour session designed to help commercial real estate women develop more professional presence in this male-dominated industry.  Attendance limited to 16 women (14 seats still available). 

To learn more and register click here 

April 3: Behavioral Presentation Coaching Workshop.  Develop and improve your skills when presenting, conducting or participating in a meeting, etc.  This 4-hour workshop is limited to 6 participants.

To learn more and register please click here 

One of the fun team-building exercises in our
Behavioral Presentation Coaching Workshops

Friday, March 9, 2018

Women's Leadership Workshop NYC & A friend who has made a difference in the commercial real estate industry: Michael Whiteman

Liz and I have just opened registration for our 40th Women's Leadership Workshop - exclusively for women in the commercial real estate industry

This professional development workshop is designed specifically for women at all stages of their careers!

When:  March 27, 2018
Where:  Midtown Manhattan
Time:  12:30 - 4:30pm with wine and cheese networking immediately following!

Develop and enhance your professional presence, confidence 
and personal brand
·       Hundreds of commercial real estate industry women have attended our unique Women’s Leadership Workshops – Across the U.S. and in London
·       Highly-interactive program incorporates valuable exercises and thoughtful group discussions

You’ll take away powerful tools and tips for continual self-development!
Attendance is limited.

To learn more, read feedback from participants and register -
please click here.  

Visit our website to read about all services offered by Felix / Weiner Consulting Group.


Michael Whiteman has spent the last 40 years as a developer, creator and operator of restaurants, as well as consulting for food and beverage companies around the world.

His company – Baum & Whiteman International Restaurant Consultants created two of world’s largest-grossing restaurants - The Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center in New York, and the legendary Windows on the World, which was atop the former World Trade Center.  He also developed three of the world’s first food courts – in Japan, Europe and the United States; produced five three-star New York restaurants; created high-profile hotel concepts around the globe for Starwood Hotels, Taj Hotels, Raffles Hotel Group, and Regent Hotels, and masterminded Equinox for the Raffles Hotel Group, a rooftop extravaganza in Singapore which was named one of the best hotel dining rooms in the world.

He is well known for creating groundbreaking visitor experiences at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Prudential Center in Boston, Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, Crown Center in Kansas City, Six Flags Theme Parks, and the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Michael’s range of work spans retail food (Kings Supermarkets, Dean & Deluca), cultural institutions (National Gallery of Art), private clubs (Yale Club, Princeton Club), theme parks (Sesame Place) and mixed-use developments, as well as individual restaurants around the globe.  In recent years, Mr. Whiteman’s work took him to Mumbai, Singapore, Qatar, Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Israel, Canada, Spain and around the United States. 

Known as the industry’s most prescient food trends analyst, Mr. Whiteman is a frequent speaker on trends, design, service, and the foundations of creating a successful business in food and hospitality.  He has twice been keynote speaker at the Culinary Institute of America’s food conferences, and has run trends seminars for Starwood Hotels, Taj Hotels, Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Club Corporation of America, Angus Beef Growers, the Ferdinand Metz Foodservice Forum and the Food & Drink Innovation Network.

He lives in New York with his wife, Rozanne Gold, a four-time James Beard award-winning chef, consultant and author.

Michaels involvement in commercial real estate has been as an owner, operator and consultant in the global restaurant / hospitality industry.  As such, over the years, he and his partners / clients have paid a lot of rent to the owners of commercial real estate.  That qualifies him right there for this interview series. N’est pas?

How Michael and I met:
In the early / mid 1980’s I worked for Mall Properties (now called Olshan Properties).  We owned and operated Cortana, the major regional mall in Baton Rouge, LA.  As retail competition started realizing Baton Rouge was a good market, we bought a 400-acre property at the intersection of I-10 and Siegen Lane.  This property was adjacent to the huge complex owned by evangelist Jimmy Swaggart.  Our plan was to build a second regional mall on that site.

Along with Mort Olshan and his partner Dick Steinberg I was invited to get involved on that project.  We wanted to do something different than the traditional food court that was popping up in malls across the country.  Enter Mr. Michael Whiteman.  I remember he and I first meeting in Dick’s office when Michael was retained as our consultant to advise us on the food court concept. Michael and I took a market research road to Louisiana to do research on the market, identify potential local restaurateurs who might be interested in taking a plunge of opening some type of food operation in a mall.  He and I hit it off right away.  He is a wonderfully dry sense of humor, way dryer than me.

At the time I was recovering from some virus and I had to watch what I ate. However, at our first dinner together I realized this was going to be a very special road trip and… what the heck!  We visited some restaurants in New Orleans where Michael knew the chef  / owner.  I must relate one story:  we’re in a one nice restaurant. Michael orders for the both of us. A little while later our food comes out, followed by the chef himself.  “I thought it was you,” he says, shaking Michaels’ hand.  “When I heard the fish order included ‘leave the head on’ I figured there aren’t too many folks that ask for that.”  Michael is clearly known far and wide. It was a great trip.  As a result, he and I became and remain good friends. 

Q.  How did you get your start in the restaurant industry?

A. I got my start in the restaurant industry but utter indirection.  After the army, I was doing graduate work in economics when a publisher of Chain Store Age, a group of retail trade magazines, enquired if I'd start a restaurant business newspaper for them.  That was, ummmm, 1967, and Nation's Restaurant News was born and it quickly became the industry's largest publication and probably still is.  Around 1970 or '71 I lost a boardroom battle over editorial policy and resigned. 

Almost simultaneously, a chap with whom I later became partners, lost a boardroom battle at Restaurant Associates where he'd created restaurants like The Four Seasons, the Forum of the XII Caesars, La Fonda del Sol and a flock of early "theme restaurants” that profoundly altered the direction of restaurants in America.  That was Joe Baum. He departed his former company with a consulting contract in hand to plan all the restaurants in the 10 million square foot New York World Trade Center, then little more than a hole in the ground.  He recruited me to join his radically creative tea, optimistically thinking I knew something about running restaurants.

We created and opened Windows on the World which was just part of a 250,000 sq.ft. Food and beverage assemblage, perhaps the largest and most complex project in the industry.  It included the first food court/food hall in the United States called The Big Kitchen.

Windows on the World got all the press attention, but it was The Big Kitchen that caught the eye of real estate people.  So we were hired as consultants to create the first food court in Europe, in the City2 shopping center in Brussels; the first food court in Japan, Anderson's in Hiroshima, and the first suburban food courts for couple in United States shopping center developers.  As a result, I was invited to I give presentations to the ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) in Paris, Rio de Janerio, Brazil and Las Vegas.

Joe and I did work for Hines, for Prudential Insurance (now PGIM), for Rockefeller's properties, Trizec, Taubman, Citicorp among others.

Q.  What career advice would you give someone who has a passion for the restaurant industry?

A.  I can only speak to getting started in either the restaurant industry or becoming a restaurant consultant.  As for the latter, I discourage people who want to join my boutique consulting firm because, as I warn them, there's no money in it anymore!  Unless there's a thorny problem to be solved (which is our specialty), consultants are rarely needed these days in hotels and office complexes.  As for getting into the restaurant business, today you need serious educational and vocational skills along entrepreneurial guts and the ability to work marathon hours.

Q.  As you look back on your career is there something you wish you had done differently?  If so, what?

A. I never really wanted to run restaurants, so I began as a consultant, took partial ownership and operational responsibility of ventures such as Windows on the World and the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, and today am just doing consulting around the world -- In Mumbai, Sao Paolo, Dubai, Chandigarh and New York in recent years.  I wish I'd been wise enough to market my company better so that it would remain in business after I hang up my hat, which, by the way, I'm not inclined to do.

Q.  Who have been the greatest influences on your career?  How?

A.  Joe Baum, who was the most creative forced in the restaurant industry in the 20th Century.  Milton Glaser, one of the world's great graphic artists and deep thinker. The architect Hugh Hardy who failed to instill upon me the art of not getting angry during meetings, even though he demonstrated how.  Rozanne Gold, who is a terrific chef, consultant, clairvoyant, author, four-time James Beard Award winner and, incidentally, my wife.

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