Friday, December 19, 2008

"Made-Off", Frozen Chicago, Optimism

<<<<<Chicago-Frozen Lake Michigan from my hotel room.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Brian Felix/Joel Cummins Annual Holiday Keyboard Fundraiser for Keys 4 Kids in Chicago last night. Annual sing along song was The Beatles-A Day in the Life.

Well, what a week. So this dude ‘made-off’ with a lot of people’s money and here I thought Ponzi was just a sauce you dipped dumplings in! In this era of finger pointing rather than accepting responsibility for our own actions, investors with Mr. Maydoff were operating in the trance that was part of the euphoric period of the ‘wall of capital’ days. Well, the dyke in the wall of capital broke and no one’s finger is big enough to stop the rush of filthy water, carrying hopes and dreams down the sewer. And while “Caveat Emptor” is not intended to scold those who got caught in this scheme, it is and even better rule for us to remember going forward. No, we can’t change deeds that have been done or words that we’ve said but we can change the way we approach things, our attitude if you will and thus the future and boy, is there going to be change. What I don’t understand is how could someone knowingly screw foundations, many foundations, out of money that was donated to those organizations out of the goodness of the hearts of others to help people in need? And, the Cheney-like smirk that Madoff seemingly proudly wears in recent photos of make me feel like throwing much more than some shoes at him. What a scumbag! If this guy doesn't really pay for what he's done, we've got more of a problem here in the U.S. than I ever thought. But we also need to restrain from lynching or public flagellation and respect 'due process.' As a friend of mine in Chicago said to me yesterday, “All we can hope is that this is the end of things because the accumulation of all the ‘bad press’ about the financial world and the 'guilt by association' real estate is suffering can really damage the short term future of our industry.” I echo that hope but I’m just not sure that we’re finished as in I don’t think the bottom is yet in sight and as we know we'll only know when we hit the bottom after it's happened. This is like a bad movie but, it’s not, it’s real.

Desperate to read something at breakfast this morning I thumbed through USA Today and found a short Op-Ed piece by founder, Al Neuharth (age 84). Allow me to share some excerpts with you:

• In a recession you can not only survive but thrive by practicing these two things:
o Realism
o Optimism
• The reality today is to tighten you belt as much as necessary.
• Optimism means you must understand that if you handle this problem properly, you can ride high on the wave of recovery and prosperity that follows every recession….
o That means investing now in everything worthwhile you can afford.
o It means spending only what is necessary on necessities and funneling what you can into the future. The sooner the better.
• We launched USA TODAY during the 16-month recession of 1981-82. Because it was a popular new product, it rode the recovery.
• If you invest in the future in time of recession, the best of times are ahead of you.

Having been a real estate contrarian for much of my life, I tend to agree with Al in a number of ways. But I guess, the idea of ‘riding high on the wave of recovery and prosperity’ sounds a little too much like what we’re suffering now from over-doing it. Anyway, I leave it to you to chose your poison as we all attempt to navigate a wide and deep global unraveling. And, there are enough “What was he thinking?” type of news pieces to actually bring a smile (or a shaking of the head) to our day. I’ve always said, “Real life is much more entertaining than any TV show or movie.” Governor of Illinois. Auto execs private jet. Auto bailout…just announced by the U.S. President (where’s mine?) Wearing boots just in case you need something to throw ad someone.

There has been a lot of talk this week about the new Troubled Asset Radar report launched by RCA (Real Capital Analytics) this week and available to subscribers only. To my knowledge this is the only such aggregation of timely information on the state of and the potential opportunities in commercial real estate.

Restaurant of the week: Lazzaras Pizza, 221 W. 38th Street, New York ( I have eaten a lot of pizza and I have to say that this is one of the top three pizzas I have ever tasted. No slices, just pies. Go with someone who loves to eat!

Where I'll be:

Dec. 20-Jan. 2, 2009: Montreal working from home in between the holidays.
Jan. 13-14: Cleveland, OH
Feb. 19-20, 2009: Chapel Hill, NC to attend the Kenan-Flagler Center for Real Estate Development’s Annual Conference and Real Estate Challenge Case Competition.
Mar. 10-13: Cannes to attend MIPIM, host the second annual MIPIM Summit TV show and attend INREV's Annual General Meeting.
Mar.24: New York to moderate a panel at the IGlobal Forum Real Estate Private Equity Summit
Mar. 25-26: Washington DC to attend PREA's Spring Conference

These are my personal views and not that of my employer.

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