Friday, February 6, 2009

On the Road

This is a little longer than usual but there’s a lot going on these days.

During the RTC days, Texas was ahead of the crowd in failed S&L’s and bankrupt real estate developers. As things worked themselves through, those in Texas came back with both humility and with pride that they survived. In reading the financial news today I wonder if this time won’t be similar in at least that way. So many companies reporting huge losses. So many people losing their jobs. So much due to greed. But what's going on is much bigger than the real estate industry and much wider than just the U.S. I wonder if those who were at the helm of companies that went under or were fired from top jobs because of this that or the other thing will be able to wear that “Badge of Courage” in the same way the real estate survivors of the early 90’s did. However, when it comes to humility, well I'm just not sure.

Thanks to the kind invitation of Scott Perkins and Bill Hanson of NAI Hanson in Hackensack, NJ I attended NAI’s Global Outlook Briefing yesterday in New York. The ubiquitous Dr. Peter Linneman, now NAI’s Global Chief Economist, gave the keynote. Here are some tidbits:
1. At the end of the day it’s all about the economy.
2. Why in 2005 did I project that there would be a recession in 2009? Because if you look historically we were believing our own bullshit.
3. Economists, who are mainly university professors believe that ‘if it starts to feel bad, it must be a recession.”
4. When you fly six hours from coast to coast there are people down there who make up the economy-not everything happens on in NY, LA or SF.
5. “The world is coming to end unless we save it this weekend.” When Hank Paulson said that, New York wasn’t in shock because it’s used to hearing bullshit from Wall Street.
6. It was a bi-partisan idiot effort.
7. 2.5-3.0 million jobs have been lost already; 500,000 still to come.
8. We ran the country as if it were a deal shop-it’s okay if you’re a Goldman Sachs but it’s not okay if you’re a government.

Wardrobe note: With wind-chill at minus 8 degrees in New York yesterday I noticed that a lot of New Yorkers made the mistake of thinking that ear buds act as earmuffs. Not!

Murray Shor, veteran shopping center industry publisher and raconteur said this in his blog last week: “We all know that the dismal holiday season, with a substantial drop in shopper traffic, retail sales and overall consumer buying—despite steep discounting--is forecasting major retail bankruptcies and store vacancies within the next few weeks; mavens involved in market research are predicting 200,000 store closings this year.” Wow. There’ll be a lot of room for go-carting in shopping center parking lots. My father took my brother and I to the E.J. Korvette’s lot in West Orange, NJ to go-cart on Sundays (when stores in NJ used to be closed).

Said by a private equity exec at a NYC conference:
"The current state of the private equity industry reminds me of the Warren Zevon song: Bring lawyers, guns and money."

I got a number of emails about my story about my Dad visiting the WWII captured Japanese bomber. I thought you’d enjoy this one sent to me by my long-time college friend “Silent” Kal:
10-12 yrs ago took the family to DC..of course planned to go to the Holocaust museum which opened earlier that year..Got up one morning and took the family over and the line was completely around the block 360 and it was a long block..went to the window and asked how long the wait was …minimum 5 hrs… as I was walking away I remembered my father gave me this card which apparently just identified him as some WWII veteran…but what the hell so I showed it to her as my family rolled their eyes..once she saw it we were escorted in given VIP treatment and treated like royalty..As it turns out my fathers’ battalion was one of the first to liberate the concentration camps and the museum had grainy color home like movies of the event and of course, I thought I recognized him..A special room was dedicated to his battalion…It was quite emotional as well as defining what our freedom really is ..That day is etched indelibly in my mind..It is the only thing I remember vividly about that trip to DC other than the traffic (late at night construction) going to DC moved about 1 mile in 2 hrs 100 degrees..The sacrifices and acts performed by our parents in defense of liberty can only be imagined by later generations..These indeed are trying times but pale in comparison to what was accomplished before us so we can experience the highs and lows of Democracy.

Congratulations to my friend Trevor Gay whose blog on Simplicity has been named one of the top 100 leadership blogs. This site is new to me but it seems like there’s some interesting topics for future reference.

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” It’s a good read, which I highly recommend. Here are a few snippets that I highlighted:
• Three things: autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.
• It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It's whether our work fulfills us.
• Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig.
• If you work hard enough and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires.

I was talking to a capital raising friend of mine this week who had been fired (sorry, 'let go', 'downsized', 'made redundant' are just baloney words for being fired). He told me that the great thing about our industry is the people. He has received a number of calls from people who were former colleagues and former competitors asking how he was and was there anything they could do to help him. In a world where too many people tell me 'it's sad how few people are willing to take some time to try to help someone else', this is a great thing to hear. It signals some type of positive change in how we're dealing with each other and remember, it's not the end result of what happens when you reach out to someone, it's just that you took the time to reach out.

Always on the cutting edge, France Publications has launched InterFace Conference Group that is headed by a long time industry friend, Rich Kelley. France built this business from the ground up starting with Shopping Center Business magazine into a mega-publisher with 19 titles in real estate, maintenance, construction and operations and wealth management. The combination of Rich, Jerry and Scott France and Randy Shearin should result in some very interesting and worthwhile conferences. All the best you guys.

Cool new hotel: The Nines (as in “Dressing to the nines”) in Portland, OR. Part of Starwood Luxury Hotel Collection. 525 SW Morrison Portland, Oregon

Very cool place of the week: The Tea Zone & Camellia Lounge, 510 NW 11th Avenue, Portland, OR (503) 221 2130 ( While I only got to grab a fast, relaxing tea (is that an oxymoron?) it’s a place that I hope to get back to (or open one just like it somewhere!). They have a great selection of teas and tea paraphernalia which they’ll ship anywhere.

Where I'll be:

Feb. 9-16: New York
Feb. 17: Atlanta, GA
Feb. 18: Raleigh, NC
Feb. 19: Chapel Hill, NC to attend the Kennan-Flagler Center for Real Estate Development’s Annual Conference and Real Estate Challenge Case Competition.
Feb. 22-29: Vacation in Mexico….totally offline!
Mar. 6: Montreal
Mar. 10-13: Cannes to attend MIPIM, host the second annual MIPIM Summit TV show (March 12-Invitation Only) and attend the INREV seminar and moderate a session with Finnish investors.
Mar. 16-18: London
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
April 1: Champaign-Urbana, IL to attend my son’s DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) recital.
April 23-25: Athens, Greece (not Georgia) for INREV’s Annual General Meeting and Conference

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

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