Friday, April 15, 2011

INREV, The Art of Racing in the Rain, A big bear visits New York

I'm writing to you from Venice just after the conclusion of the INREV Annual Meeting which attracted 340+ delegates with 40% attending an INREV event for the first time.  With 800+ attending the recent PREA Spring Conference there is obviously "something going on here but you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?" ("Ballad of a Thin Man, Bob Dylan).  One possibility is the lure of institutional money to real estate operators but also there were a number of service providers (can you say lawyer?)  There are also more and more placement agents floating around than I've ever seen before-I guess this indicates that private equity real estate firms feel there is opportunity to raise capital from institutional investors and need the help of the agents.  

There were some excellent keynotes and panels and I took some decent notes (too much to publish here) but I'm happy to send the pdf to (  INREV continues to find special venues for their 'Gala Dinner' on the second night of the conference.  Last night started with a walking tour of Venice which included a visit to The Church of Saint Roch, which is notable for it's Tintoretto paintings.   My dinner table was a wonderful mix of some people I knew, a couple I had met earlier in the day and a couple that I met at the table last night.  We a great time.  I know I must sound like a broken record but one of the treats of attending events is meeting new people, listening to their stories and sharing ideas and challenges with them.  

Here are a few tidbits from the conference to whet your appetite:

It was my first time seeing Nouriel Roubini-Professor of Economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business present in person.  He is excellent.  His talk covered such things as:
  • What's going right?
  • What could go wrong?
  • Problems in the Euro Zone
  • Risks in the U.S.
  • Japan:  Implications and possible consequences
  • Kicking the can down the road.
My friend, Russell Chaplin of Aberdeen Asset Management proposed these ideas:
  • This is not a time to do active asset management.
  • Have we really learned any lessons?  
  • How long will it be before we're back here talking about 'Style Drift?
There were also some interesting results to audience response questions:

Q.  Is Europe more or less attractive than real estate investment opportunities in North America of Asia?
A.  More:  18.1%; Less:  62.7%; About the same:  19.2%

Q.  Which markets do you perceive most promising in the next two years?
Asia:  42.5%
South America:  15.9%
North America:  15%
Europe:  14.2%
Africa:  12.4%

Peter Pereira Gray of The Wellcome Trust gave a very dynamic keynote which included these stimulating thoughts:
  • We are now living and will continue to live in an age of responsibility.
  • The problem is that too many people are taking things from society that they haven't earned.
  • Investors are becoming more sophisticated; Managers have to become more responsible.
  • There are advantages to thinking outside of the box.
I am very fortunate to be able to attend conferences like this. I will continue to do my best to provide you with what I hope you find are useful and/or interesting note and quotes.  

Last week at the airport I randomly bought a book called “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”  It’s a beautiful book and I will not ruin it for any that my choose to read it but here are a couple of phrases that I just can’t help sharing with you:
“Can’t we,even just a little, will ourselves to achieve the impossible?  Can we not use the power of our life force to change something; one small thing, one insignificant moment, one breath, one gesture?  Is there nothing we can do to change what is around us?”
“There is no dishonor in losing the race, there is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”

Last item:  While the conference was at a snazzy hotel, I stayed at a bed & breakfast that was about a three minute walk from the venue.  When I booked it on the web there were no photos but I had a feeling.  When I confirmed the day before that I was arriving, the proprietor wrote back saying, "My mother will greet you tomorrow as I am out of town."  So, I rang the bell and heard a voice that I guessed was saying, "Come in."  I walked into the vestibule, looked up the stairs and said, "Mama?".  She smiled.  Doesn't speak hardly any English but there wasn't much need for conversation.  The place is great and an unbelievable bargain.  I guess, taking chances and trusting your gut works more often than not.

I took the photo below early this week. It's of the plaza outside our offices in New York. Here's the story:

Christie's auction house has sold Untitled (Lamp/Bear), a 23-foot (7-meters) outdoor bronze sculpture of a bright yellow teddy bear combined with a giant working table lamp. Widely regarded as the most
important and the most monumental example of contemporary sculpture to come to the auction market, this spectacular bear sculpture was created in 2005-2006 and inspired by Urs Fischer's memories of his own childhood. The auction house has partnered with the owners of the Seagram Building, the architectural masterpiece by Mies van der Rohe in midtown Manhattan, to arrange for a five-month outdoor exhibition of the sculpture on the building’s plaza so that the city at large might enjoy this special glimpse into the creative genius of one of today’s most provocative young artists.

If you are in the New York area or are going to be visiting you have to see this; it is amazing!

On the road....

Apr. 20-27:  New York

May 1-4:  San Diego to attend the CRE (Counselors of Real Estate) Conference

May 9-10:  New York

May 12-14: North Palm Beach, FL for the annual meeting of the Homer Hoyt Fellows.

May 16-17: New York

May 22-25:  Miami Beach, FL to attend the NCPERS (National Council of Public Employees Retirement Systems) Conference.

June 6-10: London to moderate a panel at the PERE Forum-Europe.

These are my views and not that of my employer.

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