Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas in Liberia / Career and Personal Coaching / What is a client?

Christmas in Liberia 2012 

Eight of the students at the MCF Academy are true orphans.  They came to the academy last year when the orphanage they lived in burned down.  It's these eight that I have gotten to spend the most time with as the other students went "home" for the holidays.  

George in the back of the SUV

Last Sunday, at a church service dominated by children, a group from the "Brother's Keeper" orphanage performed for the packed house (I'd say more than 500 people).  This orphanage has been in business for 15 years and some of its 'graduates' are now young adults.  They sang several songs and received a few Christmas gifts from the host, Monrovia Christian Fellowship.  What impressed me most was the look on the faces of these children.  They have obviously been brought up in an environment at their orphanage that was both nurturing and empowering.  They are part of the future of both Liberia and the world and I sensed that some of them have big plans in mind and know they can achieve them.  They're right, aren't they?  

After church, we limped to a garage with the MCF Academy SUV that had become quite temperamental.  After a two-hour diagnostic and repair session (where there were no less than four 'mechanics' under the hood at one time), the vehicle was running well.  I was starving, having forgotten again to bring a snack with me.  We headed for a place called Shark's, which is a mélange of McDonald's (kid friendly with playground), a beach bar and a hot dog, hamburger, popcorn and ice cream emporium.  Our group of 18 commandeered one long table. Watching these kids (aged 3-16) relish (no pun intended) the food, drink and ice cream was a thrill for me.

MacDella told me that most of them had never been on an outing like this.  Can you imagine?  We take little things like this so much for granted. In a sweltering afternoon, the children ate their ice creams very, very, very slowly not wanting to let the experience end.  It was an extremely special time for me to be able to help them have this memory, which Mac said they would never, ever forget.  Me neither.  Big sigh!

Christmas Day

We celebrated with the traditional Liberian Christmas Day meal of Jollof Rice and beans along with delicious bar-b-que chicken.  Grace, our cook, works miracles in pots over hot coals.  The portions were more than plentiful and the kids really enjoyed the holiday fare.  MacDella told me that the best Christmas gift the children received was our outing to Shark's the other day.  When we were there, I hadn't thought about the "treat" from that experience but for those children, the true orphans, who do not have a home to go to for Christmas or anytime for that matter, their treat was my pleasure.  

Santa Steve and MCFA Students in their new Christmas PJ's
While there has been great progress made in Liberia since my visit in 2006, there still remain problems with trust and honesty. I got shaken down on Christmas Day by my new best friend, Moses, the head of the traffic department.  For years, police have been known to randomly pull people over and tell them that if a ticket is officially filed it'll cost them $50 US dollars and they'll have to spend half a day to get their license back.  But basically the police want to get you to agree (they never ask out and out) to pay them so cold cash.   "So, how can we work this out?" Moses asked me.  "I don't know. You tell me", was my almost courteous response.  "But what can we do to make this go away?" was Moses' next offering.  "Well, it's your country, what would you suggest?” I asked him, knowing full well what the answer was.  But, given that I was on his turf and had a few of the children with me I decided to end the conversation and offered him $20 which I gave him and he gave me my license back.  No documentation required.  Just the day before, MacDella told me that the LIberian President had issued a statement that this traditional way of celebrating Christmas would not be tolerated.  I guess there's a ways to go in that regard.

2012:  Commercial Real Estate

Like "The Little Engine That Could" ("I think I can, I think I can") the commercial real estate industry has chugged along. But somehow it feels different.  Probably because things have changed and continue to do so.  "New" investors are bringing cold, hard cash into the U.S. as a safe haven given what is going on in the rest of the world.  And, as RCA continues to report, investors are taking bigger stakes in secondary markets where they can get more bang for their buck.  Asset Management, the skill set that can help discover opportunity income, continues to be of critical importance in getting those investments to achieve optimal cash flow and, whenever possible, better than average appreciation.  A number of investment management executives that speak with me are thinking about new directions to take their business.  Seasons change.  How we adopt to change is the key.  An exercise I use with some of my corporate strategy clients is to have them imagine that their company didn't exist.  What would they do today?  

2013:  Career and Personal Coaching 

Based on numerous requests, I am expanding my Career / Resume Building / Interviewing Skills / Personal coaching services.  In addition to helping individuals build confidence in themselves this service gives people technical and behavioral tools that will help them craft more effective resumes and cover letters and stand out and differentiate themselves in job interviews. It also offers guidance about searching for an internship or a job.  Shortly, I'll be announcing the addition of a partner who is an expert practitioner in this type of coaching and skills development.  Very exciting!

What Is A Client?

These words are from a poster hanging in the reception area of Clarion Partners Headquarters in New York.  I thought it'd be a good reminder as we start the new year:

  • A Client is the most important person in this firm, whether he comes in person, writes us or telephones.

  • A Client is not dependent on us - we are dependent on him for our living.

  • A Client is not an interruption in our work he is the purpose of it…he is doing us a favor for giving us the opportunity to serve him.

  • A Client is not someone with whom to argue or against whom to match you wits.  No one ever wins an argument with a client.

  • A Client is a person who comes to us because he needs a certain service.  It is our objective to provide this in a way profitable to him and ourselves.

  • A Client is not cold static.  He is a flesh and blood human being with emotions and prejudices just like our own.

  • A Client is the most important person in this firm - without him there would be no business and you would not be needed.  


Bill Krauch, my longtime friend, is retiring from Clarion Partners on 12/31/12.  Throughout his long career, Bill has always been a class act.  He is a great ambassador for the institutional real estate world and an integral part of its globalization.  He's always been someone who has nurtured younger people in the industry, passing along what he's learned. Bill is not a retiring kind of guy so don't be surprised if he pops up in a new role sometime soon. He's a special guy and I am proud to call him my friend.  All the best Bill.

Thank You

2012 has been a landmark year for me in several ways. It was also a year that brought some new and special people into my life.  "You're a lucky boy,” one of my friends said to me recently.  Yes, I am but maybe that luck is simply the result of putting positive energy out in the universe and, without any expectations, having it come back in some inexplicable way.  

Thank you very much for your support of this weekly column.  I am humbled by your generous support for some members of our community who have been in need or embarking on worthwhile missions.  We've been through a lot together.  This year we've lost some people; family, friends and industry colleagues. Those are impossible events to try to understand and so we just to accept them and learn from those who have passed into the next dimension and make them proud that we have taken something positive from them and are 'paying it forward.' 

As we get ready to "Save" 2012 and open a "New" document called "2013" we should all remember this: "Some opportunities only come once; seize them!" (1) 

Felix Consulting Group

Thank you to the 15 clients of Felix Consulting Group who made our first year a success!

What I've Learned  

This was sent to me by my son Brian in August 2000. In cleaning up my hard drive I found it and wanted you share it with you.  You may have seen this before but I encourage you to read it 
  • I've learned that we don't have to change friends if we understand that friends change.
  • I've learned that no matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.
  • I've learned that true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love.
  • I've learned that you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.
  • I've learned that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.
  • I've learned that it's taken me a long time to become the person I want to be.
  • I've learned that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.
  • I've learned that you can keep going long after you think you can't.
  • I've learned that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.
  • I've learned that either you control your attitude or it controls you.
  • I've learned that regardless of how hot and steamy a relationship is at first the passion fades and there had better be something else to take its place.
  • I've learned that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.
  • I've learned that money is a lousy way of keeping score.
  • I've learned that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.
  • I've learned that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you're down, will be the ones to help you get back up.
  • I've learned that sometimes when I'm angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel.
  • I've learned that just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have.
  • I've learned that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you've had and what you've learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated.
  • I've learned that it isn't always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.
  • I've learned that no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn't stop for your grief.
  • I've learned that just because two people argue, it doesn't mean they don't love each other. And just because they don't argue, it doesn't mean they do.
  • I've learned that you shouldn't be so eager to find out a secret.  It could change your life forever.
  • I've learned that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.
  • I've learned that your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don't even know you.
  • I've learned that even when you think you have no more to give, when a friend cries out to you you will find the strength to help.
  • I've learned that the people you care about most in life are taken from you too soon.

Send this to all the people you believe in…I just did.

Happy New Year and safe travels.

On the road…

Jan. 7-9:  Dallas to provide my "How to" Workshops to a client firm
Jan. 21-25:  Southern California for meetings and to attend the IMN Winter Forum on Opportunity and Private Real Estate Investing in Laguna Beach
Feb. 27-Mar.1: Phoenix, Arizona to attend the NCREIF (National Association of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries) Winter Conference.
Mar. 12-15:  (Tentative) Cannes, France to attend MIPIM 
Apr. 28-May 1:  New York for the CRE (Counselors of Real Estate) Mid-Year Meetings and a possible jam session with the CRE Band, Sound Counsel.
June 4-5:  London to attend the PERE Summit-Europe

(1) The Holstee Manifesto

Friday, December 21, 2012

Liberia 2012 / RCA U.S. Capital Trends 1212 / The Final Rippple

Liberia 2012

After traveling for 24 hours, even a pretty resilient traveler can feel a little weary. The scene at baggage claim at the airport in Monrovia, Liberia would have been funny if it were in a Woody Allen movie.  As it was, I just stood back, got banged around a bit and smiled at the craziness but, somehow, in the end, everything all worked out (doesn't it usually if we let it)?   

The MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy (MCFA) is located on secure and beautiful piece of property, six miles from the airport and further from the smoke, smog, noise and bad influences of the city.  

Prior to this government, headed since January 2006 by Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa, the country had barely survived a 10-year civil war fueled by a really bad man who has been convicted by the World Court for crimes against humanity.  But, while resentment coming out of a war can last for generations, the future of any country, of any people, hinges on the ability of it's leadership to inspire and set positive examples for it's citizens, especially the children who are the future. And that is exactly what is going on in Liberia under her presidency.

The academy is made up of two long parallel buildings.  On one side is the dormitory building and the other side the classrooms, office and dining/multi-purpose room.  At one end of the outside "common area" is the water tank tower and pumping station.  This is where the children fill their buckets every evening to carry back with them to their dormitory and take their baths.  

While one of the staff members filled my buckets, I bathed like everyone else:  you have your bucket of pretty much cold water and a scoop.  You stand in a place that has a drain on the floor and you (is this getting into too much detail?) pour the water over yourself…actually iprobably something that the campers amongst you have done many times.  But, it really feels good and I just make believe I'm jumping into a cold lake for a swim. After returning from my trip here six years ago I made a vow to never take the luxury of a hot shower or bath for granted and I never have!  

Monday I got to meet the students, 80 in all, ages 4-13 in classes from K-5.  After MacDella introduced me to each class, the children felt safe and at one point there were about 20 gathered around me outside shaking hands and high-fiving.  Many of the boys have never had an adult male in their lives (or only one that was a poor role model).  One young boy simply wrapped his arms around my legs and held on.  It was both sweet and sad. 

On Monday afternoon I was treated to a special holiday performance by the students which included singing, dancing and some humorous theatrics.  There are a few really talented young people in this group.  

After the generator is turned off around 9:30 pm it's really dark but your eyes get used to it.  I can't describe to you the feeling the other night when I was walking from the dining hall back to my room with the only light guiding my way a bright orange almost half moon.  A quiet voice from one of the dormitories said, "Good Night Mr. Felix."  It was just so sweet. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, as the 'responsible adults' came one by one to the Academy to pick up their children, the message that Ms. Cooper conveyed to them the night before was clearly present with them:  "When you go home you are an ambassador for the MCF Academy and what you have learned here.  We expect you to behave properly and not slip back into the ways of the street that you grew up around.  You know the right things to do.  Just do them and make us and yourselves proud."  Environment is a powerful drug but while I had only had the chance to spend two full days will all 80 students, I saw the impact of the training that their time at the school has had.  

As the week has gone on, the children have gotten more and more comfortable with me and have been asking me questions and telling me things.  Do you have a family?  What are their names, their ages?  I show them some photos.  How far away is America?  I show them a map.  In just a few days I can see there has been some independent study going on about America in the school library.  Like young people everywhere, these children are sponges.  They hear everything you say.   

Thursday and Friday:  We're staying in a house on the outskirts of the capital city of Monrovia a few days to pick up provisions, run some errands and give the eight students who truly have no parents to go home to a change of scenery.  

Driving in the interminable traffic to take care of a few things in downtown Monrovia, I noticed some real changes.  The main drag, Tubman Boulevard ,was now paved as opposed to being full of shell holes from the war.  New buildings have sprouted up.  The presidential palace is inspiring to say the least.  A couple of new hotels, including at least one luxury resort on the beach have opened.  We drove by the apartment building on 18th street which was our home last time and the 'shanty' residences that had lined the street were all gone.   Billboards tout "Liberia's Top Student" and have other uplifting messages.  But, the dichotomy between the 'norm' and the 'new' is staggering to stay the least.  Change takes time.  Lots of it.  However, like a friend of mine told me years ago, "You don't have to be going straight, just forward!"

MCFA accepts resident students based on a rigorous screening process.  The investment made in each student is not inconsiderable in Liberian terms.  The all-in cost is $2400 per student per year. At this time of year, everybody and their brother is asking you to donate to this, that or the other charity.  So, I'm not going to make a plea here.  But I am going to convey this piece of information:  You can sponsor an individual child at the MCFA for $300 a year!  From what I've seen, professional fund raisers break these type numbers down into things like "You can make a difference in a child's future for less than a dollar a day" or "Instead of going out for one expensive dinner…."  So, I'll just leave it to you, in your own good time, to read about what MCFA does.  While the website is words and pictures, I'm here to tell you that everything stated is real, and good, sincere, committed and passionately executed.  Hey, why don't you come down for a week and see it for yourself?  

Even for a man of many words, the experience of being here is hard to describe.  Perspective is a wonderful thing.  I have also been getting some good introspective time which is much needed at this time.  

RCA U.S. Capital Trends 1212
  • Office: While November is a typically slow month for closings, sales of significant office properties totaled $6.9Bn, more than double the volume from a year earlier.
  • Apartment:  Falling cap rates in many markets being offset by increased activity in higher-yielding secondary markets.  Markets posting the largest declines in cap rates this year are Boston, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle.
  • Retail: The largest sales last month occurred in higher-yielding secondary markets such as Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Portland.
  • Industrial: Nationwide cap rates were up 20BPS last month to an average of 7.9%, although this may be more due to the dearth of  recent institutional transactions versus a change in market direction. 
  • Hotel: The largest hotel transaction in November was Sahara India Pariwar's acquisition of a 75% interest in The Plaza Hotel in New York that valued the asset at $575MM.

The Final Trippple Rippple 121212

This party is the brainchild of a good friend of mine.  The idea was hatched when she and some of her friends had a New Year's Day brunch at Windows on the World, atop the World Trade Center on 01/01/01.  Each year since then, she organized an event on the Trippple Rippple date.  Some of the themes:  02/02/02 Groundhog Day Bowling; 03/03/03 Ping Pong and Pool; 05/05/05 Margaritas on Cinco de Mayo; 06/06/06 Devil Dogs in Hell's Kitchen; 11/11/11 Rolling 'YO' Eleven; 12/12/12 Cocktails on Little West 12th Street.  Why should kids have all the fun?

  • Brad Barsily who has joined Rubenstein Partners.

As John Lennon said, "Happy Christmas."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Long Beach, NY Rebuilds / Don't like it? Change it! / RCA Holiday Party / Seize the Opportunity / LGT Clerestory

Dateline:  Long Beach, New York:  Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy is no longer news as far as the media goes.  But it is very much with the people of Long Beach, NY.  Wednesday I was allowed back in the building where I had been staying and retrieved my last few remaining belongings including my digital piano (Thanks Hal, for offering me the loan of yours).  The main commercial drag looked sort of normal.  That is until I took a closer look saw that many of the businesses and restaurants are still shut, some looking like they will never reopen. 

As I made my way to the beachfront where I had been living, the damage became more visible.  The boardwalk itself is devastated.  A number of buildings, including one for old, infirm people, have been condemned.  The facing of an apartment building had been torn off.  Piles of ripped out walls, floors, carpeting still dotted the sidewalks.  The encouraging image is of people rebuilding, their residences and their lives.  Piles of fresh plywood, new carpeting, new energy.  Yet, through all this tumult, I passed by the schoolyard of a grammar school and saw dozens of children, at recess, playing. Isn't the sound of children playing special?  In this case, it was a reminder of when things were normal.

If You Don't Like Something, Change It.
This week, 23 boxes of stuff from the house in California that had I lived in for the past 13 years were dropped off at a building in New Jersey.   My sincerest thanks to John Muscarelle of Jos. A. Muscarelle, Inc., who have been developing commercial buildings since 1926, for allowing me to use part of one of their buildings for my boxes and bicycle.  Psychologists point to certain events that can cause stress in one's life: starting a new business: check; relocating: check; selling your home: check; getting divorced: check.  Hey, why not do them all at one time? However, it did start to take it's toll.  Maybe you know the feeling.   But, as Taj Mahal sings in his classic, "Take A Giant Step," "Come with me. Leave your yesterday behind and take a giant step outside your mind." Thankfully, I have some terrific friends who have provided much-needed support and guidance during this time.  I love you guys ("Hoosiers.)"  In the waning days of 2012, I have this feeling that 2013 is going to be a great year...for all of us!

RCA Holiday Party
The Meatpacking District of Manhattan has become 'the' neighborhood of choice for commercial real estate parties.  There is so much energy on the cobblestone streets and in the bars, restaurants and clubs.  How did that area become so cool?  Well, cool people started hanging out there.  Of course, once that happens and everybody and their brother and the tourists find it, the cool people need to find the next cool place, which they keep to themselves for as look as a great secret can be kept!  RCA knows how to throw a party. They were also celebrating the launch of their new CPPI (Commercial Property Price Indices).  I was on their launch webinar the other day and  was blown away by what they have created.  These indices are incredible tools.  They allow you to slice and dice recurring sales data in a gazillion ways.  Hanging and dancing with a bunch of the RCAers and chatting with some people I hadn't seen in a while was very fun.  Everybody was smiling. Isn't that what this time of year is all about?  

Many years ago, perhaps 12, a real estate broker named Larry Ross leased RCA their first space.  It was big enough for three people as that was all RCA needed.  I had become an advisor to Larry's internet start-up Propertyrover.  He introduced me to Bob White, founder of RCA.  When Bob told me what they were doing I (a) knew the industry needed it and (b) had a good feeling about Bob.  The rest, as they say, is history.  I saw Larry last night for the first time in a number of years.  He and his partner, Christen Portelli run a commercial real estate investment sales firm called Highcap Group.  Larry is also into music and mentioned that he continues to listen to my son Brian's band, OM Trio's, first CD, "Clarified Butter".  Larry connecting Bob and I has made a huge difference in both our lives.  

Susan Hudson-Wilson Memorial Music Section
In a Youtube connecting the dots session early Wednesday morning led me to Richard Manuel, the late pianist and vocalist for The Band, singing  "Georgia on My Mind." This haunting and beautiful version is here

Some Opportunities Come Only Once, Seize Them
Joanne Douvas and Tommy Brown launched Clerestory Capital Partners in 2007.  They've raised money and have invested in other underlying funds.  When people try to figure out why a first time fund is able to raise money, Clerestory is an excellent example.  Both Joanne and Tommy had good track records and reputations.  Over the years, they had built trusted relationships with a number of the leading U.S. public pension funds.  A few years back, meeting with one of those pension funds that had invested in Clerestory's first fund I asked, "So, why did you choose to go with them?"  "I like them.  I trust them and I wanted to give them a chance to see what they could do."  So, there you have it. It's that simple, although it's not really.  There was a press release the other day that Clerestory had been acquired by LGT Capital Partners, a Swiss based alternative investment manager.  Without knowing all the details, it's likely that this will give them a bigger platform on which to grow their business.  I say, "Good for them."  They've worked hard at it and, in this case, an opportunity presented itself and they seized the moment.  

Career Coaching Tip of the Week
Last week, a friend wrote telling me he had received a job offer.  "What should I do?", he asked.  I wrote back, "Ask them if they can do any better."  The next day he wrote again.  "They did a little better.  They're sending me the contract."  Even with all the negotiating I've done in my career, many years ago I adopted this simple strategy and more often than not, it works.  Just a parting thought for today.

  • George Manthous who has joined Real Capital Analytics (RCA)
  • David Lynn on the launch of Lynn Capital Management
  • Joanne Douvas and Tommy Brown on the sale of their company, Clerestory to LGT Capital Partners.  The firm is now known as LGT Clerestory

On the road….
Dec. 15-Jan. 3, 2013:  Monrovia, Liberia (West Africa) to work with the students at the MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy and enjoy a special Christmas and New Year.
Jan. 7-9:  Dallas to provide a client with my one day self-improvement workshop series.
Jan. 21-26:  Southern California / LA for client meetings and to attend the IMN Forum on Opportunity and Private Real Estate Investing in Laguna Beach.
Apr. 28-May 1:  New York to attend the CRE (Counselors of Real Estate) mid-year meetings and possibly jam with the CRE band, "Sound Counsel."
June 4-5:  London to attend the PERE Summit-Europe

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Errors and Omissions

Sorry to intrude on your Sunday but several errors and omissions were pointed out to me and which deserve immediate attention:
  • Jon Dishell who was instrumental in organizing last weeks' NAREIM Capital Raising and Investor Relations Council Meeting works for American Real Estate Partners.  
  • Jeff Havsy, Director of Research at NCREIF was inadvertently omitted from the list of Hoyt Fellows.  
  • The location to find the sculptures of Bruno Catalano, my "Incredible Artist of the Week" had the wrong address.  The correct address is Galarie Élysées at 104 Central Park South, between 6th and 7th Avenues (closer to 6th) in Manhattan.
  • Happy Chanukah to everyone who celebrates  this holiday.

Friday, December 7, 2012

NAREIM Council Meeting / Big News from RCA / Global Women's Partnership / December 7 / A Lucky Boy

NAREIM Capital Raising and Investor Relations Council Meeting

On Tuesday I facilitated a discussion amongst 30 capital raising, marketing and investor relations professionals in Chicago.  While the discussion was conducted under the NAREIM 'Cone of Silence,' what I can share with you is the tone of the session.  Suffice it to say that it was very open dialogue. There were people ranging from very senior and experienced to relative newcomers.  This is part of what made that session special.  No one felt intimated or not at least from what I could feel.  Gunnar Branson, President of NAREIM, has, in a short time, brought new energy and ideas to that organization.  A trusted friend for many years, it's terrific for me to see him flourishing in a job that is not simple (is the job of head of any trade association simple?).  Congratulations Gunnar and also to Jon Dishell of American Realty Partners who was the driving force behind this event.  Special kudos, as well, to Monica Lockhart, NAREIM's Meeting Organizer 

Big News from RCA-Real Capital Analytics 
Real Capital Analytics has announced the RCA Commercial Property Price Indices (RCA CPPI)  which is "a revolutionary suite of more than 200 transaction-based indices using repeat-sales methodology that objectively measure property prices across local, state, regional, and national levels.  Never before has the commercial real estate industry been able to track and measure property prices at such a granular level. This new and exclusive view of commercial property prices at the market level will allow you to objectively measure property prices, better evaluate and manage risk, re-value legacy portfolios and mark assets to market on a frequent basis."  This service is complimentary through January 2013.  RCA is hosting a webinar, featuring RCA Founder and President Bob White on Tuesday, December 11 at 1pm Eastern time.  Register for the webinar here.

A Nice Stroll Through The City
Last Sunday I walked from 56th and 8th Avenue in Manhattan visit my son Kevin's and his family in Brooklyn.  It was a little more than two hours and it was terrific exercise and getting oxygen through my system. New York has so much to see and while walking, especially in neighborhoods and on blocks that I either have never been on or haven't been on for years, is a great way to explore and find new places that you want to go back to shop or eat or drink or play pingpong or catch a show.  At the tail end of the walk and right near the new Barclay's Arena (where the new Brooklyn Nets professional basketball team calls home), I saw a father and daughter, she was probably four, in front of me.  A police officer had told me that Disney on Ice was playing that afternoon. This girl was holding hands with her father and skipping.  When was the last time you skipped down the street, the joy of what you were doing or about to experience simply beyond walking?  What a beautiful thing.  

UNC Kenan-Flagler
The University of North Carolina- Kenan-Flagler team took third place in the 2012 Real Estate Case Challenge hosted by the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. The team members were all second-year MBA students included Brendan McCarthy, Dan Jellicorse, Alex McSpadden, Jessica Fields, Adam Ricketts and Josh Cooke. Dave Hartzell is the coach of this team.  I've known Dave for a good number of years and have driven with him in his car while we've listened to some good ol' rock 'n roll.  He is one of the most passionate, pro-active and supportive academics in the real estate world.  

I had been to this competition some time back and have also attended and been a judge at competitions at UNC and Villanova.  Rest assured, that the next generation of real estate professionals will do us proud, thanks to people like Dave, David Funk, Cornell; Susanne Cannon, DePaul; Dan Kohlhepp, Johns Hopkins; Jeff Fisher, Weimer School; Joe Pagliari, University of Chicago; Hal Smith, Hoyt Group; Norm Miller, University of San Diego; Hugh Kelly, NYU.    

While I'm at it, please allow me to mention some of my fellow Hoyt Fellows whose mission is to bridge the gap between academia and industry:  Mike Acton, AEW; Bob Bach, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank; Brad Case, NAREIT; Blake Eagle, NCREIF; Doug Herzbrun, CBRE Global Investors; Bill Hughes, UBS; Marc Louargand, Saltash Partners; David Lynn; Asieh Mansour, CBRE; Cate Polleys, Hewitt EnnisKnupp; Doug Poutasse, Bentall Kennedy; Jeannette Rice, Verde Realty; Mark Roberts, RREEF; Jon Southard, CBRE Econometric Advisors; Ray Torto, CBRE; Jim Valente, IPD; John Baczewski, Real Estate Fiduciary Services; Chuck DiRocco, PwC; Jacques Gordon, LaSalle Investment Management; Ron Kaiser, Bailard; Mary Ludgin, Heitman; Greg MacKinnon, PREA; Rich Marchitelli, Cushman and Wakefield; Paige Mueller, RCLCO; Hans Nordby, PPR; Jim O'Keefe, UBS; Bill Ramseyer, Cornerstone; Ken Riggs, RERC; Larry Souza, Johnson/Souza Group; Bob White, RCA and Rick Wincott, Altus.  You are making a real positive impact. 

OTR Feedback
"Couldn’t agree with you more about Thanksgiving as a great holiday.  For our family, we generally rank the Fourth of July a slight bit higher if only because the weather is nicer and the food is simpler and it is easier to work off the extra pounds that seem to come with the food.   We love and celebrate them both for exactly the reasons you mention.  With regard the PBGC (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation), it is actually funded by insurance payments paid by companies that belong to the plan.  It’s not (yet) taxpayer funded although that may change as more companies drop defined benefit programs (they pay the insurance premiums) and companies follow bankruptcy.  The real taxpayer benefit in this program is that if the court approves the dissolution of a company plan, the insurance program will only pay a maximum of $53,000 per year in benefits.  The highly paid employee takes it on the chin.  That employee (this happened to many pilots) gets a maximum of $53,000.  Now contrast that to state plans (and the Federal government pensions) where all shortfalls are paid by the taxpayers.  That’s the real problem."  Thanks for sharing this with us Bob.

Global Women's Partnership (GWP)
On Wednesday evening a friend and I attended the launch event for a wonderfully purposed organization called the Global Women's Partnership (GWP).  Begun this year by co-founders Rimma Doubinskaia and MacDella Cooper GWP seeks to empower women in the developing world (rural villages, towns and cities) who have limited or no access to the most basic of resources.  GWP plans to accomplish this through Micro-Financing for small business development and sustainability, Occupational Training, Healthcare Access and Education, Aids/HIV Education and Prevention, Family Planning, Adult Literacy and Education and Mentoring.  The turnout for the event was excellent.  A special guest was the Liberian Consul General to the United Nations, Hon. William G. Greaves, Jr. who gave a compelling and heartfelt talk to the assembled group about how it is women who are taking The Republic of Liberia to new levels led and inspired by the only female president in Africa, Her Excellency, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.  Monetary donations as well as like kind basics such as deodorant, condoms, lotions, toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, hand sanitizers are also accepted.  

Having been in Liberia for a month over Christmas/New Years 2006/2007, and witnessed first-hand the conditions at that time, I am very excited to be going back with The MacDella Cooper Foundation from December 15 to January 2, 2013 particularly to see The MCF Academy.  Opened in December 2010 it is dedicated to providing youth, especially orphans and abandoned children, with education and the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter.  Their mission is simple:  To give as many Liberian children as possible the chance to escape the poverty cycle, to learn and grow in a safe environment, so that they can lead Liberia toward an economically strong and politically stable future. Having seen the hopelessness on the faces of so many children six years ago, I eagerly anticipate a very different scene.  You can donate here to the MCF Academy here.  

Incredible Artist of the Week
If you are in New York or planning a trip please stop by Galerie Élysées, 104 Park Avenue South (just a block west of The Plaza Hotel, which by the way, is undergoing a major reinvent of it's retail space).  Walking by randomly on Wednesday night I was stopped dead in my tracks by a sculpture.  I went in and was shown around by Stephan Varnier.  The artist's name is Bruno Catalano.  Justice cannot be done to his work in words nor can seeing it on the web but if you can't visit, take a look here.  

Life is Short
Some months back, I shared with you a flyer that I was given and that I have now shared with others (and they have shared it too).  It's called The Holstee Manifesto and was written by a few folks at a clothing company.  I read it every morning to remind myself of what really is important to me.  And, as we approach the end of 2012 and the start of 2013 I'd like to share it with you again, 

This is your LIFE.
Do what you love and do it often.
If you don't like something, change it.
If you don't like your job, quit.
If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV.
If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; 
They will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.
Stop over analyzing.
Live is simple.
All emotions are beautiful.
When you eat, appreciate every last bite.
Open your mind, arms and heart to new things and people,
we are united in our differences.
Ask the next person you see what their passion is and,
share your inspiring dream with them.
Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself.
Some opportunities only come once, seize them.
Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them
so go out and start creating.
Life is short.
Live your dream,
and wear your passion.

  • Gareth Dittmer who has joined Morgan Stanley as Executive Director, Head of Investor Coverage, EMEA.
  • Alan Greenwald who has been promoted to Partner at Terra Search Partners.  Alan heads the firm's East Coast office in Washington, DC.
  • Max de Groot who has joined SNS Property Finance as Head of Asset & Equity Management for their international real estate portfolio.
  • Joseph Stecher on the launch of Candlewood which is making secondary and co-investments.

December 7th
Very shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor that killed or wounded 3,684 Americans, my father and millions of other young Americans, jammed the Armed Forces offices to enlist in various branches.  Today, we remember those who perished on what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called, "a day that will live in infamy.' How sad war is? "When will we ever learn?" Bob Dylan.

Thank You and a Big Hug...
…to all of you who have reached out to me to, well, to make sure I'm okay.  So, a very brief update:
1.  My house in Napa sold this past Tuesday without a hitch.  Yeah!
2.  I have found an apartment in New York. In the spirit of being a 'lucky boy', as a good friend recently called me:  (1) It was the first apartment I looked at; (2) It is in the perfect location; (4) It's an ideal size for me; (5) The rent is within my budget; (6) Within five minutes after the owner of the apartment and I met we learned we had both grown up in Forest Hills, New York and although 10 years apart and the fact that he and I went to rival Junior High Schools :) we made a connection.  Serendipity.?  Luck?  Something else?  I am truly feeling like a very lucky boy.  Thank you again for all your support, encouragement and emails over the years.  Yes, there's a lot going on but I am very okay!  

On the road….
Dec. 15-Jan.3, 2013:  Liberia with The MacDella Cooper Foundation (MCF) to work with children-at the MCF Academy. 
Jan 8-9:  Dallas for a client event.
Jan. 21-25:  Southern California for meetings and to attend the IMN Winter Forum on Opportunity and Private Real Estate Investing in Laguna Beach.
Feb. 27-Mar.1: Phoenix, Arizona to attend the NCREIF (National Association of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries) Winter Conference.
Mar. 12-15:  Cannes, France to attend MIPIM.
Apr. 28-May 1:  New York for the CRE (Counselors of Real Estate) Mid-Year Meetings and a possible jam-session with the CRE Band, Sound Counsel.
June 4-5:  London to attend the PERE Summit-Europe

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Zydeco Fundraiser / Tishman Speyer Tree-Lighting Party / RCA U.S. Capital Trends / Million Dollar Quartet / Fortune Cookie Fortune

Hurricane Sandy Fundraiser...Tonight
A fundraiser is being held tonight to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  I've heard that the feature artist, Rosie Ledet and The Zydeco Playboys are amazing!  Opening act:  Actor Michael Cerveris' and his band, Loose Cattle.

What:  Hurricane Sandy Victims Benefit 
When:  November 30, 2012 (That's tonight!)
Where:  Connolly's, 121 West 45th Street (Between 6th and Broadway, 3rd Floor), New York
Doors:  6:30pm for dinner, drinks or socializing and at 7:15pm a Zydeco dance lesson!
Show: 8:00-Midnight
Admission:  $25 
Come on out...I'll buy you a drink!

Tishman Speyer Tree-Lighting Party
One highlight of the week was the Tishman Speyer party at Rockefeller Center for the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.   I ran into a bunch of  former colleagues and industry friends.  The tree is big, bold, bright and beautiful.  Try to see it, even if it's just a drive-by.  

Following that party, a friend and I were hungry and walked over to the Russian Vodka Room for some of their excellent food.  The pianist, who I have gotten to know over the years, wrapped up his evening and I went over to the manager and asked if I could play a little.  It's a big old grand piano with a lot of character. I can't imagine my life without music in it.  Playing the piano has been an outlet for me forever and the times in-between having a piano or keyboard to play have not been easy ones.  Having spent so much time alone, on the road, looking for a random piano in some unused hotel ballroom, it's special to be in a situation like the other night, playing and being able to see a friend, who had never heard me before, across a modestly crowded bar, listening and smiling.  It's really those small moments in life that are the essence.

RCA U.S. Capital Trends-October 2012
Highlight about each property type pulled from this report which was delivered to RCA subscribers the other day:

Hotels:  Nationwide, cap rates for hotels have remained relatively flat in 2012 at an average of 7.7%.

Apartments:  The capital shift to higher yielding markets has caused national cap rates to rise in the mid/high-rise sector, although average yields for garden properties have held firm and changed little over the past six months.

Retail:  While average cap rates on strip centers have fallen to 7.6% nationally, properties with the right anchor and location can command well below that.

Industrial:  Nationally cap rates continue to witness compression and, at an average of 7.6%, have reached lows not seen since late 2008.

Office:  Average cap rates nationally, on CBD (Central Business District) acquisitions, have risen since Q1'12 with fewer trophy sales to pull down the average and more secondary market sales that push the average up.

A long time ago, I figured out how to have fun doing almost anything.  It continues to be something that I am able to do.  Yes, there are some things in life that are simply not fun to do but you have to do them anyway.  But those things are in the minority when you look at each day, each week, each month and say, "Did I have fun or what?"  Try it.  It's all in our heads.

Million Dollar Quartet
This Broadway show produced by my friend, Jerry Kattell, is opening at Harrah's in Las Vegas on February 4th for an unlimited run.  I saw it a couple of years ago.  Not only is the music great but it's….fun!  I encourage you to check it out.  

Speed Kills  
That has been a slogan referring to the use of amphetamines for many years.  But I'm beginning to wonder:  are we simply moving too fast for our own good?  My drive to and from New York and Fort Lauderdale last week reminded me of the speed on our highways, regardless of the posted speed limit (I won't even start on the horrible, rude and unsafe and crazy driving I observed so many times).  But I fear that we are moving at warp speed with everything and it just seems like it causes too many mistakes, too many typos, too many acts that require apologies.  As Paul Simon wrote in "Feelin' Groovy."

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.

Hello lamp-post 
Whatcha knowin'?
I've come to watch your flowers growin'
Ain't cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo
Feelin' groovy

I've got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I'm dappled and drowsy 
And ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all it's petals on me
Life I love you
All is groovy.

Lyrics provided compliments of the Susan Hudson-Wilson Memorial Music Spot

Saying of the Week
"I'm on the back-side of responsibility."  When my friend Gary said these words to me the other night I said, "I have to write that down".  He was referring to a stage that he's gotten to in his life where his children are grown, he's got a good job and he is taking more time to do things that he (and his wife) care about including giving back and paying it forward.  Gary and I have known each other through the industry for a good number of years; more than 10 but not quite 20.  He and I have talked about both business and life.  As with any friendship, the longer you know someone and the more time you spend together, the more you get to know that person's values, passions and dreams.  And, as we've developed our friendship, I've said to myself, "Gee, why didn't we get to know each other better, sooner."  But, as things go in life, they happen when they are supposed to, or at least that's what I believe.  It's never too late for something wonderful to happen. 

Fortune Cookie Fortune of the Week
"If it is meant to be, who are you to change that.  Time to believe it." 

Asset Management Roundtable
Yesterday, my good and great friend, Ed LaGrassa, held his monthly Asset Management Roundtable.  Here are some of the more memorable comments made around that table:

-"My job is not to create disasters, it's to revel in disasters."  Real Estate Attorney
-"The concept of distress is already antiquated."  Broker
-"There are virtually no portfolio loans left to sell in New York."  Broker
-"We're scared of the world."  A broker stating what a wealthy foreign real estate investor said to him talking about why they're investing so much money in NY and London real estate.
-"With all the tumult in the world, New York is seen as a safe haven for real estate investing."
-"Lenders are not scared anymore.  We're not kicking the can down the road anymore and are willing to foreclose, put the property on the market because we're certain we'll do better."  Commercial real estate banker.

Tom Klugerz who joined UBS as Executive Director, Portfolio and Client Services, Global Real Estate-U.S.  

Restaurant of the week
Cassa Nonna, 310 W. 38th St. (Bet. 8th and 9th Avenues), New York.  A very nice room with good food and not too pricey.  

On the road....

Dec. 3-4:  Chicago to attend the NAREIM Capital Raising and Investor Relations Council Meeting

Dec. 5:  Global Women's Partnership (GWP) Holiday Cocktail Party in New York. GWD seeks to empower women in the developing world with limited to no access to basic life-saving resources.

Dec. 13:  Real Capital Analytics Holiday Party, New York (Invitation only).

Dec. 15-Jan.3:  Liberia, West Africa.  Return trip to see the progress made by The MacDella Cooper Foundation and the country in general since my first visit there in 2006.

Jan. 23-25:  Laguna Beach, CA to attend IMN's Tenth Annual Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity and Private Fund Investing.

Feb. 27-Mar. 1:  Phoenix, AZ to attend the NCRIEF Winter Conference

Mar. 12-15:  Cannes, France to attend MIPIM.

Apr. 28-May 1:  New York for the CRE (Counselors of Real Estate) Mid-Year Meetings

June 4-5:  London to attend the PERE Summit: Europe

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