Friday, October 19, 2012

Is Your Company Cool? / Eye Contact / The Rainbow Room / Return to Liberia

Gunnar Branson, CEO of NAREIM (National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers) is one very creative-thinking dude who happens to head an industry trade association.  At their Executive Officer Meeting in Chicago this week (where I moderated a panel of Canadian institutional investors and played a YouTube of The McKenzie Brothers "Take Off To The Great White North" (Featuring Geddy Lee of Rush) while the panelists were getting situated on stage), he used the example of how the music industry has changed and challenged us to think about the future of real estate that way.  In the breakout brainstorming session that followed, I was the discussion leader / facilitator for one of the groups.  We decided to focus on office.  These are a few concepts that we all agreed are important for us to keep in mind: 
  • "Cool" space
  • People want to work for a company seen as "cool" (this isn't about what the company does but more how it exists).
  • People want to have the ability to work together, to be part of the flow.
  • More common / group / team space will be needed
  • "Group space vs. a space for a collection of individuals."
  • Provide amenities:  gym / free food and coffee / child care
The discussion was very lively.  Phrases like "Future Proofing" and "Density Collaboration" were offered into the mix by other tables, not as cool as ours of course, but cool in their own right!  Also, these are things that will help you attract and retain people.  

Eye Contact
So I'm sitting by myself in a restaurant the other night thinking I'd be watching the Yankee/Tiger game but it was rained out and the bartender couldn't figure out how to find anything other than some QVC show.  But right in my line of sight is a woman talking with a man.  I can see her but I can only see his back.  Without seeming like it (I think anyway) I watched.  This woman made such wonderful eye contact with this guy.  

This week when I spoke with students at DePaul University and The University of Chicago on Careers in Real Estate-Connecting the Dots I asked them how long a first impression took.  Based on my belief, they were right-on:  Four seconds.  It's the time it takes to shake someone's hand and look into their eyes.  It's really important, both the handshake and the eye contact.  And, while I'm at it, about the handshake:  wimpy ones are unacceptable but those of you who feel the need to crush my hand, please, save it for the gym!

"The Rainbow Room Is Now A City Landmark"
So said the headline in the NY Times this week. The Rainbow Room is the "65th floor space with the see-forever views at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan".  I've been there over the years for drinks and for a couple of industry events.  It's been vacant since 2009.  But I have a personal story to relate....Baum + Whiteman Group (see below) were retained to reinvent The Rainbow Room.  In December 1987 it reopened with a new twist:  Evergreen, a healthy restaurant. Baum + Whiteman Partner, Michael Whiteman,  invited me to eat there with him shortly after the opening.  At that point, I was being particularly careful about what I ate.  The attraction/gimmick was that you got a printout of the caloric, etc. components of your meal.  Sadly, the concept was way too far ahead of it's time and didn't last long.  Whiteman and I remain good friends, ever since a trip we took to Louisiana together in, 1985/6 to scout out possible local tenants for a food court to be part of a new mall that the company I worked for was going to build at I-10 and Siegan Lane in Baton Rouge.  The mall was never built but the trip was legendary and launched our friendship.  Michael, no blushing now, is one of the smartest most forward thinking restaurant/food people in the world and his credentials are there to prove it.  Oh, one other food thing:  Michael's wife is Chef/Author Rozanne Gold.   Check her out!

The Eight of Them
First ever photo of my sons, Brian (top) and Kevin with their wives, Bridget (Brian) on left and Marissa (Kevin) on right and the kids:  Top (Sean).  Bottom l-r:  Gavin (Sean's bro) and Benjamin and Edie (the twins).  Wow!

Help Shannon Corey Help Kids
I met Shannon in 2006 when I bought a Yamaha digital piano from her via Craigslist.  I didn't know it at the time but she is a very talented professional singer/songwriter.  I got to see her perform recently at the legendary Bitter End in NY. While there she told me about her trip to Nepal in January 2013 to bring music to orphans.  She needs some financial help.  Here's the link to donate (btw, she only needs $2500 and has already raised $650).  On behalf of Shannon (who has no idea that this is being mentioned her)...Thank you!

"There is no try.  There is do or do not."  Yoda

  • Anatole Pevnev who has joined ORG Real Property as Director of Research
  • David Schaefer who has joined AEW as head of their Asia business
  • Phil Greenberg who is now Senior Managing Director at C-III Capital Partners
  • Howard Fields who has joined Inland Institutional Capital Partners as Senior Vice President

Special: 17 Hottest Food and Dining Trends for Restaurants and Hotels, 2013 
It's that time of year when Baum+Whiteman International Food+Restaurant Consultants give us a peek through the drive-up window of what will be cool and happening next year.  The whole report is here.  And, here's, you'll excuse the expression, is a 'taste to whet your appetite!"
  • Menu shuffling aimed at flexitarians
  • Donuts getting bizarre upscaling
  • Weider and weider desserts
  • Too many tasting menus

Susan Hudson-Wilson Memorial Music Spot:
One of my all-time favorite songs, When You Wish Upon A Star.  Have loved it since I first saw Pinocchio as a kid.  Play this version for your children.  They will love it too!

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your dreams
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

1940 Academy Award for "Best Original Song."  Writeen by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington. Performed by Cliff Edwards in character as Jiminy Cricket.

On the road...

Oct. 22-24:  Los Angeles for the Pension Real Estate Association (PREA) Annual Investor Real Estate Conference
Oct. 25-26:  Amsterdam to attend and moderate a panel on global capital raising and "The Great Debate" at the PERE Global Investor Forum (Btw: I got a sneak peak at the full attendee list this's a great bunch...if you haven't made plans to attend, you may want to seriously think about it). 
Nov. 6:  Hartford, Connecticut 
Nov. 7:  Washington, DC-Johns Hopkins University speak with students on "Careers in Real Estate-Connecting the Dots."
Nov. 8-9:  New York to attend, moderate a panel and act as chairman for Day Two at the PERE Summit.
Special Event:  Nov. 8:  Following the PERE reception please join me and some your industry friends for a YBYO (You Buy Your Own) drink and famous Joe G Pizza (I provide).

Joe G Restaurant
244 W. 56th Street (Bet. B'way and 8th)
Down the stairs from the DaVinci Hotel
Start: 6:30pm
Bring your industry friends.  The more the merrier (and maybe someone will even buy me a drink!)

Nov. 15-18:  New York.  My brother Jay makes a rare visit
Nov. 19-24: London
Dec. 3-4:  Chicago for NAREIM's First Annual Capital Raising and Investor Relations Meeting
Dec. 20-Jan.3:  Return to Liberia with The MacDella Cooper Foundation.  It's been six years since my last visit; a lot of progress has been made. I need to see it and hopefully see some of the kids that I got to know in 2006.
Feb. 27-28:  Hong Kong to attend the PERE Summit: Asia.

Trips in the works:
  • New Zealand:  My good friend, John, has been encouraging me to visit for years.  Why wait any longer?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Special OTR: The Industry Remembers Susan Hudson-Wilson

Thank you to everyone for sharing your thoughts, feelings and stories about Susan Hudson-Wilson who died suddenly on October 5, 2012.  She was 60.  I just wanted to share these with you.  The loss to Susan's family is unimaginable.  And we have lost one of our our own.
(Note: The original column is at the end )

  • "I had the great benefit to having worked with SWH "I had the great benefit to having worked with SHW on a number of occasions, and she was an inspiration." Jon Lekander,Global Head-Property Multi-Manager, Aberdeen Asset Management 

  • "I was among those who was more the beneficiary of her research and thought-leadership.  I met her a number of times informally and knew several of her professional prodigy who have also given much to our industry.  One of my recollections is her chairing an inter-active session, I think at PREA, some years ago.  The topic was something about the role of real estate in an institutional investment portfolio and I believe it was the last session of the last day.  The presentation was disappointingly flat, and I knew at the time it was because almost no one in the room knew enough about the other asset classes to contribute meaningfully to the topic.  She was always just so far ahead of the rest of us."  Jon Willis, Principal, Global Property Strategies

  • "As a former client and ULI colleague of hers you paid a touching tribute. Shared it with a friend, Joanna Stimson, who was her fourth hire at PPR and she too thought it was quite fitting."  Ken Munkacy, Senior Managing Director-International Group, GID Investment Advisers

  • "When Tom Klugherz and I were at GE Capital Investment Advisors in the mid-1990s, the firm hired PPR (they had to have been brand-new) as a research consultant. We would hold big market-review discussions with Susan, Steve Coyle, Bret Wilkerson, Josh Scoville and a few others. One of the fellows would go into great detail on a given metro, delving into employment stats, absorption and whatnot. He’d wrap up just when we were getting close to information overload. Then Susan, who had been standing by silently, would say, “We think San Jose is a yummy market.” And that was that! Doug Holm

  • "I almost fainted when I read your blog; it is so hard to believe that we will never hear another one of her well thought out, timed, and pointed statements about issues in the real estate investment world.  I always admired Susan and wished I could have known her better.  As one of the leading voices in the institutional investment industry representing our “asset class”, she helped push real estate into its legitimate role as a significant part of a well diversified portfolio.  As a fellow CFA, I was thrilled with her work to add real estate to the list of topics that are studied in the CFA curriculum.  Unfortunately, there seems to have been no voice to replace hers. She was an icon." 
    Leanne Tobias, Managing Principal, Malachite LLC

  • "I was deeply touched by your superb piece on my wife Susan, as well as by the wonderful comments from people I knew well personally or by constant reference in conversation with Susan. I appreciate the humor and candor and attention to detail, as would Susan herself! She is missed horribly, but always present." John Wilson, Susan's Husband

  • " A wonderful lady who also served as a sterling example for women in the industry.  So very sad."  Lynn Cherney, Global Real Estate Practice Leader, Spencer Stuart

  • " To say that she was a mentor would be an understatement not to mention what she did for women, our industry and everyone she touched. And always with a sense of dignity and humor."  Mary Hull, Managing Principal, Westbrook Partners 

  • "We have lost a great person. I met her first when she was at AEW – early 90s I think – and remained a huge fan ever since. She certainly inspired me through my career. Jeannette Rice, Rice Consulting Inc

  • "Wonderful tribute.  She will be “wicked” missed."  Nori Gerardo-Leitz, President, Areté Capital

  • "Steve –  I never had the opportunity to personally meet Susan, but know her contributions to our industry are immeasurable.  I feel like I know her much better after reading your fantastic tribute!" Grant Walker, Teacher Retirement System of Texas

  • "She was the one that reminded us that when talking about public, private, debt and equity the term "4 quadrants" was redundant!" Catherine Schuster, Head of Communications and Client Services, Real Estate, UBS Global Asset Management. 

  • "Dear Steve, I hope that this e-mail finds its way to you. I read your tribute to my sister-in-law this morning and wanted to thank you for such a beautifully written item. Susan married my brother more than 40 years ago. She has been my best friend, source of inspiration and greatest cheerleader for all those years. I can't thank you enough for sharing your thoughts and feelings." Amy Wilson Demers

  • "Nice column. I was at PPR after she sold the company to DMGI, but she never really left." Jeff Havsy, Director of Research, NCREIF

  • "In the  early 90's I was head of research at the Property Council of Australia (NAREIT, NCREIF, NAREIM, BOMA all under one roof). I instigated a series of seminars where we brought the best real estate research minds to Australia - Michael Giliberto, Jacques Gordon, Blake Eagle, Charles Wurtzebach, Will McIntosh to name a few. And of course Susan. Susan returned a few times. I remember clearly her first presentation on four quadrant investing which really challenged the way Australians could look at real estate investing. Susan's research was well circulated in Australia as unfortunately we didn't, and still don't have a strong research community and very few people were writing and challenging our thinking the way Susan did. You describe her to a tee in your email but I would add her legacy goes well beyond just the US real estate industry." 
    Adrian Harrington, Head of Funds Management, Folkestone Limited

    The Original Column:
    On the Road with Steve Felix
    October 12, 2012

    Susan Hudson-Wilson

    The news about the death of Susan Hudson-Wilson (aka Susan H-W) this week was shocking in it's abruptness. Last Friday, she died from a severe cerebral aneurysm.  The medical team who investigated her death said that this could have occurred at any time or place and only coincidentally happened at the end of a joyous and successful safari in Africa. 

    Many of you know Susan.  Many more of you have heard of her.  Still more have been the beneficiaries of the output of her research and strategy work. 

    She was generous with her time and helped younger people grow.  When you were being considered for employment at PPR it was more of an audition for a Broadway show than an interview as everyone, no matter what job they were applying for, had to make a presentation in front of the whole team. Theme picked by the candidate – you present on a subject you know, you have command of, therefore are more comfortable with.  That way you’re not making stuff up and they got a better view of how you think on your feet.  Plus – the whole process helped those already on the team learn and hone their question asking skills – a “two-fer” as I learned Susan would call it. 
    Susan and I knew each other for a good number of years.  She was a regular reader of this column.  Probably six or seven years ago now, I went to the rooftop gym of a hotel in, gee I wish I could remember, some European city where we were both attending an industry event.  She was on the rowing machine and I walked in.  We said hello and she said, "Enough with the music stuff in OTR.  Get back to real estate!"  Of course, she was right and I listened.  She was like that.  She took an interest and had a passion for everything she did. 
    Life is just too mysterious to try to figure things out.  We don't know why someone so vital, so alive,  dies so young.  Even if there's a medical reason it doesn't stop us from asking, "Why her or him."  There is no rhyme or reason to so many things in life.  Why, why, why.  The answer is:  we have no friggin' clue.  
    Susan H-W gave a lot to the industry. She gave of herself, tirelessly, generously, caringly.  Not everyone does.  That's what makes her special in my mind and she took a lot of time to do things she was passionate about.  
    Another memory I have of Susan is sitting at a table during the cocktail time at an AFIRE meeting with Susan, John Streiker of Sentinel and Ted Leary of Crosswater.  If you think I got a word in edgewise, you are sadly mistaken!  We talked a lot.  We had a couple of glasses of wine. We laughed a lot.  We debated.   I don't know how much actual listening was going on but it was a scene that I've always remembered fondly and will cherish even more now.  

    Remembrances from others about Susan H-W:

    • "She told us off on a regular basis and made us pay for it."  A former client.

    • "I'm still stunned.  Susan had a huge impact on moving our industry forward at a critical time in it's evolution.  She leaves a big gap in the real estate research ranks."  Wylie Greig, former Head of Global Real Estate Research, RREEF

    • "Susan was one of our best speakers and moderators.  She spearheaded many Trustee panels and many segments at Spring and Fall meetings.  She asked the tough questions and challenged us all to think deeper and smarter."  ULI Obituary

    • "I will miss Susan. She was always a lot of fun to be around.  Having co-authored four articles with her, I can tell you that SHW (her track-changes initials) was absolutely never shy about offering up a provocative thought, a catchy phrase or a creative approach to data analysis.  Funny how our industry can feel like a "family" at times like this!"  Jacques Gordon, Global Investment Strategist, LaSalle Investment Management

    • "Susan was an incredible thought leader for this industry who will be sadly missed by so many of us.  I am struggling to get my mind to accept this bright, inspiring, energetic woman, who has always made me think harder about my views on every subject, is no longer with us."  Lynn Thurber, Chairman, LaSalle Investment Management.

    • "She touched so many people, each one in a very personal way.  Always looking to elicit something more thoughtful, more effective, ultimately to induce a better outcome.  We are fortunate to have had her in our lives and our careers.” Bret Wilkerson, Managing Director, Hawkeye Partners and former CEO of PPR.

    • "I still have one of the “Free the Damn Data” buttons she had made up and handed out at a NCREIF meeting back in the “old days” which was certainly one of the catalysts to us now having a lot more disaggregated data for research on the real estate asset class.  And as one of the founders of RERI she helped make sure the data flowed to academics who could use it to help us better understand the asset class.  She was one of the first “Road Warriors” that helped pave the way for real estate to be included in institutional real estate portfolios.  And she continued her contributions to the asset class with her work on the REIS board.   We certainly all benefited from having Susan as a advocate for the real estate asset class even if it meant being scolded by her from time to time!  I will be the first to toast her at PREA or wherever we all find ourselves having a drink." Jeff Fisher, President of The Homer Hoyt Institute.
    • "We will miss her brilliant mind, her unwavering resolve and her "wicked" sense of humor." Claudia Faust, Co-Founder / Managing Partner, Hawkeye Partners
    • "I am beyond devastated about Susan.  She not only was a great mentor to me, she was a life force that no one in her grip could quite escape (and I say that with all respect). Susan was an iconoclast.  She had her moral sensibilities and her sense of code, but it never wavered and one never had to guess on what side of it they stood.  Susan was black and white.  For this, and for so much else, I adored her.  My only regret is that she never fully forgave me for leaving her/PPR.  In reality, I never left Susan (I never will). I only decided to take another job (which Susan had prepared and prepped me for in spades), because it was the next step in the evolution of my career.  I will remain forever indebted to Susan and all that she did for me.  I will miss her until my days on this earth are through.  My parting thoughts are....Susan, may you fly with the angels.  As Frank Sinatra sand (lyric by Paul Anka), you did it "your way."  I love and miss you."  Steve Coyle, Chief Investment Officer, Cohen & Steers Global Private Real Estate Multimanager Strategy
Surely, Susan is now challenging the status quo in the great beyond.  We need her to do that for us.  Speaking on behalf of myself and those readers of OTR who know Susan, our sincerest condolences to Susan's family.  It seems so little to say but maybe, out of this, we can take away another reminder that life is short and we just don't know what tomorrow will bring.

At the upcoming PREA event you know there will be Susan H-W stories exchanged, glasses clinked in toasts and teary eyes (nice timing Susan, deciding to take this trip just before PREA!). 

As Jacques said, we are a family. We are a high stakes industry, dealing in trillions of dollars of real estate investments but when you come down to it, we are simply a group of people, working to make a living, doing something we love and enjoying and respecting the people we do it with.  In that way, we are among the luckiest people in the world.  

I can't know for sure what Susan would write me after she read this column today but I have a feeling:  she would say, "I liked it. You focused on the industry."  And, for this column, in dedication to Susan, I deleted all the other OTR stuff that I had written to publish today.  It can surely wait for another day.  But what can't wait is for us to remember Susan.  To talk about her.  To heal ourselves.  To hug each other.  To let ourselves feel.  To appreciate what she meant to the industry as a whole and to those of us fortunate enough to know her personally.  And then, we will move forward, hopefully, really and truly remembering how precious each day we have on earth is; not taking anything or anybody for granted; being kind to each other; laughing; enjoying life; taking chances and loving ourselves and each other.

As I wrote in my song (listen free here), "Live Your Life" (Note:  The brilliant and emotional guitar work is by my friend, Ernie Hendrickson)

They say it's long but it's really short and you say you don't have time
You can spend your days, dreaming of the way to live it
But you say that you've got things to do before your time will come
You're the only one who can really make a difference.
You just make that call, keep your eye on the ball, and don't let anyone say no
You just live your life, love your life and when go you go you'll never have regrets
Live your live, love your life, don't think twice do it right
Live your life, love your life, don't think twice it's all right!Okay Susan, I threw something about music in. I couldn't help myself.  This one is for you!

Susan Hudson-Wilson

Blog Archive