Wednesday, April 27, 2016

King's Day in Amsterdam / Erwin Stouthamer's Funeral / Visit with INREV / PERE LA / NYC - Greenville, SC by train / Young Survivor Coalition / Women's Leadership Workshops/ Steve's Pizza - Drink Thing May 16th

The Funeral of Erwin Stouthamer
I came over to attend the funeral on Monday of Erwin Stouthamer.  Many of you in the institutional real estate world know Erwin as the successful founder of Composition Capital, a real estate multi-manager business he launched in 2005.  The funeral was particularly somber as Erwin was only 55 years old.  He died, as too many people today, from a cancer. 

I wanted to share the beautiful eulogy spoken at the celebration of Erwin’s life by Peter Pereira Gray, an advisor to Composition from the beginning:


It is said that you can tell the stature of a man by what he does that is over and above that which he needs to do. And his smile. By any measure though, Erwin was a giant.

Not because he has a great C.V. Not because he was on all the industry committees that mattered, and he led some of them, but because he was a big man, with a big heart, and a big vision, a big set of values and beliefs and he took big principled positions on life, its opportunities, and its challenges.

In business he was quiet, and gentle, intuitive, sensitive, intelligent and fiercely determined. He had an extraordinary work ethic. He chose integrity, dignity, quality, service, patience, perseverance, caring, and courage as the principles for his business. And he was humble, I never saw an ego, and in the last year, I never heard him complain. He inspired me from almost the first moment we met in 2001. He inspired then, and then over the last 15 years...he inspires me today... and he will inspire me tomorrow.

In 2004 he was sharing deeply with me his ambitions...and we formulated a belief that it was possible, in a fund management business, to be successful AND do the right thing by your investors. We talked of putting the legal documents on the shelf once they were signed and leaving them there, to then just trust in the relationship and in simply doing the right thing. And I watched him try to do just that.

It was an honor to join his team on that journey...the privilege was all mine. When I was regularly asked how could I do so when I was so publicly critical of the industry and its practices, there was a simple answer. ' Go and meet Erwin'. Of those that did, no one ever called me a hypocrite.

Here was a man who believed in running a business by values, not by rules. Words are cheap in this business. Believe me, I know. But it is what you do, not what you say, that marks a man. And by his actions, he was a giant of a man.

If there could be a criticism, it might be that he believed just a little too much, was a little too optimistic, a little too passionate...he was the classic entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs may not be easy to live with, or to work for, but it is entrepreneurs that change the world. And as I look at the world today, with all its enormous challenges, it seems very clear to is precisely those characteristics which he brought to this world that we need more of right now. We need more Erwins.

As a businessman, I am fiercely competitive for results, but a life lived well cannot just be judged by returns...the journey matters too, is just as powerful a legacy. And that is what we have here today. A giant legacy.

A friend shared these words with me about Erwin.

'A presence as powerful and gentle simply cannot be extinguished from this world. For those that know him, we will all carry his memory going forward in our lives and we will be better people for it'.

Erwin in peace my dear friend. You are indeed a giant of a man.

Oh, that each of us, as we move from this life into the next, might have someone say even a fraction of these heartfelt comments. 

King’s Day – Amsterdam
Imagine a flea market on steroids.  That’s King’s Day in Amsterdam.  Today, April 27, all across the city, on sidewalks, people set up and sell whatever they have been holding on to for just a moment like this. Of course, there are also the obligatory food trucks. While the weather did not cooperate completely I did walk some of the streets, filled to a screeching crawl.  Before setting out I had in mind one or two things that I might consider buying:  a small statue of a giraffe (my favorite animal) or a small painting that would remind me of this trip.  If it doesn’t start pouring rain (or hailing with the sun out as it did on Monday) I may venture out again – even though my tolerance for crowds is not very high.  It’s an interesting phenomenon and I’m glad I got to be here to experience it.

Visit with INREV

While in Amsterdam, I visited the new offices of INREV, the European Association of Non-Listed Real Estate Vehicles.  Meeting with CEO Matthias Thomas, I reminisced about being introduced to INREV in 2004 and attending numerous annual meetings.  There were then 3 employees of the association – now there are around 35!  Over the years, some people have referred to INREV as the PREA (Pension Real Estate Association) of Europe.  INREV offers training courses in various European cities on such topics as Sustainability, Rick Management, Effective Due Diligence and Investor Relations and Communication. As more and more US and Canadian pension funds have expanded their investment reach to Europe, they have become members of INREV.  Liz Middleton is the person to contact for information on the special membership arrangement that is offered to North American institutional Investors. 


I was in Los Angeles recently to attend the PERE Global Investor Forum.  PERE was kind enough to invite me to conduct what has become my signature panel called “A Day in the Life of an LP.”  We had senior representatives from three large public pension funds and a lively conversation  - about what it’s like to be in the shoes of an LP (Limited Partner)– pension fund, endowment, foundation, sovereign wealth fund, family office, etc.)  We talked about how LP’s like to be communicated with, especially how much and what a ‘new’ manager should and shouldn’t send. 

14-hours from New York to Greenville, SC
A few weeks ago, over coffee with an industry friend, I learned that one can take the Amtrak train quite a distance on the East Coast.  I’d used Amtrak many times when I was working in Manhattan and living in Montreal.  That ride is beautiful – basically straight up the Hudson River.  The longest trip took 9 hours but that included a 2-hour stop at the Canada/US border.

Last Monday I decided to take the train from New York to Greenville, SC (about an hour drive from where I’m now living in Arden, NC).  It’s a 14-hour ride that left New York’s Penn Station at 2:15pm.  Trains are fascinating to me.  You get to see a view that you can’t get anywhere else.  Sure it’s the backs of people’s houses, their backyards and whatever. It’s also a lot of factory type buildings.  Along this route in certain areas I’ve noticed that some of the most modern and significant size projects are universities and hospital / health care related. 

The views were interesting and in some cases beautiful – that was until sunset at around 8pm.  Thereafter, for the following 8 hours it was pitch black!  However, I did accomplish what I planned – serious work on my book, ‘Driving With Your Knees’, which I have made a promise to myself to publish for Christmas 2016 after working on it (on and off) for almost 10 years.   I probably won’t take that train ride again but have had on my list to take the Cross Canada Train – perhaps this coming summer.

Young Survivor Coalition
I have recently become aware of a wonderful global non-profit called Young Survivor Coalition, which provides informational resources, advocacy, forums and face-to-face connections for young women diagnosed with breast cancer.  Because of their young age, these women face unique issues and challenges. 

YSC's signature fundraising gala is in NYC on Friday, May 20th.  For tickets to this exciting event, donate and/or participate in their online silent auction please visit this website.

Women’s Leadership Workshops
The previous 15 Women’s Leadership Workshops that my partner Liz Weiner have conducted – exclusively for women in the commercial / institutional real estate community – have attracted women from more than 70 industry related firms.  These 4-hour interactive workshops help women develop more professional presence – something needed in our male-dominated industry.  The last two before our summer break will be May 5 in Chicago and May 18 in New York City.  Information and registration may be found here.  The cost is $479/person, which includes a networking wine/cheese reception immediately following the workshop. 

Congratulations to my friends…
  • Peter Hobbs on joining bFinance as Managing Director
  • Bruce Davidson in his new role as Director – Real Estate Investments and Capital Markets at Linx Industries
  • Neil Harris (GIC) on his appointment as chairman of INREV – the real estate fund association for Europe and to Guido Verhof (PGGM), now a member of INREV’s management board and Allan Mikkleson (ATP) and Eric Adler (Pramerica / Prudential Real Estate Investors) who were re-elected to the board.

Steve’s Pizza / Drink Thing
When? Monday, May 16
Where?  Joe G Restaurant, 244 W. 56th Street (bet. B’way and 8th Avenue and downstairs from the DaVinci Hotel)
Time?  6ish – 9ish pm
What is it? Hang out with a diverse group of commercial real estate industry folks - some you know - some you'll meet for the first time
What's the deal?   I supply the famous Joe G pizza; you buy your own drinks

I hope you’ll be able to join me. No RSVP is required.  Thanks.

On The Road….
May 5:  Women’s Leadership Workshop, Chicago, IL
May 10 – 11:  Annual meeting of The Hoyt Fellows, North Palm Beach, FL
May 18:  Women’s Leadership Workshop, NYC
May: 19:  PERE CFO/COO Forum, NYC
June 13 -14:  IMN Opportunity and Private Real Estate Funds Forum, NYC (Once again I’ll be moderating my signature panel – ‘A Day in the Life of an LP).

Note: I’ve learned that this column is ending up in some people’s SPAM folders.  I’m trouble-shooting the issue but mentioning it as a place to look every once in a while.  Thanks.

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