Tuesday, December 8, 2020

John Lennon

Today is the 40th Anniversary of John Lennon’s murder.  Just like when JFK was assassinated I (and probably many of you) remember exactly where you were when you the news that evening that John Lennon was dead.  It was unfathomable – why?  But ‘why’ isn’t able to always be answered in matters like this – as in a lot of other matters in life.

I had one ‘direct’ experience with John.

It was about 1972 or 1973 and I was hanging out in Jersey City, NJ with Tommy and Freddy, old bandmates from the group ‘Everyone.’  It was either a late Sunday afternoon or early evening.  We were driving around in my car listening to John Lennon being interviewed on an FM radio station in NY.  We just figured it had been previously taped.  Then, something was said – we knew it was live – happening right then!

I turned the car around and we headed to the Holland Tunnel – that connects New Jersey with Lower Manhattan.  We knew the building that the radio station had its studio, on Sixth Avenue around 50th street.  There was hardly any traffic and we made great time.  

Of course, we listened to the interview in the car, hoping that it wasn’t going to end before we got there.  We got to the building.  The streets were amazingly quiet for NY and I pulled around the corner and parked – legally or illegally we didn’t care.  We were sitting in the car, windows open, just watching the front entrance of the building.  We saw a limo parked on 6th Avenue and we were pretty sure it was waiting for John and Yoko. 

Not long after we got there, sure enough John, Yoko and Dave Herman, the DJ, walk out of the building.  John, long beard and his famous white suit, just strolling out of the building without a care in the world and going down the stairs to the street.  It was amazing – we were literally the only people around!

As they got closer to the limo I jumped out of the car and went to stand on the street pretty close to the limo.  As they slowly started moving up 6th Avenue, I stepped to the corner and held out my thumb, as in hitch-hiking.  Lennon rolled down his window and with a smile flashed me the peace sign.  It was something I’ll never forget.

My former bandmates actually got to meet John at a club on the Upper East Side called ‘Home’ where they played periodically hoping to be discovered.  I sat in with them from time to time as they had not replaced me on keyboards. But those nights that I sat in John was not there.

Just thought I’d share this one with you.

Please take care and stay safe!


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veterans Day 2020

In honor of Veterans Day, and in the spirit of all of your family members and friends who have served in the military, I wanted to publish a portion of the eulogy for my father Manney 'The' Felix (no middle name!).  Dad died at age 92 on November 20, 2009.

Clearly the time that most defined your life was your time in the Army Air Corps.  It’s totally fitting and right that you are being laid to rest among other veterans who served their country with honor and distinction.

You enlisted in the Army shortly after Pearl Harbor because you were angry about America being attacked.  You served in World War II in the Army Air Corps, Technical Air Intelligence, 389th Service Squadron where you were an airplane instrument specialist.  Your military geography included Fort Dix, NJ; Jefferson Barracks, MO; Chanute Field, IL; Pendleton, OR; Ephrata, WA; Butte, MT; Alameda CA.  You saw duty in Townsville, Australia; Noemfoor, Dutch East Indies; and Leyte and Luzon in the Philippines.  While at Clark Field on the island of Luzon you were assigned to Technical Air Intelligence in charge of aircraft instruments.  Your assignment was to make ready and test fly all the captured Japanese planes and send out reports on all the flying characteristics of each airplane.  As a reward for your excellent work in supervising the instrument crew, you were made the crew chief on one of the captured planes called, “The Jill” which was to be taken back to Washington, DC.  

Starting at Alameda Naval Air Base in Oakland, CA, you and pilot Jay Perin (whom my brother Jay is named after) made what was to be a two-day flight to Anacostia Naval Base outside Washington, DC into a two-week adventure that included a stop for Jay to visit with his parents, an air show, a hurricane and an almost parachuting experience when the hydraulic pump and pump to switch to an alternate fuel tank failed to work properly.  The stops in “The Jill’ included Long Beach, CA; San Diego, CA’ El Paso, TX; Dallas, TX; Little Rock, AK; Nashville, TN; Cincinnati, OH; and Elkins, WV.  Most definitely a memorable excursion.

You were honorably discharged after spending time in various “Pacific Theatre” locations where you survived enemy bombings and other types of attacks.  You told us a story that the reason you didn’t like to drink water was that at one of your bases, perhaps in the Philippines, you had learned that the locals used to piss in the water that ran down to your water supply!

We’ve all heard you tell the story of “The Jill”, perhaps enough that we could tell it ourselves.  Even recently, when Brian and Kevin and Marissa visited you in the hospital, you asked them, “Did I ever tell you the story of ‘The Jill’?” and then proceeded to tell them an abbreviated version with the same enthusiasm as always.  Eleanor told me that you would tell it to anyone who would listen.

Earlier this year you and “The Jill” were reunited one last time in a cold Smithsonian Museum hanger where, even though you were having difficulty walking, you climbed up a tall ladder, twice, to look inside the cockpit, examine everything and after you came down off the ladder you said, “Yes, that’s my Jill.”  Eleanor says you couldn’t stop talking about that day for the last 10 months of your life and the story you wrote about your military career and “The Jill” will always be considered a beautiful family heirloom.  

So, “Thanks Dad.” Thanks for being there for us in some of our darkest moments; thanks for being who you are to all of us individually and for hanging around this long as the final member of a Felix generation now gone, except for the photographs and the memories.  

Thanks for thinking of the future and buying that little 8mm Revere movie camera, with the blinding spotlights when I was born and giving us wonderful, forever lasting documentation of our youth; of learning to swim at Silver Point Beach Club; of you teaching us how to play baseball; of family parties and holidays; of many family members, now long gone, including my mother Lorna, your first wife.  Thank you for setting a good example.  Thank you in so many ways I can’t even remember right now.  I do know that we’ll be toasting your life later with…yes, bananas and sour cream.

Friday, August 28, 2020

It's not fair

 Last week, a good friend wrote me about the concept of ‘fair.’ Or maybe it was the concept of ‘unfair’ – they run together.  I’ve been thinking about it all week.
Is it fair that my youngest brother Gregg was born brain-damaged?
Is it fair when you’re fired (or as a HR friend of mine has told me it’s called ‘laid off’), for no reason or fabricated reasons?
Is it fair when you have helped people, without a quid pro quo, but when you could use their help they’re not there for you?
Is it fair when a family member or close friend or business colleague gets cancer or another life-ending disease?  It’s bad enough when that person is 90 but it’s different when that person is 65 (like my first wife, Sharon, the mother of my sons) or even younger?
Is life fair?
I always thought it should be. But it’s not.  It’s simply not.
Why? We just don’t know.  There’s no rationale to it.  There is no rhyme or reason to it. 
And, when something happens, and you say to yourself, “That’s just not fair” well, it probably is not fair and that’s the most difficult part.  It’s not fair.
As much as people may suggest you can rationalize things – “Oh, that happened because of this or because of that” – most things didn’t happen because of this or because of that – they just happened.
If I travel to a country that is experiencing an epidemic – because I want to help - and something happens to me – well, that’s not fair because I was doing something good.  But I made a decision to go and there was a reason I wanted to go and I understood the risks.   But it’s still not fair that I should die or get sick while helping other people.
The fireman that died on September 11 were doing their jobs – to save people’s lives.  Was it fair that they died?  (Can you believe that in a couple of weeks it’ll be 19 years!!). 
The people in the armed forces, of any nation on earth, who die in battle – many/most of them very young – is that fair?
I’m going out on a limb here to suggest that all of us have had something, or multiple things, that were ‘not fair’ happen to them or a loved one, or a work colleague, or a personal friend.  And, are there are degrees of ‘not fair’ with the ultimate ‘not fair’ being contracting a disease of some sort and having the doctor tell you, ‘You probably have only a year to live’ (Although in many cases it’s less than that as it was with my mother who, out of nowhere, like so much of this stuff happens, was diagnosed with brain cancer and told that she only had a few months to live. But in her case, when they told her she was already in a state of mind where she couldn’t comprehend what they were telling her.  But my brother and I could).  Why did she die at 68?  It wasn’t fair.
And we’re living in a world now that’s ‘not fair.’  What did we do to deserve this?  Why are we being punished?  It’s not fair.  But what we’re living through right now is another example of things being ‘not fair.’  Other than doing our best to take care of ourselves and our loved ones during this insane time, there’s nothing else we can do – try as we might. 
This is out of our control – at least for now.  Just like it’s out of anyone’s control when they’re given a horrible diagnosis.  Or when they’re killed or seriously injured in an auto accident with a drunk driver.  Or shot on the street in a gang war when you’re not even part of either gang.  Or run over by a car who has run a red light. Or be in an airplane that’s shot down by terrorists or where a bomb explodes.  Or when anything happens to someone that shouldn’t happen, that only happens because life, sadly, is not fair.
Letting go of things that are ‘not fair’ is not easy – to say the least.  Forgiving someone for something they did, on purpose, to hurt you is one thing.  But who do you forgive when someone dies, so young?  What did they do to deserve that fate?  Nothing!  And that’s why it’s so difficult to accept that life is just not fair and there’s nothing we can do about it and that’s the frustrating thing. And that’s why we need to take time each day to be mindful of how precious today is, one more day, and to remember that no matter what happened in the past it’s today that really matters.  The past is gone.  The future has not arrived.  We only have today.  Embrace today. Be grateful for today.  And remember that we can’t explain why bad things happen to good people.  That’s the saddest thing of all.  It’s just not fair. 
Stay safe my friends and be kind to each other. 


Saturday, August 22, 2020

In Memoriam. Trish Barrigan

Trish Barrigan and husband Ian

I heard the news today that Trish Barrigan died…another of our industry friends who has had cancer take them from us way, way too soon. 
While knowing her Benson Elliot partner Marc Mogull for many years Liz and I got to know Trish in 2017.  As a co-founder of WiRE (Women in Real Estate) her passion about helping women in the industry grow and reach their full potential was evidenced in her support of the Women’s Leadership Workshop we ran in London.  She offered to spread the word to the WiRE community and donated Benson Elliot’s conference room for the event. 
Immediately from the beginning of our interaction with Trish we experienced her passion, enthusiasm and professionalism.  She was a straight shooter. 
Liz and I learned about Trish’s death early this morning while playing a paddle ball game called Kadima in Riverside Park in New York City. Given her athletic abilities, even though Kadima is more of a fun than serious game, we feel she would have enjoyed joining us in a round.
It is my belief that we are known and remembered for how we helped others.  Trish certainly has touched many people’s lives. I’m including below excerpts from some of the postings I found about Trish.
Liz and I send our heartfelt condolences to her husband Ian and their children Jack and Grace, her partner Marc, all her Benson Elliot colleagues and industry friends. 
Allow me to share with you some wonderful testimonials to Trish:

Marc Mogull, who with Trish co-founded Benson Elliot said: “Today we lost a colleague, a leader and a dear, dear friend. We lost a champion for women in our industry, a mentor for many in our company and an inspirational figure for all. We lost someone who, more than anyone, can claim credit for building the great organization – the great family – that is Benson Elliot. For my part, I’ve lost one of my best friends.”

 “Trish has been at my side since the day Benson Elliot was first an idea, let alone an entity. Her talent was obvious to all who worked with her, both inside and outside the company.”

“What was only appreciated by those closest to her, though, was her humanity, her team spirit, her concern for each and every individual in our organization and her joy at watching her Benson Elliot family grow up alongside her family at home.

She leaves a legacy which we intend to honor suitably.”
Comments posted about Trish:

  • “she helped, inspired, led, trail-blazed and amused.’
  • “Trish always made me laugh.  Her smile beamed across a room and her eyes were always filled with energy…Trish has helped so many people in their careers and always offered support to friends.”
  • “…a terrific role model to all and a fantastic and committed advocate for women in real estate.”
  • “…a lovely and dynamic lady…she was always there for everyone”
  • “extremely driven and strong in a very tough industry.”
  • “had an energy of an enormous volcano – she would light up any room with her infectious laugh, huge smile and kindness.  She inspired all of us to be kinder, better, fitter, nicer and so much more.”
  • “we lost a real legend, someone I always saw as my role model.”
  • “I’ve worked with Trish for the last eight years.  You couldn’t work for her, you could only work WITH her.  With her great empathy for the people around and true respect for the achievements of others, she was not only a team player but a team leader in the best sense.”
  • “Dear Trish.  In the 25 years of my professional career, I have met a handful of people who have really inspired me.  You were one of them and you are already missed. We will not forget you.”
  • “My memories of you are always filled with laughter and smiles and fun!! Your zest for life and challenges will always be a source of wonder for me.”
  • “Trish was a person who lit up rooms, inspired you to misbehave (but in a good way, she always made me want to stay out longer than I should), inspired you to do better and made everything, everything just a little bit more fun.”
  • “…many people note how Trish was a mentor and a role model for women in the real estate industry, and she was undoubtedly that. But she was so much more than that. She was a mentor and role model to so many people of all genders, myself included. There is a large contingent of professionals in the market today that have benefited greatly from Trish’s training and mentoring.”
  • “She was so positive, passionate, smart, beautiful and encouraging. She was one of the good ones who really cared about people and not just about career and money like so many others. She was truly happy when someone excelled and such an inspiration in every way.  Boy, and could she party!”

Here's a link to my song 'Goodbye Old Friend' - dedicated to those people in my life who have been taken far too soon.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Interview with Mike Clarke - A friend who has made a difference in the global commercial real estate industry

Mike is a Senior Advisor to Accord Group Holdings, a Capital Advisory and Principal Investment firm.

Mike Clarke also runs his own consulting company, Mike Clarke Consulting Limited, advising property related businesses and fund managers on their business strategy, capital raising options, product architecture and product development. He also acts as a Non-Executive Director and Independent expert in litigation.

From March 2014 to December 2018, Mike was the Head of Investor Services EMEA for CBRE Global Investors where he was responsible for investor relations, equity raising, targeting of new investors and the delivery of creative investment solutions to clients in the EMEA region. Mike was a member of the Global Leadership Team, EMEA Executive Committee and EMEA Operations Committee.

Mike joined the global real estate industry in 1987 and has extensive experience both as an investor in and manager of real estate vehicles. Before joining CBRE Global Investors he was Senior Managing Director and Head of European Real Estate for Mesirow Financial. At Mesirow he was co-portfolio manager of a global fund of funds program with specific responsibility for sourcing, undertaking due diligence, executing and managing value add and opportunistic strategies in Asia and Europe.  Prior to this, he spent 18 years at Schroders where he grew assets under management from £160 million to over £8 billion through the development of a multi-product real estate strategy.

Mike is an active industry participant. He is a member of the INREV Management Board and is a regular speaker and trainer at INREV and other industry events. He is an external examiner at Oxford Brookes University for their Masters in Real Estate Investment Finance.

Q. How did you get your start in the commercial real estate industry?

Growing up in Norwich, approximately 100 miles North East of London in the UK, the only opportunity for work experience whilst at school, other than strawberry picking, was at the insurance company, Norwich Union (Now Aviva). I was lucky to be offered a summer in their estates department when I was 16 and realised what an exciting sector real estate was. I took the opportunity to meet members of the team who had entered the profession from different routes and decided that I would try and secure a place at University to study Estate Management which was a fast track to becoming a chartered surveyor.

I graduated from Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University) in 1987 with a BSc in Estate Management and secured my first role as a graduate broker with a small firm who had recently opened a London office.  Early on, I realised that we were not a natural fit so quickly moved to Liverpool Victoria Insurance as a Valuation Surveyor. Many of my friends were working in the large broker firms and dealing with Grade A developments. Meanwhile I was getting my hands dirty managing a mix of crappy residential and commercial assets in suburban London. It was a wonderful way to learn the complete food chain of real estate and the art of negotiation!

In 1989 my former valuation lecturer at University called me and persuaded me to join Hillier Parker May & Rowden (now CBRE) to do portfolio valuations. Due to the recession that hit a year later, I was able to concentrate on valuations for insolvency advice which gave me wonderful insight into how investment decisions can go so horribly wrong. These years were perfect training in risk management.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who has been in the industry for a short time or a student looking to get her or his start?

Focus on gaining in depth experience rather than working for purely a big - name employer. Those big-name employers will eventually find you if you have the right experience and attitude. From my experience, the larger firms do not give the best experience as recent graduates are such a small fish in a large pond. The smaller boutiques can give a lot more responsibility and face time with inspirational clients at an earlier stage once you gain the trust of your boss.

Look to the future of the industry rather than the past. I recall one mentee of mine from Oxford Brookes saying that his ambition was to work in Hong Kong like his Uncle had many years before as the lifestyle was awesome. I had to point out that a third of his classmates were now from Asia and they had language skills, culture and networks in Asia on their side. This was not the case when his Uncle had trained as a surveyor 30 years earlier. Going forward, I am convinced that global occupier services will be one of the best training grounds of any firm. Historically, this has been the graveyard slot for graduates. However, data and understanding how occupiers use real estate, is going to be so valuable.

While the current pandemic continues, internships and graduate jobs will be harder to come by. I am encouraging all my mentees to not get disheartened but to focus on how they can use their holidays to obtain relevant skills which will enable them to stand out from the crowd. A big frustration of mine is that real estate graduates often lack the basic skills needed in today’s financial environment. In particular, advanced financial modelling skills.  It is not surprising that many of the global firms recruit people from non-real estate courses to ensure they have the most financially literate personnel. This is so easy to fix given the plethora of training courses available and would show employers that the candidate has ambition and determination to succeed.

Q. As you look back on your career is there anything you wish you had done differently? If so, what?

I have been so lucky in being able to travel globally talking about the industry I love and meeting some wonderful and talented people. I have no regrets as such. However, I would try and do two things differently if I was starting all over again.

First, I would try and learn to speak more languages so I could immerse myself in more of the cultures. I am not convinced that my brain works that way, but I would encourage any readers who do have any language skills to maintain them and cultivate them at every opportunity. I am envious of my sister in law who tries to learn some of the language of every country she visits. Approaching 100 at the last count!

Second, I would have looked to work abroad early in my career. Living and working in a foreign country definitely provides a greater depth of understanding of the local market and how it operates. It also provides the opportunity for a broader network of relationships to be developed than when flying in and out on periodic business trips. Once one has family and commitments it definitely becomes a lot harder to take the step so these type opportunities need to be sought out as early as possible.

Q. Who have been the biggest influences on your career? How? Why?

I have been very honoured to have worked with and met some amazing people during the last 33 years. I have learnt so much from so many, for which I will forever be thankful.

The one mentor that I will never forget is Gideon Hudson, a former partner of Allen & Overy in London. Gideon was the lead partner and legal counsel for the Schroders real estate business which I joined in 1992. I was definitely wet behind the ears at this stage and suddenly found myself negotiating development funding agreements, investment acquisitions and joint venture agreements. Gideon sat by me in all key meetings and had a wonderful way of preventing me from agreeing to anything stupid whilst allowing me to appear in total control of the meeting. His guidance in advance of, and presence during, negotiations with some big players in the UK industry built my confidence and I will forever be thankful. Gideon kindly led the prayers at my wedding in 2002 and we still meet for lunch as he enjoys a well-earned retirement.

Whilst not a person, I would say that INREV has been a huge influence in my career. I have been involved with INREV since inception in 2003 and for the last 5 years have had the privilege of being a member of the management board. INREV has brought together some of the best talent in the unlisted real estate industry to improve working practices and improve the professionalism and transparency of the sector. In recent years INREV has spread its wings creating a global alliance with ANREV, NCREIF and PREA.  Throughout, they have created a great sense of community where all the participants have a collegiate approach and know how to have fun

Q. How will the real estate industry evolve post COVID-19, what is the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge that will come out of it?

The COVID 19 pandemic has allowed the world to press the pause button and assess what we want the future to look like. At the same time, it has had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the economies of all developed and developing countries which we will take a long time to recover from. I am convinced that we will all recover more quickly if all countries work together rather than individually.

I am hopeful that the inevitable higher unemployment will encourage re-training programmes which will allow us to speed up the transition to a net zero carbon environment.  A huge amount of work has been done by many real estate investors, managers and operators over the last 10 years and I believe we now have the opportunity to turbo boost the initiative. If we rise to this challenge, we will hopefully give our younger generations a future to look forward to.

Whilst global capital markets definitely influence real estate returns, local factors such as supply, demand and regulations have a greater impact. Local economies will react differently to COVID 19 depending on their reliance on public transport, concentration on individual employers or industry sector etc. Given this, I believe it is essential that investors ensure their portfolios are well diversified both domestically as well as internationally.  Those Real Estate Investment Managers who have a diversified product range should also be well placed to navigate the storm providing they provide great client service and reasonable relative investment returns.

One thing I am sure about is that people will want to return to holidays and socialising as soon as possible – I sure will!

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