Wednesday, January 19, 2022

In memoriam: Dick Steinberg - My mentor

In memoriam: Dick Steinberg

Dick Steinberg of Mall Properties / now Olshan Properties, died the other day.  

I got the news from a long-time friend, and former colleague at Mall Properties.

Dick was one of the most respected people in the shopping mall / shopping center industry.  He was Executive Vice President of the ‘vertically-integrated’ (although I don’t think that term was used much in the 1980’s when I worked there) firm that built several well - known regional malls:  Cortana Mall, Baton Rouge, LA; Coliseum Mall, Hampton, VA; Northway Mall, Colonie (Albany), NY.  

Dick was both my boss and mentor.  He taught me many things that were extremely valuable, not only to the work I did but also in my life.  Dick taught me the subtlities of negotiating real estate leases so that it resulted in a win-win.

He showed a sincere interest in me from the day I went to interview with he and Mort Olshan, CEO of Mall.  

Thinking back now I remember sitting with them in Dick’s office on the 11th floor of an office building on Madison & 60th Street.  I had been introduced to them by an industry friend, who worked at Mall Properties.  I was in between jobs.

As I sat there, answering questions, I saw they had interest in me. As the conversation progressed, I asked them for a ‘signing bonus.’  I remember both with big smiles on their faces and Mort said, ‘What, do you think this is the New York Yankees?’  Side note:  Mort became (and I believe still is) a significant shareholder in the Yankees!

Prior to joining Mall I had worked on some distressed retail property assignments.

Mall Properties had bought a large community shopping center in West Babylon, Long Island, NY with plans to renovate it and redevelop it with higher rents.  Shortly after that purchase closed, the one department store informed Mall that they would be moving to an enclosed regional mall in a town not that far away. 

That left a three-story, 160,000 square foot (if my memory serves me correctly) department store sitting in Great South Bay Shopping Center - not the highest priority location for another department store.  My first project was to turn that property around and Dick Steinberg and I worked closely together on that and ended up putting a Caldor Discount Department store on the first floor and worked at leasing the top two floors to office space - which was not a huge success.

I’d meet with Dick every day to report progress.  His door was always open and some days I’d walk in multiple times - discussing a lease I was negotiating and  sometimes moaning about the leasing how difficult things were.  He said, "You can do this...that's why we hired you!). 

Dick was always supportive and understanding of the challenges I was facing in this project (and others I inherited).  He always had some good suggestions of things I could try – and I did.  

Dick and I also worked together on the redevelopment of class-B enclosed mall in Colonie (Albany), New York called Northway Mall.  The timing was right, and we converted it to a successful outlet and off-price center. 

Dick Steinberg was always respectful of the team at Mall.  We all worked together well – even with challenging situations.

In 1985 when I had a heart scare (that turned out to be a misdiagnosis), when I was allowed to come back into the office for a half-day (which I was itching to do), Dick allowed me to use a car service to drive me to and from my house which was about a 40-minute drive in New Jersey.  

Dick was a Boston native and, as you would expect, had a typical Boston dry sense of humor – although he didn’t have that Boston accent.

Dick and I stayed in touch over the years; I’d go into the office when I was in the city and then, after he retired, we’d meet for lunch about once a year and catch up on things (mostly him asking me questions of how things were – in business and with me personally).  I always looked forward to seeing him.  I will miss him. Dick Steinberg was a class act.

My condolences to his wife and family.

RIP my mentor and friend…. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Friday Smile: Peter Lewis on the Koala Bear


Friday Smile

Many of you remember Peter Lewis.

I first met him when he worked for MIT and oversaw their real estate investing program.

Peter was, if not the first, one of the first significant size U.S. institutional investors to start investing outside the U.S.


Sadly, Peter died on March 2, 2013 - way before 'his time.'  I just this week found an email Peter wrote me on November 6, 2005, about something I had written in this column.

I hope it brings a smile to your face...just like it did to mine!

Peter Lewis on the Koala Bear

Hi Steve,


It was good to see you at that conference, however brief it was.  I don't know whether you can use this in your "On the Road" feature, but perhaps you'll find it amusing.  I was totally exhausted when I had the following crazy thoughts:


At the end of an exhausting week that included two separate trips, both without avoiding direct flights, but including two conference panels, numerous meetings, and generally being on all the time, sometimes the simplest, nondescript things assume undeserved attention.


Such was the case when I spotted Koala Kare Center in an airport restroom. Punchy from lack of sleep, I thought about the product name and imagined the convenience if I had decided to travel with my pet koala and nature had called.


I don’t often take her on business trips.  She doesn’t like traveling if she’s not in the main cabin even though she's from down under. It’s both claustrophobic and cruel to place her in my carry-on, and my clothes don’t always arise in pristine condition. Her claws are even sharper than the last one inserted by counsel in a recent document draft and her communications via “bellowing” can make the nights unbearable.  Add to that the difficulty in finding hotel atria with eucalyptus trees and you get an idea of the added complications. On the other hand, few other real estate professionals travel with a koala and there is a certain power in the first impression. 


As a baby, she was certainly popular with all the Cub fans in Chicago.  And then there’s the convenience of her pouch to carry CDs and boarding passes! I may take her with me more often now that I know that airports truly care. That means stocking up on koala diapers which are difficult to find at your local Wal-Mart, which tends to favor pandas.  She can run as fast as a rabbit, which has led to some hare-raising experiences, and she sleeps for up to 19 hours a day, perfect behavior for many conferences and presentations.  But travel excites her, and she is probably looking forward to a future trip to a namesake designation like Kuala Lumpur.


Saturday, January 1, 2022

2022: A year of second opportunities!


Apologies if you've gotten this already...having challenges with my distribution system...

2022: A year of second opportunities!

I feel 2022 is going to be a year of second opportunities (hey, there are lots of 2’s)! While ‘second chances’ is a commonly used phrase, ‘opportunities’ is much more positive, right?

Fortunately, I got a jump on the game in 2021 enrolling in a course called Positive Intelligence (Founded by Shirzad Chamine and facilitated by my business partner Liz Weiner).

It’s an amazing ‘mental fitness’ program that has been, and, I don’t use this expression lightly, life-changing. How, you may ask? Well, what the program offers are tools to identify and manage what they call our Saboteurs (I’ve referred to them as my Demons):

  • “Saboteurs are the voices in your head that generate negative emotions in the way you handle life’s everyday challenges. They represent automated patterns in your mind for how to think, feel, and respond. They cause all of your stress, anxiety, self-doubt, frustration, restlessness, and unhappiness. They sabotage your performance, wellbeing, and relationships.”

Pretty heavy, right? Well, it opened my eyes to a lot of things that had been having a negative influence on me. The program then also gave me ways to build my positive mindset.

One of my new year’s ‘resolutions’, for the past oh so many years, has been to take better care of myself. I am proud to say that I have made positive changes and that I know I will always be a work in progress (as I’m pretty sure all of us are!). I am sincerely feeling more at peace with myself and happier than ever before in my life!

So, you may want to take a look at how Liz describes this mental fitness coaching



The other day I started reading a book on the amazing new Kindle that my sons and their families gave me: “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 30 Things That Matter.” I’m only a little ways into it but have already found some powerful hints.

Here are some of my takeaways from the chapter called: Life is Also Fun…and Incredibly Funny. Btw, this truly resonates with me. For much of my life I took things way too seriously and I wasn’t much fun to be around - at least for just some of the time, I hope:)

  • “Human beings need to have fun. We need to play and most importantly we need to laugh”
  • “Life may be hard and at times unfair, but that doesn’t mean it has to be intolerable…humor is what helps the most”
  • “When we get bogged down with some of the ordeals of life, we need a diversion. One of the best is humor and one of the most important ways we can do that is to learn to not take ourselves so seriously”
  • “The only way to survive is to get plenty of laughs along the way. And we get those laughs when we look for them.” (Note from me: The author, Hal Urban, recommends watching two movies - Zorba the Greek and A Thousand Clowns. I saw the Clowns movie a million years ago - and I’m going to watch it again this weekend)
  • “...only when the mind is in a restful state does it work most creatively”
  • “People who laugh together can work longer and harder together, and with more effectiveness”
  • “Everything should be made as simple as possible”
  • “Laughter has been known to soothe jangled nerves, reduce tension, calm tempers, stimulate creativity and simply make life more fun”
  • “Laughter works wonders in relationships. Someone once said that laughter is the shortest distance between two people. It has a way of uniting them”
  • “It’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves. People who know how to laugh at themselves will never cease to be entertained”


A quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that I've always liked, "What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." [Note: I discovered this when I was consulting for Herb Kohler on the development of a high-end specialty shopping center, Woodlake Kohler, in (you guessed it!) Kohler, Wisconsin, next door to Sheboygan - home of Brat Days (like Bratwurst)].

And, while I’m hot on quotes right now, a long-time friend’s father once told her - about both her life and her career: “You don’t have to be going straight, just forward.”


In these challenging times for us all, I wish you and your families a peaceful, happy and healthy start of 2022! If we all allocate energy into waking up every day with a smile on our face, and show the world all the love in our hearts* I believe things will get better. (*from Carole King’s song ‘Beautiful’)

Looking forward to seeing you early next year!


Subway Station: Hey - it's New York City!

(btw she was a fantastic cellist!)

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