I start my thinking with a book I read by Howard Marks (of Oak Tree fame). The book is called The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor, and gives a good deal of thoughtful investment advice from a long-term successful investor. Anyway, Marks asks a question at the outset of his book, which is ‘do you want to outperform in the first place?’ Of course you want to outperform you might say, but that answer is very flawed. In order to “out”-perform what must you do? The answer – as Marks points out -- is both obvious and at the same time quite worrisome: You must be ‘different’Read more
As the Chairman of Duval & Stachenfeld – a law firm in mid-town NYC known as The Pure Play in Real Estate Law – I am inviting you to join The Real Estate Philosopher®. This will consist of my thoughts and also thoughts of friends and colleagues.
It will not be published in any traditional media – it will go only to friends of our firm. The purpose here is very simple – to put forth thoughts in the real estate world that are different, provocative, and challenging of accepted wisdom. Hopefully, nothing said here will be mainstream thinking.
You may be wondering how I am qualified to write on these topics since I am “just” a lawyer. However, I have an unusual place in the real estate world. As the Chairman of The Pure Play in Real Estate Law (one of the largest real estate law practices in NYC), I interact with an incredible number of real estate players. This ranges from small real estate shops with nothing but a gleam in their eyes, to some of the largest real estate institutions in the world, and everything in between. This gives me a unique and global perspective and allows me to act as an amateur philosopher in the real estate world. This has always been my hobby and it is what I love doing.
a.k.a The Real Estate Philosopher®
Of course, it is hard to know if one is truly in a bubble until after it pops. And even if you could be sure that you are in a bubble, it is impossible to know when it will pop. I am considering the signs of a bubble in wondering if we are in one now….. The crash is now ten years old – does anyone remember anything about it other than how it was really smart to buy at the bottom? Tax reform makes us all think that money will rain from the sky – and with a $1.5T tax cut, maybe it is raining money?Read more
In the old days a sponsor found a deal to buy a real estate asset and called up a financial party (either a fund or other institution). They would form a joint venture and purchase the asset and that would be that. Of course those – relatively simple – deals continue today; however, more and more we see clients entering into a more long-term relationship.Read more
I note that roughly fifteen years ago – in mid 2001 – Barrons wrote a perceptive piece that, in one article burst the internet bubble. It pointed out that no matter how many “eyeballs” internet companies were getting, almost all of them only had a few months left of cash to burn and if they didn’t raise more money by then they were broke. And so it was. Between three and six months later virtually all of these companies disappeared in a puff of smoke.Read more
My law firm has an internal message called “ATR”. It stands for: Attract, train and retain talent! For a law firm it is the whole game. Clients sometimes leave or even get merged or go out of business; however, if you have a high-quality legal product you can always get more clients. If, on the other hand, you lose your talent – i.e. your lawyers – it is game over – because you have nothing left to sell. Also, once the talent starts to leave it is like a run on a bank and almost impossible to stop.Read more
I have been reading all the articles about Amazon buying Whole Foods and how that ends the grocery business for everyone else, including Walmart. And beyond that, it also means the end of retail since Amazon could buy other retail companies too. From the articles it sounds like “game over” for not only groceries but all of retail. This seems like kind of defeatist thinking. So I was thinking about how one could compete with Amazon. Here is how to do it….Read more
In the last issue I wrote about retail and made the point that retailers should stop being about “retail” and be about “brands” that are “exclusively” sold in their stores. To refresh, my point was that “retail” is merely a place – a location – where someone with branded (or unbranded) goods sells their wares to the public. Retail is therefore a classic “middleman”. And what does the internet do to “middlemen?” It destroys them – or at least eviscerates their profit margins. To refresh, my point was that “retail” is merely a place – a location – where someone with branded (or unbranded) goods sells their wares to the public. Retail is therefore a classic “middleman”. And what does the internet do to “middlemen?” It destroys them – or at least eviscerates their profit margins.Read more
The retail world is in turmoil. That is nothing you don’t already know. I will not bore you with the 100 or so articles on retailers closing and all of the negative press in the retail and real estate worlds. Instead, I will give you my (philosophical) thoughts as follows….. I start with a question as to what, in a big picture sense, is “retail” anyway?Read more