5 Deals I Would Love to Work On

I do not know what I am going to want for dinner tonight. So trying to guess the final career path I will take is silly.

So, assuming I could have a wide-range of career paths, here are 5 deals that I would love to work on over the course of my career:

1. The Atlanta Skyline: I think any young CRE pro wants to one day affect his hometown skyline with a property he/she creates. So, in that respect, my wish isn’t all that unique. What is unique, is that I have known I wanted to do that since I was 22 and I have been scouting infill land since I moved to the city. The main advantage I have is time. Right now, it doesn’t make sense to develop a high-rise spec office building or a high-rise hotel. But, it surely will at some point over the next 45 years (the duration of my CRE career). So, when it makes sense to develop a high-rise again, all I have to do is control the right infill parcel and start the cranes. Easier said that done I’ll admit, but still attainable.

2. A Tropical Resort: I speak fluent Spanish and I find there are very few opportunities to leverage that skill in my current business. I would love to create a boutique resort in a democratic South American/Caribbean country. I say boutique because I don’t intend to fight the Four Seasons and Sandals resorts of the world (I would lose anyway). The economies of these “emerging market” nations are growing and strengthening every year and tourism is growing in the second tier markets (Nicaragua, Belize, Panama, etc.). So I would bet that there will be strong demand for that product at some point in the next couple decades.

3. A Deal in NYC: One of the toughest and tightest cities on the planet. I know it will be a challenge and I know that I will be fighting against an army of local developers/owners. That is what makes it fun. It will be a challenge and it will probably keep me up at night. That excites me. If it were easy, anyone could do it. I love the challenge and the sport of competing against the in-town shops. Bring it on, Yankee!

4. Development in Eastern Europe: This is appealing for many of the same reasons as the South America/Caribbean idea above. These are growing democracies that have joined or will join the EU and are seeing an explosion in the middle class. Places like Slovenia and Bulgaria are ripe for commercial development and I would love to be one the players in those markets.

5. Any deal in China: This is sort of a mix of all of the above ideas. It is a tough and tight market, but there is nowhere on the planet where growth is more robust or more certain. The size of the middle and upper class in China is staggering and the places they need to work, shop, and live are falling apart. Development and redevelopment is already and appealing venture in the larger markets (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou), but I would bet that secondary markets like Nanjing, Wuhan, and Hangzhou will be hotbeds for commercial property in the next 20 to 30 years.

Did you notice that of the 5 deals listed only 1 was in Atlanta and only 2 of the 5 were on this continent? Also, none of these deals mentioned massive returns or 25%+ IRRs. Money is important and no deal will work without the right investment criteria, but I am looking for satisfying work not the biggest paycheck. I will happily cut into my margins to work on a fun deal in an interesting location.

This may all be pie-in-the-sky dreaming, but even if I only get to work on 2 or 3 of these deals I will consider myself to have had a challenging and rewarding international CRE career. Isn’t that much more important than who makes the most money or who has the biggest house?

– Duke

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