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Monday, January 3, 2011

Best leave defaulting to the real esate professionals (do not try this at home)

While a homeowner who lost a house to
foreclosure would find it difficult to
borrow for years, developers who defaulted
on enormous loans have still
been able to attract money.
(do not try this at home as these are trained professionals)

The New York Times
By Charles V. Bagli
Other Charles Bagli articles

Larry Gluck, the apartment building king whose company defaulted on loans in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, recently bought the Windermere Hotel in Manhattan and Tivoli Towers, a subsidized housing complex in Brooklyn.

Ian Bruce Eichner, who lost two major New York skyscrapers to foreclosure in the early 1990s and defaulted on a $760 million loan for a Las Vegas casino resort in 2008, is working on a plan to rescue One Madison Park, a troubled 50-story condominium project.

Even Harry Macklowe, whose $7 billion gamble on seven Midtown skyscrapers at the top of the market almost cost him his entire empire, is out looking for new deals.

Industry lore has it that New York is one of the toughest, most unforgiving real estate markets in the world. The costs are so high, the unions so ornery, the politicians so demanding and the rivalries so fierce, that one false move invites financial disaster.

But the truth is that there have been surprisingly few career fatalities among New York developers, even though they have lost billions of investor dollars on overpriced real estate and have littered the city with unfinished apartment buildings. While a homeowner who lost a house to foreclosure would find it difficult to borrow for years, developers who defaulted on enormous loans have still been able to attract money.

The reasons, experts say, are that there is still plenty of money floating around and that the market has a very short memory.

“You can always find an investor who’ll put up equity with a guy, unless he’s Attila the Hun,” said Daniel Alpert, managing partner at Westwood Capital, a real estate investment bank.

For some of these developers, however, putting together a deal is not as easy as it used to be. Large banks and pension funds that endured huge losses have become very picky. Scott Lawlor, the founder of Broadway Partners, bought 28 office buildings in 2006 and 2007 and is now stuck with heavy debts on what is left of a portfolio whose value has dropped by at least a third. He is trying to come back with a focus on distressed residential real estate but has been unable to attract institutional money, according to lawyers and real estate executives who know him. He is now trying to line up wealthy investors.

Hedge funds and private equity funds are still offering backing for deals, believing that the real estate market will warm up again this year. There are also new investors looking to get into real estate, including funds based in China, and Norwegian pension funds.

And there have been casualties. Shaya Boymelgreen, the once-ubiquitous developer who built more than 2,400 apartments during the boom, broke with his money partner, was peppered with lawsuits from condominium buyers and was evicted from his offices in Brooklyn.

The $3 billion real estate portfolio that Kent Swig, a scion of a West Coast real estate family, put together over the past two decades is slowly slipping through his hands, and he warned last year that personal bankruptcy could be in the offing.

But while a homeowner who is foreclosed upon is often on the brink of financial ruin, many developers who defaulted emerged relatively unscathed themselves. Most of them invested relatively little of their own money in the deals, preferring “O.P.M.,” or “other people’s money.” One of the best-known examples is Tishman Speyer Properties, which lost $56 million on Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, while lenders and other investors lost over $2.4 billion. Read On Garth

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