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Hey Man, it's George
Loans wait for no one
The wealthy are always surrounded by hangers-on; science and art are as well.
In 2010, I was in Harry’s Bar in Venice, taking a break from the Great Financial Crisis. Perhaps because we didn’t look Italian, or perhaps because of our shaky credit, or perhaps just because it was a busy night, I got seated with another American real estateur.
After an obligatory Bellini we both ordered scampi and then commiserated about the financial markets. My dinner mate, a Texan, shared how he was stuck in a difficult deal that felt like a forced labor camp even before his current headache: his loan was past due.
He was getting head-butted by his lender, and worse, he felt like he had no time to find an alternate solution.
At first he was reluctant to say why he was so short on time, but as the evening evolved he glanced around the room then leaned down across the table and - in a Texas whisper - shared the story about what happened a few weeks before.
A friend called to ask if he was free for golf the next day. Since he was a member at a nice course the friend, even though it was short notice, was hoping he would host an acquaintance.
“Who is it?”, the real estateur asked.
“You’ll be good, be there at 10”, his friend replied.
With anyone else he would’ve viewed this as presumptuous and annoying, but this friend had impeccable connections and lots of fancy acquaintances so it was more than ok, and he looked forward to the golf outing with pleasant curiosity.
The next morning, early and killing time with his putter, he noticed a big man with an unpleasant face and an earpiece standing just off the practice green. He then looked to his right and saw the former President, George W. Bush walk up with a half grin and hearty handshake.
He stumbled for words, wondering if he needed to say “your honor” or bend a knee or something but was put at ease when his golf mate said “hey man, it’s George”.
They had a blast.
The former President had been out of office for over a year but the wounds were still raw. “Man people sure hate me, hehe” he said, like a guy that never really wanted the job to begin with.
They rode in the cart and “George” told stories about his Dad and foreign policy, baseball and politicians. Far from the rube he expected, the former President had a charming and relatable personality, like someone holding a Budweiser and telling jokes at a backyard barbecue.
This was not long after a U.S. Senator had gone missing, claiming to be lost on the Appalachian Trail. After a whirlwind news cycle, it came out that he’d been on a jaunt with a South American lover.
“Man - these guys think we’re idiots”, President Bush said, recounting the story, “like as if a member of Congress goes missing and we don’t have the FBI all over it? One of my guys took a call from him and let him go on and on about the Appalachian Trail b.s. - we knew all along he was mispronouncing his escapade - what he meant was ‘lost in Argentinian tail’, hehehe”.
It was a wonderful day of laughs with two affable fellows, one a real estateur with war wounds, the other an accidental politician.
Back at work the next day his desk phone rang.
“Hey man, it’s George.”
President Bush asked him if he wanted to go mountain biking.
And so they did.
And the next day he got another call.
“Hey man, it’s George”.
The former President, out of work and maybe a bit lonely, had time on his hands. But what became obvious was that the real estateur was a rare acquaintance for President Bush - someone that didn’t want something. He wasn’t a hanger-on, he was just trying to get a property refinanced when the lending market was in the tank, and despite enjoying President Bush’s company, he didn’t have time for it.
He had a noose tightening around his neck and needed time to find a financial lifeline.
I asked him if it was such a big deal, why in the world was he vacationing in Italy?
“To get away from George.” he replied.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in real estate.
And you know how - despite a developer’s best efforts to make a nice place - sometimes the vibes are off and that place feels sterile and fake? While other places just feel right and have a terrific energy that makes you want to spend time there?
If you want to know how wonderful places are created, and how they can increase surrounding real estate values, sign up for the Tacos & Patios Workshop - a free online gathering where we unpack the how and why behind unique mixed-use developments. Join now and get a recording of the last meeting as well as information of our epic upcoming in-person gathering.