Daily Archives: August 25, 2009

It’s happening here in Greenwich, too

England: property owners trapped in homes because they can’t afford to sell them. “They’ll be stuck where they are for many years”.  Other than sheer obstinacy and blind optimism, I suspect a major reason we aren’t seeing Greenwich home prices fall further is that their owners are 10-20% below their original equity level and simply don’t have the wherewithal to come up with a half million dollars to pay off their mortgage at closing. So they stay put.

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If at first you don’t succeed, …

British man collapses with ruptured appendix one month after National Health Service “removed” it. The Hospital’s manager for general surgery was unable to identify what body part the doctors might have removed the first time they went after the appendix but did offer these words of concern: ‘However, we would like to apologise if Mr Wattson felt dissatisfied with the care he received at Great Western Hospital.’

Barak Obama was golfing and unavailable for comment.

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Tasered, he bursts into flames

FAR advocate Franklin H. Bloomer, Rvsd.

FAR advocate Franklin H. Bloomer, Rvsd.

A gasoline-sniffing permanent-abode-challenged gentleman in Pennsylvania was sniffing while biting and kicking a pair of policemen when they tasered him and gave him a new set of problems. Kids, don’t try this at home!

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Antares and the UST building

I suspect that this building will be sitting around for a long time before anyone can figure out what to do with it. Today I reviewed the loan documents that financed it and whoo boy, they’ll never untangle this one. Credit Suisse put together a $1.5 billion package, secured by this building, a Hard Rock Cafe casino in Atlantic City (never built), a casino at the sands in Las Vegas (never built), a 400 unit condo project in Key Biscayne Florida (if it was built it is surely underwater by now), and some office buildings in Seattle, fate unknown. They securitized the loan by splitting it into 24 different tranches, as though they were able to precisely define 24 different levels of risk – crap is crap, boys – and so ownership is literally spread out over the world.

Antares itself seems to have borrowed $160 million on a building optimistically valued at $130 million, which is a neat trick if you can do it. No money down that I could see, so Antares, the bankers and all the underwriters had a fine time feeding at the trough before selling the swill off to investors. No mystery how they Boyz got such large houses for themselves, is there?

But the Putnam Avenue building sits empty.

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This should finally do it

91 Overlook, new construction in Milbrook, has been reduced from $3,000,000 to $2,995,000. If that last $5,000 was holding you back, now’s your chance. In fact, this place has seen a number of price reductions since first going on the market in 2007 for $3.950 million. But I suspect its problem attracting buyers isn’t going to be substantially relieved by this last cut.

14 Ben Court, in Old Greenwich, sold quickly. Listed at $1.495 it went to contract in two weeks and closed today at $1.350. That was for land, though I suppose someone could renovate the existing house if they wanted to. Seems a tad pricey to me, but someone obviously wanted this location.

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56 Havemeyer Lane finds a savior

This new construction started at $2.195, a preposterous price for its location and I said so, much to the builder’s annoyance. It finally dropped to $1.349 awhile ago, and has gone to contract today. My guess? $1.225. Don’t come from California and build in “Greenwich” before you know the lay of the land, is my suggestion.

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Cos Cob sale

122 Cat Rock

122 Cat Rock

Nice house on 3 acres with pool, built in 1998, sold for $2.125 back in 2000, listed a year ago for $3.6 million, sold today for $2.475. Assessed value, $2,275,000.

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No news is news

Nothing of import has been reported on our MLS today and no open houses of interest (thus the random musings on politics, the Civil War, etc.). But 2 Grey Oak is back, now priced at $4.250 million, down from its first ask of $4.950. The owners paid $3.6 for it in 2002 and the current assessed value is $3.7. I have a feeling it’s going to eventually sell for less than that, but for now, $4.250 is an improvement. Nice house, by the way, on a good street, but has some lay-out features that a buyer will probably want to correct.

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Wal-Mart comes to the Wilderness

Despite protests from many historians, a Virginia county has approved the construction of a Wal-Marts near (or, depending on whom you believe, in) the site of the Civil War’s Wilderness battlefield. My great grandfather John Caldwell fought in at least one of the two battles here (I forget which, or whether it was both) and, wounded, was sent by train to Washington where he was treated and released back to battle, after being charged for his treatment. Modern day critics of the VA should consider how things have improved since then. But that said, it is a shame how development is slowly encroaching on all the battlefields of this war. We’ve long lost most of the Revolutionary battlefields, of course, but even a decade ago, many of the Civil War sites felt almost unchanged and were awesome places to visit. I’m not sure that will be offset by the benefits of buying a memorial T shirt from Sam.

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A good start, but why not an additional 353?

Rhode Island to shut down government for twelve days.

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The ACLU and its mission to destroy America

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today on the ACLU’s despicable acts in surreptitiously photographing CIA agents and giving the pictures to Al Qaeda members for future “attention”. The ACLU sees nothing wrong with its actions and of course no parallel to the Valerie Plame incident, but then, this is the same group who yesterday expressed dissatisfaction with a mere “investigation” into alleged claims of CIA abuse of terrorists and insisted on “the immediate commencement of prosecution.”

Those of you with warm, fuzzy memories of the ACLU defending civil liberties: banning crucifixes, say, or defending the rights of child pornographers, might wonder at this new attitude of prosecute first, investigate later, but if so, you’ve missed the steady transformation of the organization into a hate America crusade. Since 9/11 the ACLU, clearly convinced that we deserved everything that came our way that day, has worked diligently against our interests and for Al Qaeda’s. I’m glad to live in a country where we allow traitors to speak their minds openly and without fear of retribution, but I will admit to doing a slow burn as these idiots luxuriate in that freedom while striving to destroy it. Odd ducks.

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If they weren’t facing the Republican Party, Democrats should be worried

The traditional rule in U.S.politics seems to be that voters trust Democrats to address domestic matters better than skinflint Republicans but rely on Republicans to provide for our national security. If that still holds, Obama’s impending failure to fix health care, the coming economic bust (I know, I know, but I don’t believe front-loading car sales with other people’s money will do anything to restore the auto industry; it just compressed normal demand into a three-week period), and the complete disarray of his government, coupled with this week’s bowing to the ACLU and the netroots and beginning the dismantling of the CIA should put the Republicans in a great position.

But as usual, the Republicans are as craven as their colleages across the aisle and are offering nothing but a vow to block any reduction in Medicare spending, thereby assuring that nothing will be done to control health care costs. So, unless Al Qaeda strikes quickly, I suspect the One qand his minions will continue to enjoy their Gulfstream jets while voters wait for a real alternative.

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Antares, Part III

Greenwich Time concludes its reporting on the Antares Boyz today. It’s a nice compilation of things that many of us knew or had heard about already but put together in one convenient package. The most striking thing, perhaps, is how the Boyz got (temporarily) rich on “acquisition” and “management” fees without ever producing anything of value. There’s a totally politically incorrect expression for how the boy from the Bronx, Joe Beninati, acted when he found himself with cash buring a hole in his Brioni blazer’s pocket, but suffice it to say, he spent it with enthusiasm.

James Cabrera and Joseph Beninati made sure to reward themselves for their company’s apparent success. In return for a 25 percent stake, Antares quietly received $40 million in 2006 from NorthStar Realty Finance Corp., a New York City-based company specializing in the acquisition of real estate debt and real estate securities, a confidante of the two men said.

Cabrera and Beninati were each said to have been paid $10 million, with the latter spending his share on a condo in Aspen, Colo., called The Little Nell and a development site in the Hamptons. Cabrera, always the more conservative of the two, used the money to pay off his Greenwich house.

Among NorthStar’s principals were David Hamamoto, who started the Whitehall Funds real estate group at Goldman Sachs, and Edward Scheetz, chief executive officer of Morgans Hotel Group.

Scheetz would get into the news for all the wrong reasons in September 2007, when he found his 24-year-old “girlfriend,” Michelle Hatchel, a former tanning salon worker from Colorado, dead in his Turnberry Towers condo in Las Vegas.

“She’s stiff. She’s stiff, and she’s turning funny colors,” Scheetz, a married father of two from Greenwich, said in a panicked 911 call.

Hatchel’s death was ruled an accidental overdose from cocaine and oxycodone, and Scheetz was not charged with a crime. Still, he would eventually resign his executive post at the luxury hotel chain.

Then there’s this, concerning the New Mexico State pension fund, which is rather amusing, if you aren’t a New Mexico state pensioner:

In 2005, New Mexico started up a limited liability company with what is now NorthStar Realty Finance Corp., investing $55 million in taxpayer money that NorthStar infused into various real estate developments in its portfolio, including Antares, said Charles Wollmann, a spokesman for the State Investment Council.

“I do believe that investment went south,” Wollmann said.

New Mexico received a devastating $16 million capital return on its initial investment, which had seen its net asset value tank to $12.8 million as of the end of the first quarter of 2009, the most recent performance report available from the state.

“That’s not one that we’re happy with,” Wollmann said.

In summary, here’s a tip on selecting people to invest with: if the principals who want your money had to attend “13th grade” at Choate in order to get into college, and later boast that they “attended Choate” without disclosing that they were there as participants in Choate’s “Diploma for Rich Dummies” program, put a hand firmly on your wallet and run, do not walk, away from them.

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