Monday, May 17, 2010

Buffalo Statler Sale: Mission Accomplished?

" Dirty Job Goldman "

The word is that one of the sales leads from the unpaid volunteer guerrilla marketing effort has resulted in a $50,000 deposit being placed in a bank and a Statler sales contract is expected to be signed today. We had to break a few eggs and mess up the kitchen a bit, but we got 'er done. 

YES!!! YES WE CAN!!!!!!!!!

Of course, a sale is not complete until the due-diligence period is complete so let's not celebrate yet. However, this is a milestone in the sales process.

June 2010 Update:
The marketing effort has brought several qualified buyers (out-of-towners and local) to the table - cash in hand and willing to pay the asking price. Each time it was the seller, not the buyer, who got cold feet. I have confidence that the building will be under contract soon and that the successful buyer will have displayed an impressive amount of patience. Patience is an important quality to find in a new Statler owner, so perhaps this slow process is actually a blessing in disguise.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What I Did On My Spring Vacation.

Your BuffaloBloviator during a moment of reflection.

The only thing I hate worse than traveling is having to look at someone's vacation pictures. A close second is being pestered to travel or come visit them out-of-town. All these people up and leave Buffalo, then for some reason we are supposed to become obligated to chase them all over the place. You all know where to find me!

On our honeymoon we went to Niagara Falls, the honeymoon capital of the world. It happens to be only twenty minutes away. Did you ever notice how people who travel constantly have nothing interesting lying around cluttering up their homes? They are bored, that's why. Not only am I bored by travel, I'm  bored by passive behavior in general. That is why I have not required a vacation since the 1980's.

The Buffalo Statler Towers. Big Blue is visible on left when it was Big White.

I took this past week off from work and had a wonderful "stay-cation." You don't have to travel to have a great vacation because a great vacation is when you do something totally alien to any of your previous experiences. You flush your mind this way and return to work fully recharged.

I found a great way to flush my brain. I know absolutely nothing about the commercial real estate business so I decided to help publicize that the bankrupt Buffalo Statler Towers is available for sale. I don't own it but I understand they have been having trouble selling it and the historic downtown landmark is in grave danger. I own an old blue brick house two doors down from the Statler so I am particularly fond of "Big Blue's" old friend.

One of the reasons I love Buffalo enough to never travel is that everything and everyone is so accessible. You can get yourself involved in anything imaginable - probably because Buffalonians will talk to anyone anywhere anytime. Strangers even talk in elevators.

I started by imposing myself on the bankruptcy court. I phoned and introduced myself to the trustee for the Statler. I offered to market the Statler on the Internet for free. He said that the Statler was entering its twelfth hour and he welcomed a source for qualified prospective buyers. The trustee told me that if I managed to actually sell the building, he would be so happy that he would recommend that the building be renamed after me.

I began my vacation last Friday at 6 a.m. constructing a website called I finished it Saturday morning and launched it. I used a few search engine optimization techniques so that people could find it fast. I placed a few free ads in commercial real estate listings and then I created an inexpensive Google paid advertising campaign.

The next day, Sunday, I received a couple of inquiries. I phoned one of them immediately. "Mr. Chicago" owns a successful property development company in Chicago. I explained the nature and scope of the Statler project. There has already been an ill-fated $100 million dollar attempt  to restore the Statler and since then, even more expensive proposals have been tossed around. I suggested that a modest business plan might be more appropriate for the Statler because until the last owner decided to take it on as a restoration project, it had 40 good tenants and was a going concern steadily since 1923.

Monday, I spoke with the trustee again and he gave me the phone numbers for the building manager and the sales contract attorney. I called Buffalo City Hall and the Department of Economic Development and one of their top men was on stand-by alert to help me this week.

My vacation was really going great!

The BuffaloBloviator and Mr. Chicago (right)

Tuesday, Mr. Chicago flew in to Buffalo and met me at Big Blue. We wore suits and spread important looking papers across my desk (actually my desk is an old grand piano). To make things really nutty, The Wife played classical piano as I welcomed Mr. Chicago into Big Blue. We figured that would help soften him up because when we Googled his name we discovered that his child was an accomplished classical musician. This is the way we do things in Buffalo. We think on our feet - plus we attract people to our city with six-dollar websites.

We spent a couple of hours showing Mr. Chicago the vast insides of the Statler. He left Buffalo not ready to sit down with the sellers and discuss a contract. As a small businessman, I think of the sales process as an assembly line. The best way to test and refine the machinery is to turn it on and see where it breaks. Fix it and see what breaks next. Eventually you can easily sell a whole bunch of whatever it is you're selling.

Mr. Chicago heading back to the Windy City.

Wednesday, I got a couple of calls from other developers who were ready to sign contracts to purchase the Statler. The sales stumbled but the exercise highlighted where the Statler sales assembly line had its next weakness. I was convinced that this can be corrected. I also got a call back from a broker who originally blew me off. The sales activity convinced him that the account is worth considering. I informed the trustee that we now have an excellent broker interested. Local investors also began showing more interest.

The Statler Golden Ballroom.

Today, Thursday, I tweaked my marketing and attracted a couple more prospects. One of them is particularly interesting because they have a successful track record of redeveloping huge distressed historic landmarks. I agreed to a conference call with them tomorrow.

On Monday my vacation will be over and I will return to my regular job fully recharged! And with plenty of vacation pictures to show my friends.

Buffalo Bloviator Classic