Monday, January 27, 2014

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Inspired today by press and a film documentary about the tragedy of Aaron Swartz (who has changed the world and could have done so much more given his gifts). (See The New Yorker and Boston Magazine)

How long can fear-mongering, greed and power rule our lives? Found the following worth thinking about as guiding principles that could give leaders qualities most of us would appreciate. Too often it seems they have mindlessly ignored their own reputations, value systems and the lives of those they serve.

Wondering what do we teach out children?

Random Quotes:

"What are boundaries? They are made up of two essential things: what you create and what you allow." 
"... leaders (directly responsible people) own it (their enterprise). They are the ones who define and create the boundaries that drive the behavior that forms the identity of teams and culture and sets the standards of performance. Leaders define the direction and are responsible for making it happen. And they are responsible for the accountability systems that ensure that it does happen. It always comes back to leadership and the boundaries they allow to exist on their property."
 ― Henry Cloud, PhD [Leadercast Network] 

“I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
― Thomas Jefferson

“I have a higher and grander standard of principle than George Washington. He could not lie; I can, but I won't.”
― Mark Twain

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.“
[Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States,
August 8, 1950]
― Harry S. Truman

“Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
― Stephen R. Covey

Basketball coach legend Rick Pitino
captured the principle of honesty 
simply and profoundly:
Lying makes a problem part of the future;
truth makes a problem part of the past.
―quoted by Stephen R. Covey

Seven Dangers Of Human Virtue:
  1.  Wealth without Work
  2.  Pleasure without conscience
  3.  Knowledge without character
  4. Business without ethics
  5. Science without Humanity
  6. Religion without sacrifice
  7. Politics without Principles
― Mahatma Gandhi

“Sometimes facing reality is difficult, especially when hearing it from others. But we demean and insult other people when we treat them as anyone other than accountable, responsible, choice-making individuals. If, in the name of being nice and kind, we start protecting them, we begin the process of the codependency and silent conspiracy that eventually results in the lowest level of initiative – Wait until told.
― Steven R. Covey

“The last of human freedoms - the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances.” 
― Viktor E. Frankl

Finally, let's never forget this:
“It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.” 
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Empire State Conference Call Remarks 9/12/2013

I am heartened to know that the Empire State Building is desirable to several people with the means to acquire it. Almost more importantly, those folks have had creative ideas about how best to be fair to all of us within the complications of this ownership.

The respect and fairness deserved by this loyal group of owners, has not been demonstrated by the Malkins throughout the process of this deal. Without the knowledge or approval of the owners, the Malkins secretly set up the REIT while hiring assistance from outside firms at our expense. We then saw the language in their communications change to undecipherable legal gibberish. Before we knew what was up, they were submitting their proposal to the SEC under the cloak of secrecy.

Approved at last by the SEC, they bombarded our diverse group of people with threats and half-truths at best, in reaching for the 80% approval they needed to approve the deal. A despicable ruse.
This building had no appraised value before the SEC demanded it. Nor projected income figures that I know of. This prevented anyone on the outside from submitting bids, if indeed that would have been allowed by law as the REIT played through.

The buyout deal before us is a much better deal for ESB owners and it should be pursued.

I have created an internet blog site to encourage narrative amongst us outside of these conference calls. Please search for Empire State Legacy Owners Blog. Please visit; your voice is welcome there. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wow ...

Bill Moyers' interview with Mark Leibovich, author of:

This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America's Gilded Capital

It has been puzzling listening to the praises of Malkin Holdings as long time supervisors of the Empire State Building, only to suddenly feel Malkins crash down on the 50 year ownership group of 2800 people from all walks of life. Surprising, confusing, perhaps uncharacteristic strategies for getting rid of the owners of the building, while charging our accounts millions of dollars to accomplish this. Armed with mis-information and deception, they worked for more than a year to make owners believe that their plan was the only plan for moving into the future with the ESBA investment. And now private bidders who should have been offered the opportunity in the beginning, are creatively offering a much better deal.

Bill Moyers' interview with Mark Leibovich, long time NYT reporter, on his book about the way our financial and political systems have changed seems to go a long way in explaining the unexplainable. Riveting. Makes sense that Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, MacKenzie Partners, and the like are wheeling this deal in the manner described in Mr. Leibovich's book.

At least that is the story I am telling myself at the moment.

You can watch this fascinating interview here: Bill Moyers and Mark Leibovich Video

or listen to it here: Bill Moyers and Mark Leibovitz Podcast

Amazon: This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America's Gilded Capital by Mark Leibovich (Jul 16, 2013)

This look at a changed way of doing business and politics in our country ought to appeal uniquely to participants in this investment.

Goliath, do you hear David knocking at your door?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Much Simpler, Much Fairer, Yet No Word from Our Management Team

After more than a year of being cajoled, pushed with unsubstantiated threats, while given no alternative route other than the one our Supervisors dreamed up to roll lots of properties together to form an REIT, we are now being offered attractive bids on the Empire State Building alone (which should have been solicited by management at the beginning of this fiasco). Bidders are coming up with excellent plans for dealing with the complications of this ownership.

Why is management so silent? There are deadlines on these bids. Will this stall endanger the bidding process as (one assumes) efforts are being made to save the REIT, which is now not the only option for owners to consider?

It seems to us that a straight up sale of the Empire State Building is simple enough, fair enough and in the best interests of all of the owners of this investment, yet the deal is again being manipulated by our management team. Presumably they and their friends in high places who'd like some of what they haven't earned nor deserve.

Just watched the movie Inside Job about the financial debacle ... is this more of that?

Just think how this investment could flow into the needs of its many investors (college educations, retirement funds, charities, and so much more), rather than staying in the hands of the already very wealthy.

We, along with many, demand an accounting of this unusual process.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

There are too many pieces to the puzzle of the Empire State Building, which make answers to a complex, obfuscated proposal difficult to find.

What we need is a straight forward, honest approach before our puzzle of ESB ownership decisions can be completed.

The following scenario, simplified, seems to make some sense:

1. Under the 1961 contract, signers were given a solid deal for a solid investment which had a long lifespan.

2. Between now and then, these same investors or their heirs were consulted about various changes to ownership, building improvements, etc. and gave their consent to forego revenue to add to the value of their investment.

3. Income sacrifices have played a large roll in glorifying the Empire State Building. Appraised values reflect not only this iconic piece of property and its location, but the improvements paid for by the investors.

4. In considering the deal before us, payback to the investors for their loss of income over the years in addition to the market value of the building and payback of any expenses allocated from revenues used for the expenses incurred in putting together the REIT need to be itemized and presented to the owners. If this arithmetic is in the documents, it seems to be hiding somewhere.

5. Unlike other changes undertaken by management, 

this deal was never presented to the owners before it was launched.

6. This puzzle is a confusing one. It would be interesting to see if "there is a train about to come down the track" which is not yet clearly in focus, perhaps lost in our sea of paperwork. And / or "hidden agendas" hinted at and unfortunately often put to use in the business dealings of our times.

7. It is hard to say "yes" when the puzzle is incomplete.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Empire State thoughts … it is really a simple matter

(Note: This post was written earlier and intentionally not published at that time. I think it is still pertinent and hope that future actions on the part of the supervisors, allow owners to weigh in before starting down the path to considering changes. There are a number of knowledgeable owners who could provide thoughtful insights.)

What is becoming clearer, IMHO, is that the issue of Empire State is not so complicated, but is made to seem so by Malkin Holdings and the legal, financial, and public relations agencies they have hired (with our money) to help them, as they obfuscate the basic issues of ownership and management responsibilities working towards management's apparent goal of …

confusing the issues by not providing straight answers to our questions, as their special agenda attempts to replace the basic, clearly focused work of Larry Wein's 1960s agreement … with un-ending, unintelligible mail, printed materials, DVD, and phone calls full of stock market, law and financial language even the experts struggle to understand.

Nonsense. Empire State Building Associates is on the deed, owns the building, the land and the master lease. That's it, that's good enough. Do we want this ownership to include all of the other buildings, with their differing management needs, in the same geographic location, while being placed under the vicissitudes of the stock market, replacing this quite simple investment in a building that holds such a special place amongst architectural wonders? We should be so honored that our families trusted, and many struggled, to enter into this agreement with Mr. Wein.

It might be easier for Malkin Holdings to put their other properties under one umbrella REIT, as they appear to have the consent from those building owners.

This building shouldn't be lumped into that deal.

Reuters reported on the MacKenzie Capital Management, LLC offer to investors to buy 170 units at $110,000 each (  That offer appears to have been made before the SEC issued the final S-4 and makes us wonder how they got our mailing addresses to give us that low-ball offer while potentially gaining 170 (presumably "yes") votes.

Why didn't management include ESBA from the beginning so we could think this through and weigh-in with perceived risks and benefits of any new financial structure? It wouldn't be an easy task, but this "end run" presents its own difficulties.

This investment structure may be "out of style", but it sure anticipated the future ... and where is the evidence that it is no longer workable?

If there is really fair value to this deal for us, it surely would be helpful to have it presented in plain English, so it gets fair appraisal. Better yet, bring us together and let's chat (sans conference calls). That is how agreements have been forged in the "social - emotional" intelligence of our predecessors throughout time.

Those are my thoughts, resulting from a recent conversation.

PS: Really, the Forbes magazine's recent article in our mail? ... one-sided I'd say, hardly fair reporting as they apparently did not interview us other investors (the majority investors after all) ... (