Pre ICSC Retail Forecast and Predictions II

Posted: April 26, 2017  by Eli Randel, Director of Business Development


Urbanization Will Dominate Suburbia In Population Movement Next Cycle

In preparation for ICSC, we are putting together several prediction pieces starting with last week’s opener Pre ICSC Retail Forecast – Part I.


Based on anecdotal data, interviews with institutional capital investors, and my personal belief, I predict next cycle will be one in which urbanization pulls many from the suburbs inward. This does not mean suburban real estate will drastically suffer, in fact, the result will create new opportunities and like many trends, when activity flows disproportionately in one direction, space becomes crowded eventually pulling the pendulum back to the less crowded market.


Here’s are some reasons why urbanization will occur:

    • Population-growth and tired infrastructure have lengthened commutes. In a survey of thousands of renters, “Proximity to Work” was their #1 locational decision (more than “School Zone” the expected #1). People will need to move closer to job-centers to maintain their proximity to work preferences.

    • Automation will hit suburban markets first forcing job-seekers inward. Corporations don’t intend to pay CBD rents for automated work. Those pseudo-outsourcing activities will be outside of cities forcing skilled workers and job-seekers inward to CBDs.

    • Oversupply in some city-centers will create strong buy and rent opportunities. Thousands of condos and apartments need to be bought or rented and many of those opportunities will emerge in overbuilt downtowns while many suburban markets are still unaffordable for most.

    • At first glance, baby-boomer retirees (of which there will be many) appear to favor more urban lifestyles than traditionally. Life expectancy is longer than ever and retirees – many of whom spent much of their lives in suburbs – like amenity rich cities with stuff to do. Suburban markets will still see retiree inflow, but cities may see unprecedented migration bringing ancillary jobs with them.

    • Generation Y, like their recent predecessor generations, gravitates toward cities. Our nation’s Walden values of the past have faded and the tech generation likes the activity and buzz of the city. It’s also likely Ys will wait as long or longer than millennials to marry and have children. When they do, raising kids in cities will become increasingly common (at least during infancy).

    • Living in cities is easier than ever before: ride-sharing platforms and (slowly) improving public transportation have somewhat eliminated the need for a car; delivery and e-commerce have lightened the need for proximity to grocers and other retailers; work-live-play developments have emerged across the nation keeping people’s lives within a tight radius; and many cities once considered to have “daytime-population-only” downtowns, now have vibrant city centers with social scenes and increased options for living.


Pent up institutional and foreign capital, more familiar and comfortable with the stability of major markets, will continue to flow to cities pricing out most entrepreneurial capital investors. Following a corrective period, infill land will trade at astronomical prices and bite sizes exceeding friends-and-family equity buckets. Given overall demographic growth and limited supply resulting from moderate development last cycle, most suburbs will remain healthy from a real estate standpoint with some softening in occupancy and rate growth during a corrective period. If the economy hits a road-bump, suburban office vacancies may spike, as small independent businesses rising with the tide sometimes go back to working from home-offices when their business softens. Cities will eventually sprawl and begin to bleed into nearby suburbs offering buy opportunities for those who can predict and shape the path of movement. Suburban yields may increase as a result of less competition and tough underwriting translating to higher costs of capital, offering premiums for financeable entrepreneurial investors willing to stomach some volatility and actively manage assets.


Next week we’ll discuss which cities stand to gain the most, and which may suffer.


Comments and feedback are always welcome. Email Eli


Schedule a CREXi Demo at ICSC RECon 2017

Eli Randel

Eli Randel, ICSC Forecast

Eli Randel is Director of Business Development based in CREXi’s Miami office. Eli spearheads CREXi’s growth and sales throughout the east coast as well as overseeing the national sales team. Prior to joining CREXi, Eli was director of dispositions for Blackstone’s Invitation Homes. Eli has also held management positions and production roles with Cohen Financial,, LNR and CBRE where he began his career spending three years in Investment Sales before leaving to obtain his Master in Business Administration from the University of Florida.



Pre ICSC Retail Forecast and Predictions

Posted: April 20, 2017 by Eli Randel, Director of Business Development


It’s nearing May signifying that retail analysis on the eve of ISCS is fast approaching. In the wake of recent store closure announcements from once iconic retail flags, the discussion has already begun. At the risk of being bold and possibly wrong, we are going to publish a series of ICSC/retail trends and predictions based on surveys, interviews, and anecdotal data. Topics to look for in the upcoming weeks:


  • Urbanization vs. Suburbia
  • Rise of the Second & Third Cities – Which Cities Will Prosper Next Cycle?
  • Smaller Footprints – Not a Baby Announcement
  • Retailertainment – Shop & Play (and Eat)
  • Survival of the Clickest – (a term coined by Paul Cohen)
  • Side Street – With Virtual Signage and E-Visibility, Do I Need to be on Main St?



We Will Discuss The Same Themes Often

We’re all guilty of it. There’s no risk in discussing something that already happened, and while the analysis might help investors, brokers, and stakeholders react, the opportunity to proactively strategize may have mostly passed. Some themes we possibly should have seen coming that we’ll discuss often:


    • STORE CLOSURES: Antiquated brands, static real estate models, and the impact of e-commerce should have probably been a focus of ICSC yesteryear. Stagnant store sales (resulting from e-commerce or tired brands) coupled with increasing occupancy costs have eroded profitability for some. Relevant, high-margin brands can partially write their (smaller) footprints off as advertising expense and showrooms for e-sales.


    • BIG BOX CHALLENGES: Occupancy costs are an expense, as are the employees and inventory large-space houses. Department-like stores selling other brands allow customers to try a shoe on, only to watch them buy it from the source ( resulting in the store-related expense without the revenue. Grocers and mega-stores might also eventually shrink their footprints (many have). If inventory can be stacked in a warehouse for say $4/SF vs. $15/SF and transportation costs remain low, others could follow suit.


    • (SUBURBAN) MALLS ARE STRUGGLING: Likely a result of overbuilding from another era, many suburban malls are struggling as foot-traffic declines and vacancy increases. Co-tenancy clauses allowing retailers to terminate their lease or pay less when an anchor goes dark, can create a domino effect. There is a rally-cry that malls will adapt and find new use for vacant space. I’m skeptical that current owners will be the ones to revive them. When the cost-basis resets following disposition, new landlords can get creative, but it can be hard for current owners to pencil-out. On the other hand, many urban malls are thriving. Seven of the top-ten malls (sales/sf) are in urban markets.


    • POLITICAL RISK OR REWARD: Few forecasted Trump’s populist win so I won’t pretend this should have been easily predictable. I hope for politically neutral discussion surrounding the presidency and resulting economy – politics will be discussed often. Hopefully before the parties start while heads are still cool.


Comments and feedback are always welcome.  Email Eli

Eli Randel

Eli Randel, CREXi Director of Business Development

Eli Randel is Director of Business Development based in CREXi’s Miami office. Eli spearheads CREXi’s growth and sales throughout the east coast as well as overseeing the national sales team. Prior to joining CREXi, Eli was director of dispositions for Blackstone’s Invitation Homes. Eli has also held management positions and production roles with Cohen Financial,, LNR and CBRE where he began his career spending three years in Investment Sales before leaving to obtain his Master in Business Administration from the University of Florida.

SRS Continues Momentum – Closes Two Zero-Cash-Flow Deals Totaling Close to $150MM

Posted: April 18, 2017


In two large deals illustrating the benefits of Zero-Cash-Flow net-lease properties, SRS Real Estate Partners has closed a 921K SF single tenant AT&T (NYSE: T) corporate facility in Morristown, New Jersey for $101,500,000, and a 27-property net-leased Flower Foods (MYSE: FLO) portfolio for $47,500,000.


Both net-lease deals are unique in that the lease and loan structure result in zero-cash-flow (“ZCF”) to the owner with equity rapidly growing as the loan is paid down and the property appreciates. “ZCF deals don’t meet every investor’s criteria, but are becoming more popular as they should,” notes SRS Vice President John Redfield. “Given the tenant’s investment-grade credit and favorable lease-terms, lenders are willing to lend up to 1.0 debt-service coverage resulting in a highly-leveraged loan requiring less than typical sponsor equity. Investors grow equity as the loan is paid down and achieve their accrued returns at an eventual capital event. Future lease-extensions or re-tenanting at lease expiration can propel these low-risk deals into home-run returns,” Redfield adds.


Redfield also cites the benefit of working with CREXi, an online CRE marketplace, in marketing and assisting with the transactions. “Given the structured nature of ZCF deals, having a platform to help manage the marketing process is a huge value-add. Additionally, the reach CREXi provided ensured that we exposed the opportunity to every possible buyer,” added Redfield. “Our clients hire us to maximize value, in a quick timeframe, with surety of sale and there is no doubt that CREXi assisted on all those fronts.”


Redfield, Tramontano and the rest of the team have already sold this year 62 properties at over $278MM with over $324MM currently under contract. The SRS National Net Lease Group & Investment Properties is comprised of seasoned brokers located and transacting nationally, operating under a single, open platform with all underwriting and marketing efforts strategically located in Southern California.


Founded in 1986, SRS is the largest commercial real estate firm in North America exclusively dedicated to retail services. With more than 20 offices across North America and in select global markets, a track record of over 5,400 transactions and current tenant and landlord representation in excess of 20 million square feet, our promise is to deliver true value to our clients. As one of the nation’s most respected retail services brokerage firms, we are guided by our principles of integrity, respect, teamwork and leadership in every real estate transaction.


Founded in 2015 with significant VC backing, CREXi is a commercial real estate marketplace that simplifies transactions for brokers with a suite of easy-to-use tools to manage their sale process. Bringing the traditional CRE sales process online, CREXi leverages the latest advances in technology to optimize pricing and make transactions faster and more efficient.

Profile of a Legend – Stephen Ross – The Empire Builder

Posted: April 14, 2017 by Eli Randel, Director of Business Development


Stephen Ross, with an estimated net worth of approximately $8B, is one of the wealthiest real estate developers in the world. Additionally, Ross is a generous philanthropist and team owner of the Miami Dolphins. How did the Detroit native build his NYC and beyond empire?


Stephen Ross was born in 1940 in Detroit, Michigan. In high-school Ross relocated to Miami-Beach before eventually attending the University of Florida. Ross would relocate closer to his childhood home by transferring to the University of Michigan and following graduation would obtain his JD from Wayne St. School of Law. With a loan from his uncle Max Fisher – who Ross would call “the important role model and inspiration for me in my life” – Ross would get his LLM in Tax Law at NYU in 1966.


Ross began his career as a tax attorney at Coopers and Lybrand in Detroit before moving back to New York City to accept a job in the real estate department at Laird Inc. Ross would then work for Bear Stearns before leaving with a $10,000 loan from his mom to employ his tax knowledge and construct federally subsidized affordable housing with a syndicate of investors. The venture was successful and would propel Ross to take his earnings and experience and develop more traditional deals on his own. His new projects would have an emphasis on high-quality architecture and engineering and were the basis for which the Related Companies was founded in 1972 under Ross’s control.


The Related Companies has grown into a global diversified real estate developer and investor which employs approximately 2,000 people. Among other projects, Related is currently developing Hudson Yards on 28 acres on the West-Side of Manhattan which will eventually deliver 12.7MM SF of space. At $15B, the project is the largest private real estate development in America. In Florida, where Ross also has a residence, he and his long-time business partner Jorge Perez have helped shape the Miami and Ft. Lauderdale skylines delivering thousands of condo and rental apartments. Ross is also majority owner of the Miami Dolphins and their stadium which has propelled him into a more national spotlight. Stephen Ross is also a generous philanthropist with donations to the University of Michigan of approximately $300MM in addition to several other worthy causes. 


Through familial support, education, knowledge gained from previous jobs, hard-work, natural smarts, and likely some good old-fashioned luck, Ross built a real estate empire which has helped shape the NYC skyline and beyond.


Sell Properties Like Stephen Gostkowski

Posted: April 12, 2017 by Paul Cohen, Regional Director


CREXi BlogI know what you’re thinking. Have I lost my mind? Why is the kicker for the New England Patriots selling real estate? Did he just get fired by Belichick and get picked up by the local Remax affiliate on the waiver wire? Not even close. Stephen Gostkowski is still alive and kicking (punt intended (that was intended too)) and getting ready for another 87.1% season.


One challenge with sellers is they want to believe the broker who forecasts the highest price not the broker who tells them the most realistic outcome. It’s all too easy to start a bidding war with other brokers and before you know it you have just landed a listing for 20% above your original valuation.


As a former broker, I liked to use the field goal analogy when speaking with sellers about their properties. I would put the price that even the most conservative investor would pay at the 1 yd line – about the equivalent of an extra point – and the highest price imaginable at the 45 yd. line (meaning a 62 yard field goal which has an approximate success rate of say 10%) and explain to the seller that the higher the price, the lower the success probability, but also explain that I was the best field goal kicker in town.


CREXi BlogIn fact, commercial real estate has different values depending upon who’s buying it. Take a suburban office property for example. To an investor, it will have a value based upon a cap rate range. An owner/occupier may be willing to pay slightly more if they view it as their office and have different economics, emotions, and maybe even different financing. A developer may value the property even higher if there are potential zoning changes and increased time to get said rezoning.


Selling to an investor at a market or slightly above market cap rate is like an extra point. Most brokers should be able to kick that. Only a bad snap or hold will stop you making a sale.


Selling at a premium cap rate or to an owner-user is a little tougher and requires wider reach. Most competent brokers can get the equivalent of a 25 yard field goal utilizing their broker and investor network but you need to have a more targeted approach if you want to hit from further out.  The success rate dramatically drops off unless you have Gostkowski accuracy.


Getting maximum pricing relies not only on accuracy but range. Only the top brokers have this.


A top Broker has deep relationships in the market, knows how to approach investors, owner users, and developers to structure a deal that makes sense and then strike at the right moment. They will use the best tools to help them reach the right buyer and then run a tight process to get the deal closed.  Many of them have made CREXi part of their team for it’s ability to enhance their range and accuracy!


Are you the Gostkowski in your market?  How do you drive pricing and help get that extra point or three?

Paul Cohen

Paul Cohen, CREXi Convenient TechnologyPaul Cohen is a Regional Director with CREXi based in the firm’s Miami office and focused on business development in the southeast. Prior to joining CREXi, Cohen was a Managing Director specializing in investment sales and equity raises at Cohen Financial, a national debt and equity advisor. Prior to Cohen Financial, Paul owned and operated his own independent real estate firm following a 12-year tenure at CBRE where Cohen was a Senior Vice President and led the Private Client Group in Miami-Dade County with a specialty in office and industrial investment sales.  Email Paul

Why CREXi Reminds Me of Uber

Posted: March 30, 2017 by Paul Cohen, Regional Director 



This just happened on my way to the airport. I am leaving on a trip to visit clients in the Carolinas so I order an Uber and then head to the lobby of my building. As I enter, a woman is screaming into her phone that she ordered a cab over half-an-hour ago and was going to miss her flight. “Who’s your manager!?”, she screamed into her phone. In my experience the desired effect is seldom achieved when attempting to pull rank and ask for the manager, especially in Miami where indifference is an art-form. The desk clerk and I made eye contact and both quickly rolled our eyes away to break contact while also sharing an “oh-boy” moment. I was reminded of the scene in Casino where Joe Pesci says to the security guard searching his upset wife “don’t look at me, pal. I’ve got to live with her.” I looked for a little dog to peek out of her probably $10,000 purse, but didn’t see one.  


At that point, my phone notified me that Jesus (his real name. Jesus take the wheel) was arriving in a Toyota Corolla. I asked the lady if she wanted to share my ride. “No!  I have a cab coming,” she screeched. While I usually disagree with the cliché, a voice saying, “no good deed goes unpunished” ran through my head. I jumped in my Uber and headed to Miami International. 


At the airport, I noticed the line of people waiting for a yellow cab. It was a bad day for taxis. Who still waits for a Cab? Who are these people? Most were holding smart phones, why didn’t they download one of the two easy to use apps that could help them? Does this group get home and put a VCR tape in? Waiting is one thing – some people have more patience than others – but a cab is more expensive (my $13 ride would have probably cost $30 in a yellow cab), the interiors are usually trashed, sometimes the driver will claim they only accept cash despite Visa symbols everywhere, and I occasionally don’t have cash on me. Why are so many people still using yellow cabs?


I often wonder the same thing in commercial real estate. We’ve created a service where you can list your properties, run e-mail campaigns, generate reporting with one-click of the mouse, run analytics, and much more. It’s clean, efficient, and effective. Our product replaces several old, clunky, and sometimes expensive tools being used (legal pads and post-it notes) and it’s free. The site I’m referring to is CREXi,. Try it. We can’t promise you Jesus but it’s free.

Paul Cohen

Paul Cohen, CREXi Convenient TechnologyPaul Cohen is a Regional Director with CREXi based in the firm’s Miami office and focused on business development in the southeast. Prior to joining CREXi, Cohen was a Managing Director specializing in investment sales and equity raises at Cohen Financial, a national debt and equity advisor. Prior to Cohen Financial, Paul owned and operated his own independent real estate firm following a 12-year tenure at CBRE where Cohen was a Senior Vice President and led the Private Client Group in Miami-Dade County with a specialty in office and industrial investment sales.  Email Paul

13 Questions on CRE & Work/Life Balance with Chris Sheldon

Posted:  April 3, 2017 by Christina Host, Regional Director, Northeast


In 2012 Chris Sheldon was acknowledged as a “Rising Star” at Cassidy Turley (now Cushman & Wakefield) after emerging as a net-lease market expert. Specializing in the disposition and acquisition of single and multi-tenant net leased investment properties, Chris has since grown into one of the top NNN brokers in the nation.  He and his team have closed upwards of 115 properties, for $800 million in the last two years. Bright and grounded, Chris is a loyal advisor to his many clients.  I caught up with my former colleague to get his refreshing take on the market and where it is heading, in addition to discussing topics outside of CRE.  


CH: Who do you admire most in the real estate industry and why?

CS: Anyone working hard and having fun putting deals together.


CH: What do you like about the NNN market and where do you see it going in the next 18 months?

CS: I like that the NNN market is very steady and I think it will continue to be. It will be very interesting to see how the investor market reacts to the consolidation of retail, and how they choose to invest moving forward.


CH: What markets do you think are poised for a growth spurt?

CS: I like markets where young people want to live- typically dynamic urban markets around the country. I think these markets are poised for the most growth. Markets like Denver, Austin, Nashville, Seattle, Portland come to mind, to name a few, aside from the obvious major gateway markets like New York, Chicago, Dallas, SF and LA.


CH: What is the most memorable NNN deal you worked on?

CS: We sold an 8 property SF Bay Area Bank of America portfolio in 2011 just as we were emerging from the last recession. The properties were all very established locations in the Bay Area with massive deposits and significantly below market rents, even in 2012. We received 117 offers on the properties. It was the first time post-recession we had seen such frenzied interest in real estate, and we ended up selling the properties at a blended 3.50% cap rate- which at the time was unfathomable.


CH: What industry advice do you always carry with you (or first that comes to mind)?

CS: Always be nice to people, and be humble (more general life advice than industry, but always applicable).


CH: What deal situation makes your ears perk up?

CS: Anything where there is unrealized opportunity.


CH: What role do you see tech playing in the commercial real estate landscape over the next ten years?

CS: Tough to say as the question is so general. It will be everywhere in every facet of the business, even more so than it already is. I am hopeful that it continues to make the business better and more productive, from marketing to retail to networking.


CH: If you had all the money in the world, where in the real estate market would you invest?

CS: I think there will always be demand for CBD locations in major urban markets for all asset types.


CH: If you had all the money in the world what would you do with your time?

CS: I would still work, but I could be more balanced. I’d spend some more time outdoors, and travel more with my family.


CH: What would you tell your 20 year old self regarding a) work and b) life?

CS: Don’t stress too much. Just work hard and be confident in the fact that if you work hard, and are smart, respectful and honest, that good things will eventually come your way. And have fun!


CH: What is the biggest thing you learned in 2016?

CS: Be honest and provide good advice. We are starting to see a market in transition, and now is a time to provide good advice versus what you think people want to hear.


CH: If you had to live in a state outside of California, which would it be?

CS: Hawaii, Oregon, or Colorado.


CH: How many big waves have you surfed this year?

CS: Not enough.

Chris Sheldon Work/Life BalanceChris Sheldon – Managing Director – Net Lease Investment Services

Cushman & Wakefield – San Francisco Bay Area

Specializing in the disposition and acquisition of single tenant and multi-tenant net leased investment properties nationwide on behalf of institutional and private capital clients.  Email Chris


Lessons Learned Part V – The Final Installment of Broker Advice

Posted: March 30, 2017 by Paul Cohen, Regional Director


Here’s the final installment in our 5 part series on advice from commercial brokers around the US.  In all, we heard from 25 Top Brokers who shared experience from over 500 years in the commercial real estate business.  I hope you enjoyed it.  While we won’t be posting any more, feel free to comment on LinkedIn and share your wisdom.

Lessons Learned Part I – Ten Takeaways from 25 years in CRE 

Lessons Learned Part II – Broker Advice From Around the Country

Lessons Learned Part III – More Broker Advice From Around the Country

Lessons Learned IV – Networking, Honesty and Teaming


Moss WithersMoss Withers, MBA

NAI Carolantic Realty, Inc., Raleigh, NC

There seems to be a trend of those wanting to discuss getting into the business now a days and sitting down with me to discuss.  It’s funny how that lines up with market confidence.  My advice stems around marketing yourself.  The job in itself is easy.  What’s key is convincing the market that you know what you are doing.  It doesn’t work if it’s coming out of your mouth, it needs to come out of others.  That’s clients, media, newspapers, business journals.  Get out there and meet these people, they are a great asset.

Gregg FousGregg Fous – Founder

Market America and Investments Inc., Sarasota, FL

From his blog:  Ten Things I Like to Remind Myself Every Day

  1. Focus. On the task at hand, the ball, the next step. Narrow your territory, your efforts, if you have a “to do” list focus on the first two things on it.
  2. It’s only called work if you would rather be doing something else. If you spend too much time working, change what you do.
  3. Answer the question you want to answer, not the one that is asked. Don’t let others drive your discussion, stay on track and make your presentation.
  4. It’s about the relationship. It’s not about price or product it’s about the relationship.
  5. If you see it, get it now, from where you are. Don’t wait for a better position, time or place.
  6. You can’t skip the basics. There are short cuts to the goal but to fail is just as short. Refine your basics and they will become a second nature to you. Habitualize them.
  7. Write a list. Let your ideas gel on paper. Work your list every day.
  8. Most people die in bed. Get out of bed. It’s a very unsafe place. No great philosophy here, you gotta get outta bed to make things happen. You have to move to steer.
  9. Don’t hate. Just refuse to like. Hate takes energy away from good things. Indifference takes no effort.
  10. What a great country! Bailouts, taxes, etc., BUT. . . It is still the best place in the world!


Herb LubanskyHerb Lubansky – Founder

Herb Lubansky Realty, Daytona, FL

One word that I give you not to use in any email or presentation is the word “IF”. This word in my opinion seems to leave a question of doubt to any reader or person you are talking with. Try to use a more positive phrase of words to get your thoughts and conversation across. The word “if” can be an E Z button in a fast paced society, by taking the challenge upon yourself to say or write something more positive in what you are presenting to a Buyer or Seller can set yourself apart from others.

Luli CannonLuli Cannon – Leasing Executive

RMC Property Group, Tampa, FL

Listen more and talk less. The act of active listening is an art that takes time to master. It is human nature to want to interject a conversation with questions and antidotes. These are normal parts of a conversation, but an experienced broker knows that timing is key. Know when to ask questions and know when to share stories. When the conversation allows for the perfect timing, it is your cue to delve deep into your client’s true needs. This will save you from running in circles trying to achieve a goal that is not necessarily a mutual goal.  You have to know your client’s needs inside and out. Learn what motivates the client and you will not only succeed but also develop long lasting relationships.

Paul Cohen

Paul Cohen, Regional DirectorPaul Cohen is a Regional Director with CREXi based in the firm’s Miami office and focused on business development in the southeast. Prior to joining CREXi, Cohen was a Managing Director specializing in investment sales and equity raises at Cohen Financial, a national debt and equity advisor. Prior to Cohen Financial, Paul owned and operated his own independent real estate firm following a 12-year tenure at CBRE where Cohen was a Senior Vice President and led the Private Client Group in Miami-Dade County with a specialty in office and industrial investment sales.  Email Paul

Profile of a Legend – The Queen of Mean – Leona Helmsley

Posted: March 24, 2017 by Eli Randel, Director of Business Development


Leona Helmsley was a fierce business woman who would earn the nickname “The Queen of Mean” for “tyrannizing her employees.” According to Alan Dershowitz, Helmsley’s famed defense attorney, when he was brought a cup of tea during breakfast at one of her hotels, Helmsley grabbed the cup and smashed it to the floor because a drop of water had spilled on the saucer. She then demanded that the waiter get on his hands and knees and beg for his job. Despite a less than pleasant reputation, and time in prison for income tax evasion (it’s been said she would say: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”) Helmsley was an excellent hotelier, assembled a real estate empire, and was as tough as they came in the largely male dominated industry at the time. Her toughness and prowess would earn her an estimated net worth of $4B by the time she died in 2007. Who inherited the majority of her estate? Specific instructions were made to benefit her dog with the majority being left in a trust to be used to benefit other dogs.  


Helmsley (Lena Mindy Rosenthal) was born in 1920 in Marbletown, NY to Polish immigrant parents and moved to Brooklyn soon after. Her family would move six more times before finally settling in Manhattan. Leona would change her name several times before landing on Leona Mindy Roberts and dropping out of high-school to seek her fortune.


While a relationship with her future (third) husband, Harry Helmsley, would provide her with capital, Leona had already proved herself as a talented real estate salesperson and is believed to have been a millionaire by the time they met in 1968. Together with Harry, Leona would begin a program of converting his apartment buildings to condominiums and the two would assemble a portfolio of assets including 230 Park Avenue and the Empire State Building. By 1989, she would directly control 23 hotels.  


The Helmsleys were well know for disputes with contractors and vendors despite their $Billion fortune. One of those disputes would lead to evidence of tax evasion for which Leona would serve 19 months in prison following the high-profile trial. Following prison, Leona would mostly lead a life of isolation and was stripped of her hotels since most of them had a bar in them requiring a liquor license and she was now a convict. When her husband died, he left the entire estate to her. Little was seen of her leading up to her death in 2007. 


Interesting facts: 

Despite the nickname the Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley was very charitable. After 9/11 she donated $5MM to help the families of firefighters. She would also donate $25MM to the New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The WWF wrestler HHH (“Triple H”) took part of his name from her. Hunter-Hearst-Helmsley was the basis of his stage name as he decided his name would incorporate three famous wealthy people.



I’m a very firm believer that a liar is a cheat and a thief and a crook. I don’t like liars. I never lie. I always told my own child, ‘If you murder somebody, tell me. I’ll help you hide the body. But don’t you lie to me.’


I’ve always wanted to be the biggest real estate man to come down the pike.

CREXi Product Q&A with Co-Founder Luke Morris

Q:  How are new features developed?

A:  We have a good pulse on what the industry is lacking and always stay on top of trending technology.  Once an idea forms we outline it in great detail, provide designs, bounce the idea off our customers (usually 5-10), and then place it into a development sprint.


Q:  What’s your favorite feature?

A:  The marketing portal for sure. In a past life I would’ve loved the ability to blast my properties to thousands of investors with just a couple clicks of the mouse. On top of that, I can analyze the effectiveness of each campaign. Previously, I had to send e-mail marketing campaigns via Outlook and would have to wait around and hope someone would call me for more information.


Q:  What product do you look to for inspiration?

A:  I love the simplicity of sites like AirBnB® and Amazon® but commercial real estate is so unique it can be difficult to apply features from those sites and have them be applicable to real estate. However, they exemplify how technology can revolutionize trillion dollar industries and that is inspiring.


Q:  What was your favorite project in 2016?

A:  I had fun building most of the features but my favorite project was working on the property dashboard.  It is such a game changer and really helps brokers track every action a buyer makes on their listing from web hits and visitors all the way to LOI’s.