How A Behemoth Real Estate Developer Can Clobber You

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Aug 09

Excerpt from Don’t Back Down, the real story of the founding of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators and why big leagues matter

I’d
like to share an excerpt from my upcoming new book where I deal with a
situation I faced upon taking over real estate development firm Terrace
Investments Limited, the first parent company of the modern-era Ottawa
Senators hockey team. 

It shows how Terrace almost didn’t make it out the starting gate. One of our partners was about to tumble into bankruptcy leaving Terrace, a small company at the time, in peril.

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We had to face down a bankruptcy trustee, deal with a court
proceeding, and fend off a large predatory real estate corporation about
to devour a huge portfolio of valuable industrial and commercial
properties including a half share of four buildings belonging to
Terrace.

You know the old saying, “There are two chairs in heaven waiting for
the first two partners to get there and still like each other.”

Perhaps the best number of partners anyone can have in business is… zero?

Life and business are fragile… here is the excerpt:

Fixing
Terrace meant first dealing with an imminent bankruptcy. Admiralty
Enterprises, run by irrepressible entrepreneur Lawrence Freedman, was
about to declare bankruptcy.

Lawrence
was the guy who wanted to build a national chain of roller rinks, but
his real strength was in construction of industrial buildings.

He knew how to lock up great sites, secure easy credit (in the 1970s and 80s), pop up cheap buildings, and sign tenants.

What he didn’t know how to do was to control and manage his sprawling
real estate empire, always a challenge to entrepreneurs who have the
attention span of a minnow.

Four of his more than 80 industrial sites, were 50-50 co-ventures
with Terrace Investments Limited. One of those was a roller rink.

image

Here’s the thing you need to know—in bankruptcy, trustees are gods.
They have incredible power, and courts are not keen on overturning or
second guessing them.

So if you put a trustee offside, you are not usually going to fair
very well. That’s just as true for bankrupt companies or individuals as
it is for their creditors.

In this case, Terrace wasn’t strictly a creditor; it was a joint venture partner on the ownership side.

When I visited the trustee, I told him, “We’d like to buy Lawrence’s half of these four buildings we own together.”

“I am not in a position to discuss this with you now. We are in the
process of seizing control of all of his assets, his bank accounts, and
notifying tenants that their rents are now to be paid to us. Just
finding out what Mr Freedman actually owns is a challenge. Come back
next month.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but the trustee was BS’ing me—he was
already negotiating with Bob Campeau for the sale of the entire
portfolio. This is what trustees do—look for the guy with the deepest
pockets, and for the fastest exit.

[You can read more at http://www.spirepoint.ca/zxt6]

@ profbruce @ quantum_entity

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.

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