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Tales about leading NY real estate investors from their lawy
on 13 May 2005
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons (2005), ISBN: 0471718351
George Ross is the veteran legal adviser to New York property tycoons Donald Trump, the late Leonard Kandell, Sol Goldman, Alex DiLorenzo and many others. His experience encompasses decades as a property lawyer, an entrepreneur/VC in his own right and keen observer and apprentice magician of his wizard clients. His book is an interesting read for both neophyte and experienced property investors interested to learn about tricks of the trade. The title erroneously suggests this book talks only about Trump, in truth the author talks about several of his clients' experiences.
The first chapters of the book set out the negotiation techniques Trump and other have been using. Most of those techniques are fairly well known, but for an aspiring developer they are a good introduction to doing-deals-1-0-1. For the experienced negotiators, the war stories are the interesting part of the book. A weakness here is that the author repeatedly cites the same case stories over and over again, which results in a somewhat tedious amount of repetition.
Critical to the development process, in particular when dealing with larger projects, is the need for an experienced commercially aware property lawyer. As Sol Goldman said: "Every problem has a price tag." - a statement that truly captures the essence of the development process and its actors (see opportunities in the problems you have to resolve, problems will arise, problems cost money, problems are manifold, understand the problem its impact and by extension its solution). The author cites an interesting war story involving Trump's prestige golf course cum waterfall.
The final five chapters of the book then discuss the Trump approach of real estate development. This part of the book is exclusively about the Trump Touch and readers of his autobiographies will certainly recognise some of the lessons taught. Having said that, it is nice to find them distilled into some key bullet points and to read the illustrative cases. Nothing like a story to instil the message. Pay particular attention to the "aura of legitimacy" lessons - you will look at real estate listings and literature the same way again.
All in all, this book is worth a read for aspiring, beginning and experienced developers. It is not the best written book, but reflects the author's career and experiences as an investor/venture capitalist (negotiation techniques, financing structures, process management) and as a commercially aware property lawyer (deal structuring, financing, value issues). The book does manage to convey, though, the enthusiasm for deal making experienced by successful entrepreneurs. Perhaps, this book should also prove to authors that there is a market out there for someone doing a review of all of Trump's projects (failed and successful ones) for the benefit of the education of mere mortals like you and me.