Author Archive

Beatlemania is Back. Beatlemania Never Left.

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

“It was 20 years ago today..” Actually, more like 50 years plus a couple of days.  February 9, 1964. The Beatles took to the Ed Sullivan stage, and music history was made.  Getting on the Ed Sullivan show was surreal in itself; the whole deal was sealed with a handshake between Ed Suillivan and Brian Epstein (The Beatles manager) that guaranteed three performances, top billing and a monetary compensation of $10,000. Hard to image a current artist agreeing to that contract.  So, the question to ask is just how big were the 1964 Beatles and could they hold a candle to the stars of today?

Let’s look at the numbers: By the early 1960’s, Beatlemania had already spread through Europe with the release of The Beatles first album, Please Please Me.  However, it was only with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” that they scored an American number one hit.  With a promotion budget of $40,000, the single sold 250,000 copies in the first 3 days; in New York City alone, 10,000 copies were sold every hour. That’s without Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube and iTunes.

Compare that to Justin Timberlake’s (JT) long awaited musical comeback.  After a 6 year hiatus, “Suit & Tie” was the first single off his album, 20/20 Experience. The song debuted at number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100 based on two days of airplay and was number four on the Billboard Hot 100 with 315,000 first-week downloads sold.  That’s 45,000 singles/day versus the Beatles’ 83,000/day.

And what about TV ratings?  The Beatles scored a record-setting 45.3, meaning that 45.3% of households with televisions were watching. That figure reflected an audience of 73 million viewers, all on one night. Within two months of the performance, the Beatles had the top five songs on the American charts, and 63 percent of records released in America were Beatles records. And what about JT?   If you do a search for the official “Suit & Tie” video on YouTube, it received just under 63 million views (and that’s almost a year after it was released).

US Banks Resurgent

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported income of $37.6 billion in the third quarter, a 6.6 percent improvement over third quarter, 2011. This is the 13th consecutive quarter that earnings have registered a year-over-year increase. The other big news —  the decline in the number of banks on the FDIC’s “Problem List” from 732 to 694. This is the first time in three years that there have been fewer than 700 banks on the list

For the economy, this means more liquidity as loan balances posted their fifth quarterly increase in the last six quarters, rising by $64.8 billion . Loans to commercial and industrial borrowers increased by $31.8 billion (2.2 percent), while residential mortgages rose by $14.5 billion (0.8 percent) and auto loans grew by $7.4 billion (2.4 percent). The bad news? The nerves around the fiscal cliff may have caused home equity lines of credit to decline by $12.9 billion (2.2 percent), and real estate construction and development loans fell by $6.9 billion (3.2 percent). Remember that $2 billion of property construction and design would be eliminated if sequestration happens, cutting 66,500 jobs.

Still, the FDIC report is cause for optimism. Only 12 insured institutions failed during the third quarter. This is the smallest number of failures in a quarter since the fourth quarter of 2008, when there were also 12. An additional seven banks have failed so far in the fourth quarter, bringing the year-to-date total to 50. Through December 4, 2011, there had been 90 failures year-to-date.

“More than 55 percent of all banks reported loan growth,” Chairman Gruenberg noted. “Small banks are also increasing their lending, including their loans to small businesses.”

The complete Quarterly Banking Profile is available both here and at on the FDIC Web site.

Rod Santomassimo: The Secrets of Superstar Brokers

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

For his new book, Brokers Who Dominate, Rod Santomassimo, founder and president of The Massimo Group, spent two years interviewing the young guns, dominators and game changers who have shaped the commercial real estate industry.  In an exclusive interview with the AlterNow Podcasts, Rod tells us about these superstar brokers and their tales of ambition, grit and pure courage that are unforgettable.

Rod Santomassimo Photo - Part 2 - The Alter Group Podcast SeriesOne of Rod’s favorite get-up-and-go stories is about a young man from Owensboro, Kentucky named Bo Barron who, after a mediocre time at college, joined the Marines to learn discipline. While in the service, he led a platoon of more than 20 Marines and received two joint service achievement medals. What he learned gave him the will to finish his degree, join his father’s firm, grown it into a regional Sperry van Ness affiliate and finally structure a purchase so he could be his own boss – all within 2 years.

In terms of dominators, Rod tells the story of Bob Knakal, the number one investment broker in the number one firm in New York. Massey Knakal has sold more assets than any other firm year after year for ten years in a row now, according to Globe Street. Armed with a Wharton degree, Bob began his career thinking he’d become the next Gordon Gecko but financial institutions weren’t hiring. Thinking Coldwell Banker was one of the smaller banks, Knakal put in one last resume and was offered an internship. When he found out that it was a real estate company, he hesitated but finally took the gig. These were the humble beginnings of what would become Massey-Knakal Realty services which now has 100 employees, four offices and thorough coverage of the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester County, Long Island and New Jersey, closing over 4,200 transactions worth $15 billion.

And finally, Rod told us about a true game changer in the in the industry –  Jerry Andersen, now Executive Managing Director at Sperry van Ness.  He began his career at 21 as an exercise physiologist, making $13,000 a year and newly married to Jodi, a nurse. One day Jerry overheard some doctors talking about buying a piece of property. Knowing nothing about real estate, Jerry offered to help them look. They told him they’d reward him with a little cash for his time.  Scrambling to figure out how to do this assignment, Jerry asked his jogging partner for help. Which he did – told him to look at properties, see what’s for sale, how to do a cash flow statement. Surprisingly, the deal went through and a major real estate career was born.  What happened after this is the stuff of movies – a journey of incredible success but also incredible struggles, including a plane crash that almost took Jerry’s life.  But Jerry persevered and became one of the most influential brokers of all time, pioneering things that we take for granted today – a single point of service on corporate accounts, how to structure broker teams and developing the strategy behind brokerage assignments.

To hear these stories of success and survival in the brokerage world, listen to the latest episode of the AlterNow Podcasts, Rod Santomassimo on Secrets of Superstar Brokers.

The Stones: Still Rolling at 50

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

For a man who once said, “I’d rather be dead than singing Satisfaction when I’m forty-five”, the  50th birthday of the Rolling Stones must come as a surprise. That’s right the British Invasion’s most enduring act celebrates its golden anniversary July 12, 2012.  Founded in London in 1962 by Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ian Stewart, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, this iconic band has had more longevity than 94% of marriages. Along the way, the band had one major lineup change —  Ronnie Wood took the place of Brian Jones —  and a few regular contributors like Darryl Jones and Chuck Leavell but for most fans their success has hinged on the core songwriting duo of Richards and Jagger.

Over a half century, the numbers are staggering:  The Stones have sold over 200 million albums; grossed over $2 billion just since 1989 – that includes sales of records, song rights, merchandising, sponsorship money, and touring.  Of the top 10 highest grossing concerts tours, The Stones hold the #2, #7, #9 and #10 positions; the Bigger Bang Tour, Bridges to Babylon Tour/No Security Tour, Voodoo Lounge and Licks Tour respectively. They are listed as  the second most successful group in the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  If you combine the personal net worth of all four primary members — $831 million as of 2012 – it exceeds the GDP of the islands of St. Kitts or Grenada.

Behind the glamour, the Stones emerge as shrewd businessmen with a keen understanding of vertical integration and lean operations.  They’re relatively frugal.  They keep their eye on the bottom line.  They think like an owner, not like an employee. (Rolling Stone Records was founded in 1970.)  They also took their tour operations and  professionalized it with one central tour director dealing with venues worldwide directly. They also harvested new streams of revenues, like corporate sponsors, skybox sales, and merchandising.

The Stones also joined a litany of UK celebrities who left the country to avoid the British tax code.  In 1971, after an unsuccessful court case to regain control of their 1960s catalogue,   the band’s manager, Prince Rupert Loewenstein, set up Promogroup in Amsterdam, a company that collected most of the band’s royalty income from records, radio, TV airplay and song publishing.  Ultimately, they  paid  $6 million of taxes on their $370 million in earnings.   Additional companies were created —  Promotour, Promopub, Promotone, and Musidor — each dedicated to a business line and based in in the Netherlands, which offers enormous tax advantages for foreign bands.

Today, Keith Richards has been interviewed saying that the Rolling Stones make most of their business decisions based on taxes: they rehearse in Canada rather than the United States to avoid paying higher tax rates and they don’t do any business anymore in the United Kingdom.

Along with lucre, the twilight years have brought respectability. Not only have they amassed a long list of accolades, including induction into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame, there are apparently knighthoods in the offing. In a 2002 interview with Andy Serwer for CNN Money, Richards was asked about retirement.  “How long can we go on?” he repeated. “Forever. We’ll let you know when we keel over.”