April 2008 Archives

Foreclosure bus' magical misery tour

Julie Freese:

You may not be able to beat the house in Sin City, but you just might be able to beat the housing market. At least that's how two real estate agents, Barbara and Marshall Zucker, are placing their bets.

As they watched the Las Vegas foreclosure rate skyrocket 169% from 2006 to 2007 - making Nevada the most afflicted state in the nation - they also noticed that 40% of all home sales were foreclosed properties. So in February the couple bought a 24-seat Ford (F, Fortune 500) bus for $40,000, named it the Vegas Foreclosure Express, and began offering locals and out-of-staters thrice-weekly tours of repossessed homes.

"As with any business, you have to change and adapt based on the market to succeed and survive," says Barbara, 48.

The "End of the Starbucks Era"

This CNBC video discussion with energy investment banker Matthew Simmons is a must watch.

Related: The gospel according to Matthew:

The Coronado Club, in downtown Houston, is an unlikely place to contemplate the end of life as we know it. Plush and hushed, with solemn black waiters in crisp black jackets, the private enclave practically exudes wealth and stability. Captains of local industry enter and exit purposefully, commanding their usual tables, wearing the best suits. Everybody knows everybody else. The light is flattering. The wine room is nicely stocked.

But here is Matthew R. Simmons, the head of one of the largest investment banking firms in the world, stabbing at his salad greens and heatedly discussing the chaos to come when, as he has long predicted, global oil production peaks and for the rest of our time on earth we struggle and suffer and barely endure under a diminishing supply of fuel until it disappears entirely. This idea is known as “peak oil,” and Simmons is its most fervent, and fearsome, apostle. As he puts it, “I don’t see why people are so worried about global warming destroying the planet—peak oil will take care of that.”

Much more on Simmons here.


The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have submitted a joint letter to the Supreme Court of South Carolina regarding proposed guidelines related to the practice of law involving real estate transactions. The proposed guidelines would specify several tasks that must be performed by an attorney, including performing all title work, preparing deeds, overseeing the drafting of documents pertinent to the loan closing, supervising the closing, and disbursing all funds related to the transaction, as well as performing title work and preparing deeds for a home equity line of credit.

Realogy Parent Apollo Management Files for IPO

Peter Lattman & Heidi Moore:

Private-equity firm Apollo Management LP pushed to join the ranks of publicly traded investing shops Tuesday, filing for an initial public offering of stock valued at about $418 million. (Read the filing.)

The move should unlock billions of personal wealth for Apollo's three main owners -- Leon Black, Josh Harris, and Marc Rowan -- who founded the firm 18 years ago out of the wreckage of the Drexel Burham Lambert brokerage house.

The latest move nonetheless comes at an awkward time for their breed of money-management firms. Private-equity shops like Apollo were able to feast on easily available debt to fund a spate of huge corporate buyouts over the past three years. But many of those deals are already in trouble, such as Apollo's own $1.3 billion purchase of retailer Linens 'n Things and an ill-fated $6.65 billion purchase of real-estate firm Realogy Corp.

Related: Realogy Pays off Debt with More Debt. More: Three Guys and $1 Billion.

Map: The Impact of the Subprime Mortgage Squeeze Across the US

Beyond the Banking Crisis: A Strategy Crisis

Umair Haque:

s what’s shaking the economic landscape just a simple banking crisis? Or is there – as so many feel, and as the tremors indicate – something more hidden just beneath the surface?

Let’s begin with a quick explanation from the ever-incisive Tyler Cowen. He notes:

"What is distinctive today is the drying up of market liquidity — the inability to buy and sell financial assets — caused by a lack of good information about asset values...Market prices have been drained of their informational value."

Bolding's mine - that's an excellent beginning.

But Tyler doesn’t talk about root causes: why have prices been drained of meaning, especially to an extent never seen before?

An Innovative Marketing Initiative

Stephanie Clifford:

“I think finding out that it was McDonald’s was kind of a big shock for everyone,” said Geoff May, a player in Ontario who founded a Web site (olympics.wikibruce.com) on the game. “Obviously it’s McDonald’s, and not everyone likes them,” he said. “Personally, I don’t mind as long as we don’t get products forced down our throat. If we’re getting McDonald’s meals sold by characters, it’s going to be hard to suspend our disbelief.”

That’s part of the reason McDonald’s has remained behind the curtain thus far. A successful alternate-reality game relies on the players’ continuing interest.

“If an A.R.G. is too clearly corporate or commercial, the gamers will not want to engage,” said Tracy Tuten, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, who studies new-media marketing tools. “It’s very important that the game be written in a way where the branding is not obvious.”

McDonald’s has been careful to reflect that, Ms. Dillon said. “Above all, we want to be credible, authentic and respectful to this new audience,” she said.

With that in mind, development of the game was given to AKQA, a San Francisco marketing agency, and Jane McGonigal, a game developer.

This initiative reminds me of William Gibson's book: Pattern Recognition.

Overspending on Newspaper, TV and Radio Advertising - The Movie

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