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12岁起白手起家:纽约地产大亨的传奇创业生涯

Dinah Eng 2017年03月19日

12岁做作记账员,高中辍学后开始创业,历经悲剧后,终成人生赢家,听听一位地产大亨的自白。

“苦难给予了你对其他人的处境感同身受的能力。”格林伯格说。

弗朗西斯·格林伯格从不害怕工作的艰辛。他12岁就在纽约为父亲的出版公司Sanford J. Greenburger Associates做一些记账的工作。十几岁的时候,怀揣创业梦想的他从高中退学,毅然投身房地产行业。他白手起家,靠着收购破败房产再翻修卖出,赚了数百万美元,挺过一连串人生悲剧,终成人生赢家。今年格林伯格已经67岁了,他名下的房地产开发投资公司的估值已达40亿美元,2016年的营收也达到3.36亿美元。他管理的出版公司也照样生意红火,并签下了丹·布朗等不少畅销作家。下面我们就来看看格林伯格的故事:

当我很小的时候,我经常到父亲的办公室去玩,当时他开了一家出版代理公司,公司只有两名员工,主要为一些作家和国际出版商提供代理服务。我12岁那年,父亲为了给我找些事做,便让我在他的公司做一些记账之类的工作,我干得相当不错,父亲便希望我将来能继承他的这家小公司。

我家并没有多少钱。每周我能拿到五分钱的零花钱,只够买一瓶可乐。我发现有钱真好,于是我开始通过送报纸、铲雪赚些零花钱,也渐渐习惯了工作。

14岁的时候,我开始作为德国图书俱乐部贝塔斯曼(Bertelsmann)的代理商,收购美国图书在德国发行。当时我父亲正在代理另一家德国出版机构,为了避免业务上的冲突,他跟贝塔斯曼说,我可以帮助他们。(但他并没吐露我当年才14岁。)当时我的外表看起来已经18岁了,别人也觉得我比实际年龄更成熟些。我在当时以50美分的价格收购精装的硬壳图书——当时人们已经开始买简装的纸质封面图书了,硬壳图书基本上没有销路——然后我再把它们以1.25美元卖给德国人。14岁的时候,我一年已经能赚6万美元左右了。

后来我租了一间办公室专门搞图书业务,由于空出来不少空间,我就把一半的空间转租了出去,光是当二房东收来的租金,就够支付整间办公室的租金了。由此我对房地产业产生了一种直觉,于是我从我父亲那里借了大约5000美元,创办了Time Equities公司。我对做生意非常投入,16岁时干脆从高中退学了。我在夜校完成了高中的学业,后来又进入了柏鲁克学院学习。

我父亲有个朋友在一家房地产公司工作,当时他们有几座办公楼租不出去。我没钱把这些楼买下来,于是我跟他们签订了一份租约,象征性地交了1美元的租金,然后我负责将这些楼盘租出去,收来的每一笔租金都要和他们分账。

我父亲在1970年去世了。后来我决心集中精力进军房地产业,毕竟卖书只能赚几万块,而卖房能赚几百万。我还在这家出版代理公司继续当经理,不过我也把一些客户介绍到了其他代理商那里。

我开始以极低的价格购买一些年久失修的房子,资金主要来自愿意跟我一起投资的亲友。后来我又申请到了银行贷款。整个70年代,我大概买下了20栋公寓,把它们修缮后,以更高的租金租了出去。

当时对我来说最大的挑战就是钱,因为我没有钱。1975年的时候,纽约的SoHo区里到处都是仓库,而艺术家们已经开始搬进来了,我知道变革马上就要发生了。当时一家房产公司有两栋房子要出手,我向律师提出要用75,000美元把它们买下来。当时我也不知道怎么才能拿出这笔钱。我让律师给我拉来了2万美元的二次按揭贷款,又让另一位银行家给我贷了55,000美元。我就这样“空手套白狼”地买下了两栋房子。今天这两栋房子依然在我手里,但是它们已经升值到了7500万美元。

Francis Greenburger never shied away from hard work. By age 12 he was doing bookkeeping for his dad’s literary agency, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates in New York. Bit by the entrepreneurial bug as a teenager, he left high school for real estate, spinning deals with no capital of his own. He bought rundown properties, fixed them up, and made millions, thriving in the face of personal tragedies. Today, Greenburger, 67, owns a real estate development and investment company whose assets are valued at some $4 billion. Revenue in 2016 was $336 million, and the literary agency he still oversees represents bestselling authors such as Dan Brown. Greenburger’s story:

When I was very young, I’d hang out in my dad’s office, where he ran a two-person literary agency, representing writers and international publishers. When I was 12, to keep me occupied, he gave me some simple bookkeeping work, and I did pretty well. It was his hope that I’d take over the business.

My family didn’t have a lot of money. Once a week I’d get a nickel and could buy a Coke. I figured out it would be nice to have money. So I delivered newspapers, shoveled show, and was used to working.

At 14, I represented Bertelsmann, a German book club, in buying American books to distribute in Germany. My dad wanted to avoid a conflict with another German publishing house he represented, so he told Bertelsmann I could help them. [He didn’t mention I was 14.] I looked 18, so people assumed I was older. I would buy hardcovers for 50¢—at the point when they were being sold in paperback and nobody was buying them anymore in hardcover—then sell them for $1.25. At 14, I was making the equivalent of $60,000 a year.

When I rented an office for my book business, I got more space than needed, sublet half, and made enough to pay for the whole place. I discovered an intuitive feel for real estate, so I borrowed around $5,000 from my father to start Time Equities. I was so involved in business dealings that at 16, I decided to leave high school. I finished my studies at night school, then later attended Baruch College.

My father had a friend at a real estate company struggling with some office buildings they couldn’t rent. I couldn’t buy the properties, so I entered into a lease deal. I paid $1 for the lease, and we split any rent I collected.

My father died in 1970, and I decided to concentrate on real estate. Most books get sold to publishers for thousands of dollars. Buildings sell for millions. I remained with the literary agency as a manager but turned my clients over to other agents.

I started buying buildings that were in disrepair at incredibly low prices, using money from friends and family who invested with me. Later I got bank loans. Through the ’70s, I bought about 20 apartment houses, fixed them up, and raised the rents.

The biggest challenge back then was money. I didn’t have any. In 1975 SoHo was full of warehouses, but artists were moving in, and I knew things were changing. An estate was selling two buildings, and I offered the lawyer $75,000. I didn’t know how I was going to pay. I got the lawyer to give me a $20,000 second mortgage, and a banker loaned me the other $55,000. That’s how I bought buildings with air. Today those buildings, which I still own, are worth $75 million.

70年代中期,格林伯格在他父亲的出版代理公司里工作。

我生活得非常简朴。1975年我26岁,当时我和女友居住在一间没有窗子的阁楼里。夜里我起床上厕所的时候,总是有老鼠在我身边跑来跑去。有天晚上我醒来时,发现我的肩膀上爬着一只老鼠。于是第二天我们就搬到我拥有的一套公寓房里去了。

70年代末,我开始进军合作销售模式,它的赚钱速度是私人投资销售的三四倍。接下来的7年里,我们通过这种模式帮别人卖掉了纽约的100多栋楼(大约10,000多间公寓)。

不久之后,我在市场就有了腾挪的空间了。我发现,我拥有的所有地产都在纽约市内,于是我开始在其他人忽略的或是没有注意到前景的市场上寻找机会。1985年前后,美国修改了房地产纳税法,“黑色星期一”出现了。一夜之间,我们陷入了巨大的衰退,崩溃似乎已经难以避免。

那对我们来说是个异常艰难的时刻。我们欠了一大笔贷款没法偿还,因为我们的买主也拿不到按揭贷款。随着房地产价格的迅速下跌,我欠的债比我手上这些房子的价值还多。我们只好卖掉一些楼盘偿还贷款,最终我们还是挺过来了。

1990年,我的长子亚历山大在一场意外中死去了。整整一年,我终日以泪洗面。当时我有两个选择:一是立即随他而去,二是继续活着,因为我知道,终有一天我会和他再次团聚。我选择了后者。

苦难给予了你对其他人的遭遇感同身受的能力。我的次子摩根从3岁起就患有精神疾病。2012年,他因为从一名出租车司机那里偷了20美元而被逮捕了。当他被讯问时,我才开始知道精神病患者在司法体系中会遭遇到什么。把他们送进监狱并不能解决问题,于是我创立了“格林伯格社会与刑事司法中心”,在该领域做一些倡议工作。

目前,乐观是我的工作动力之一。情况并不像市场显示的那样糟糕。在1990年东西德统一后,柏林弥漫着一种压抑的气氛,房地产价格也一路走低,于是我们在那里出手购买了一些地产。如今柏林已经是全欧洲最受青睐的房地产市场之一。现在我们正在荷兰吃进很多地产。

我完全没有预见到2008年的金融危机。当时我感到十分恐惧,但我的工作就是要竭尽所能做到最好。我们做出了一些牺牲,采取了降薪等策略以避免裁员。

每个成功的商人都应该参与慈善活动。成功果实最好的用处之一就是回馈社会。我父亲以前总是为钱操心。我想,如果他知道了我日后的成就,他一定会感到十分震惊和骄傲。

我的建议

Time Equities公司CEO弗朗西斯·格林伯格

练习独立思考

全世界有很多人都觉得纽约是一个投资圣地,它确实是。但如果投资的代价太高,你就要重新考虑了。目前,我不认为在纽约进行投资性购房的优缺点是等价的。

去找能掌控问题的人

如果你付不起租金,你可能会想向家人借,或是向银行申请贷款。但真正能掌控问题的人是房东。所以在房租到期前,你可以去和房东谈谈,寻找一个解决方案。

每天要早起,做事要有条理

我每天早上四点钟就起床了,收发电子邮件或打电话,一直到早上9点,这个时候一般就要开会了。我是一个非常有条理的人,我有两名行政助理和一位办公室主任,他们也为我提供了非常好的支持。我还有一个虚拟办公室,并且保持着严格的工作纪律,这样即便是我在出差时,我也能随时掌握公司的最新动态。(财富中文网)

作者:Dinah Eng

译者:朴成奎

I lived very modestly. In 1975, I was 26 and living with a girlfriend in a loft with no windows. If I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night, there were always mice running around. One night I woke up with a mouse on my shoulder; we moved the next day to an apartment in a building I owned.

In the late ’70s, I moved into co-op sales, which made three to four times what you’d get in a private investment sale. Over the next seven years, we converted 100 buildings in New York, approximately 10,000 apartments, into co-ops.

Not long after, I had room to breathe. I realized that all the property I owned was in New York City. I began to look for markets that others were ignoring or not seeing potential in. Around 1985 I started buying property out of town. Two years later there was a change in real estate tax law, and Black Monday occurred. Suddenly we were in a major recession that spiraled into the S&L collapse.

It was a very difficult time for us. We had loans we couldn’t pay because our buyers couldn’t get mortgages. The value of the buildings went down, and I owed more than the buildings were worth, so we sold some buildings to pay the loans. Somehow we survived.

Then, in 1990, my first son, Alexander, died in an accident. I cried every day for one year. I had two choices: to join him in the hereafter, or go on living and know that I will join him eventually. I chose the latter.

Hardships give you an ability to empathize with others. My second son, Morgan, has suffered from mental illness since he was 3. In 2012 he was arrested for stealing $20 from a taxi driver. When he was tried, I started studying what happens to mentally ill people in the justice system. Sending them to prison is not the answer, so I founded the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice to do advocacy work.

Part of what drives me is a sense of optimism. Things are not as bad as the market indicates. Berlin was depressed after Germany unified in 1990, and real estate became inexpensive, so we bought there. Today, Berlin is one of the favored real estate places in Europe. We’re now buying a lot in Holland.

I didn’t see 2008 coming at all. I felt a great deal of fear, but my job was to do the best I could. We made sacrifices, taking decreases in pay to avoid firing people.

Every successful businessperson should get involved in philanthropy. One of the best ways to use the fruits of success is to give back to society. My father worried a lot about money. I think he’d be quite astonished and proud of the things I’ve done.

***

My Best Advice

Francis Greenburger CEO, Time Equities

Exercise Independent Thinking.

A lot of the world thinks New York is a wonderful place to invest, and it is, but not if prices are too high. I don’t think the upside of New York’s investment real estate value is in balance with the downside right now.

Go to the Person Who Controls the Problem.

If you don’t have rent money, you might want to go to the family or the bank for a loan. But the person who really controls the problem is the landlord. So talk to your landlord and work out a solution, before the rent is due.

Start Early and Stay Organized.

I start my workday around 4 a.m., doing emails and correspondence until around 9 a.m., when meetings start. I am very organized and extremely well supported by two executive assistants and a chief of staff. I also maintain a virtual office and work discipline so that when I travel, I remain up to date.


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