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Monday, 29 June 2009

Greed is good, but don't overdo it

More than a couple of years ago, a property banker told me a story about when he was called on by a very elderly customer who wanted to a loan to buy a building that was leased to the phone company.

"It's a beautiful building, the tenant couldn't be better and when the lease expires, the residual value will be fantastic".

"How long is the lease?", replied the banker.

"Twenty five years", replied the old man.

"But with all due respect, how old are you, eighty five years old, maybe ninety? If the lease has twenty five years to run, you won't live that long".

"Trust me, for this building... I can live that long".

Bernard Madoff has been sentenced to 150 years in prison for his $65bn "Ponzi" scheme. Let's hope he has some prime real estate set aside to look forward to. If he leaves prison alive he will be 221 years old.

Bernie Ebbers of Worldcom is serving 25 years for accounting fraud. Former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison although his sentence was overturned and he is in prison awaiting resentencing.

Madoff probably though he was due for something along those lines, but none of his former friends came forward to give him a character reference, so the judge imposed the maximum sentence. I guess nobody knows you when you are down and out.

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