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Although I am the grandson of retailers, bankers, and businessmen, I did not expect to go into business myself. As most of you know, I thought I would have a career as a music professor, writing music and teaching classes. Then, when Alexandra and I got married in 1977, she thought with the market SO low it would be a good time to buy an apartment. No one was investing in New York – the city was in the throes of a severe financial crisis, crime was terrible, and many believed that the city was dying. Our decision to buy was economic, since prices were at all time lows, but it was also an act of faith in a city we loved. That apartment search changed my life forever. I was bitten by the bug and it was just a couple of years later that I got my license and became a broker.
In January of 1986 I came to work at Ashforth as a broker and Junior Sales Director. I was 34 years old, but I had a vision. I wanted not only to give brokerage advice, but also to build an environment where people were generous to one another, collegiality was embraced, and where the managers all the way up the line were accessible and well informed. I wanted for myself to work in an environment in which people wanted to do the right thing because it WAS the right thing, and I figured other people might want that too. So a few years later, when the opportunity arose, I bought the company with my shareholders and began trying to put that vision into practice.
Each one of you in this room is here because of that idea, embraced by the entire Warburg management team, of who we are and what we stand for. I don’t know of any other firm which embraces these principals as openly as we do, which really strives to do the right thing, not the expedient thing, even if that can come with a financial cost. It doesn’t always work. There are lapses. But one reason I personally interview everyone who carries the Warburg card is because I believe so strongly in what we stand for and I know that YOU are the daily ambassadors of that message. Each of you was hand chosen for YOUR qualities of intelligence, integrity, and professional skill. It’s a high standard. And as we move forward into 2013, those qualities are more important than ever.
The landscape of our business has changed enormously in the past five years. StreetEasy, Trulia, and a host of other websites have made all our listing information transparent. The recent election made clear that middle class straight white men can no longer decide the fate of the country – the same thing is true of our business. We must honor and respect our past, which is illustrious, while not getting stuck in it. The business world of today is transformed in every way from the one in which I began: our clients and customers come from every ethnicity and background - they are straight and gay, single and married, parents and grandparents and not parents. They are 80 and 50 and 30 years old. They want lofts, they want houses, they want condos, they want co-ops. They want prewar or never lived in before. They want Brooklyn, they want Harlem, they want Fifth Avenue. This new world, which I believe our new marketing represents, is one I am proud to champion. Whatever our ages, we must approach our business with the spirit of the young: embracing change, excited by technology, committed to always revising our business practices to fit the new realities. Change waits for no man (or woman) and we must make a commitment to embrace it or lose our coveted place at the top of the pyramid.
The good news is, our commitment to flexibility and to doing the right thing is also good business. I am proud to tell you that 2012 has been, as far as we can determine given that the year is not quite over, our second best year ever! And while I hope the management team, the staff and I have succeeded in setting a tone which makes you proud to be at Warburg, I can tell you with certainty that we are extraordinarily proud of you! Your hard work and dedication to only the highest standards of integrity and professionalism made this great year possible. So thank you. I am humbled by the honor you have all done us by putting your faith in Warburg, in your management team, and in me. We won’t let you down!
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