Real-estate operators are legendary for slow-pay practices, but I know one who hangs them all out to dry. This gentleman–we’ll call him “Bob”–was the son of a milkman. He made a fortune in the trucking business and wound up owning major-league sports franchises on both coasts. To give you an idea of how nimble he was, after he bought his first sports franchise in the Midwest, he also bought– quietly and cheaply–an obscure FM radio station on the West Coast. In a big surprise move, he then shifted the franchise to the Coast and scheduled the game broadcasts exclusively on his new station. Moving not only revived the failing franchise, it also multiplied the value of the station. One move. Two profits.

Bob also owned a chain of hotels. A large, sophisticated New York insurance company held the mortgage on his flagship hotel. One Friday, the insurance company n question, exasperated over years of delayed payments or no payments, sent their man to see Bob. The intrepid rep marched into Bob’s office, threw down a sheaf of legal papers, and announced that as of Monday, the insurance company would take over and operate the hotel.

“That’s fine,” said Bob, “but where will you park the guest’ cars?”

“Why, in the parking lot behind the hotel,” said the insurance company’s man.

“No,” said he, “you won’t be parking them there. I own that parking lot. The minute you take over the hotel, an eight-foot chain-link fence goes around that lot, and in case you haven’t noticed, there isn’t another adequate parking facility you can use within a three-block radius.”

The New York insurance company decided it could live with Bob’s payment practices.
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