Archive for the ‘Fred Malek’ Category

Setting the Table in Washington

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

As President Obama hosts yet another bipartisan dinner — one in early March and the latest, a steak and greens feast at the White House, last Wednesday— I can’t help but recall that over the years, I too have hosted many similar dinners at my home. Most often these dinners are with our elected officials from both sides of the aisle. The idea is a good one: it encourages substantive dialogue, can often form friendships and can show us that a lot of the time, we might not disagree as much as we lead on.

But, to be frank, a few nice dinners between Republicans and Democrats isn’t enough to bridge the divides that exist in American politics today.

At my most recent dinner, I found myself having the same conversation over and over again with Republicans and Democrats alike. First, they’re all torn between the constituents who voted them into office, and Washington, where business continues as usual. Second, a lot of times they are torn between trying to govern and risking a backlash from extremists in their own party.

While engaging in dialogue over dinner once or twice every few months is a positive, our leaders in the Executive Branch and Congress need to reinstate a process that affords policy makers the opportunity to deliberate and engage in a legislative structure aligned with what our founders intended.

We need to reexamine what our committee structure has become. I believe the best bills for the most amount of people follow a grassroots approach, arising first from the subcommittee level and working from the bottom up, not the top down. Working from the rank and file legislators on up develops in-depth policy knowledge from committee members and allows for committee chairs and ranking members to exert influence over topics that they know more intimately than party leadership.

Even as the leader of the House, Speaker Boehner often speaks about restoring order to this process. We need more of that willingness from more members. Both parties will often recall the days where committee chairs and members of the Executive branch enjoyed great relationships, even in a divided government. That sort of thing is non-existent today.

The continuous campaign remains one of the deepest thorns in the side of bipartisanship. The looming threat from each side makes it almost impossible to take political risks and the very foundation for bipartisanship, trusting relationships across the aisle, is becoming a thing of the past.

The Executive branch must build better relations on Capitol Hill. Over the past twenty years, both parties have done a poor job of this while in the White House. Better relations between the two bodies are essential to promoting understanding and trust, which will lead toward more meaningful dialogue.

Hopefully President Obama will invite not only Republicans but his cabinet members to the table as well. He must encourage his cabinet to have better relationships with Congress and more of them. Those same cabinet members must also be willing to visit the hill and advocate on his behalf. If he wants to pass any considerable policy in the next three years, he has no other choice.

Setting the table is one thing, keeping people at it for the hard work is entirely another.  Dinner is a start but a restored legislative process with an engaged president and cabinet will be required before we finally address our nation’s problems in a meaningful way.


Rays Of Sunshine In The Storm

Monday, December 1st, 2008

The real estate industry as widely reported is in the middle of a major slump with commercial values now following residential on a downward path. However, I see rays of sunshine amidst the storm and believe there are sharp differences in areas of the country and property types. My conclusions at this point are:

  • Commercial real estate nation wide is falling and will continue to fall in value
  • Adjustments will be less severe than the residential sector, and recovery could begin earlier, driven by positive cash flows generated by most properties
  • The decline in the Washington area will be milder due to the stability and even potential growth of the federal government and services to government
  • The hotel sector will take the hardest short term hit due to more sudden drop in revenues and massive debt maturities in 2009 and 2010

As an economic forecaster, I have a great deal to be modest about. However, my observations are based on my 18 years as a board member including seven year as Co-Chairman of CB Richard Ellis, the world’s largest commercial real estate services company; eight years as President and CEO of Marriott Hotels and Resorts; and 17 years as founder and Cochairman of Thayer Lodging Group, a buyer, owner and operator of hotels.

Let me comment briefly on the Washington area and then hotels. On November 10, The Washington Post devoted its entire business section to commercial real estate, and you won’t do better than that for a comprehensive view of our area. In one interesting side to the story, Dana Hedgpeth reported that the bail out itself increased demand for office space and suggested that “between 2 million and 4 million square feet of office space could be gobbled up over the next three years as new regulatory agencies take shape and as lobby shapes, accounting firms, consultants, and asset managers position themselves to take advantage of government intervention efforts.” Even more revealing to me was an article by Tom Heath who talked to a number of Washington real estate investors who agreed the Washington area was less vulnerable.

So much for the sunshine – now back to the storm. In the same Washington Post article, I was quoted on the hotel industry: “Major hotel chains have reduced their projections for revenue per room and are predicting a decline in profits. If these projections are correct, there will likely be tighter financing standards that could lead to distressed selling.” The most salient measure of hotel performance is the revenue per available room (Revpar), and it was jolted by a 5.9% drop in September, as reported by Smith Travel Research. Starwood Hotels predicted a 10% Revpar decline across its portfolio for the fourth quarter of 2008, and a decline of 5% for 2009. Another industry consultant, PKF, predicts a 4.4% Revpar decline in 2009. These are dramatic and exceed the drop after September 11, 2001. On top of that there are an estimated $5.9 billion of debt maturities in CMBS structures alone in 2009, according to Tropp Management Services (TMS). Declining cash flows, higher financing standards, limited debt availability, and massive debt maturities do not mix well. Thus, while financially, strong owners will be able to inject more equity (which they should do), many owners do not have that ability. So, there will be distress sales and a sharply negative impact on values. Hotel REITs and management companies are already reflecting this distress with sharply lower stock prices.

So much for the storm, now back to a little sunshine. Past downturns have always been followed by sustained growth in hotels Revpar and profits. This occurred after the 1991-92 recession and after September 11, 2001. There is usually a year of drop, a year of stabilization, and then a number of years of growth. Indeed both PKF and TMS are predicting 2010, will show a modest Revpar increase. I personally believe 2010 will be flat, but due to lack of financing for new development/supply addition, the recovery will be robust starting in 2011.

Have you ever tried to movies?

Let me close with a personal experience that demonstrates how rays of sunshine can peak through and eventually prevail.

In 1999, my firm, Thayer Lodging Group acquired Washington’s largest hotel, the 1338 room Wardman Park Marriott. We completed a major refurbishing including redoing all guest rooms, adding and renovating meeting space, and much more. We now had the finest convention hotel in the area, and business began to take off, with 95 percent of it conventions or large corporate group meetings. Then came September 11, 2001, closing Reagan National airport and severely inhibiting travel to Washington. Every single major group cancelled. In November we were running 4 percent occupancy and losing a lot of money. But there was hope – a major convention planned in early to mid December had not cancelled, and it would bring much needed revenues. Then came the anthrax scare. The convention client happened to be the U.S. Postal Service, and it too cancelled.

We couldn’t cover operating costs let alone debt service. However, we jointly agreed with the hotel’s manager and minority owner, Marriott Corporation to put up additional funds to keep the business alive and out of foreclosure. Through 2002 and 2003 we gradually built the business back up, aided by outstanding performance by Marriott, and Thayer’s managing director, Carroll Warfield. The hotel had a record profit year in 2004, and we sold it in July 2005, resulting in a return of 2.4 times our investment. The message – in the middle of a storm, all is not lost. Persevere with determination and belief because eventually the storm will abate and the sun will shine again.

Reflections On A Great Campaign And An Honorable Man

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

My blog has been dormant for the past six months due to my focus on the McCain campaign as well as business – not that anyone noticed. However, one of my two loyal followers (confession – my daughter) suggested it would be worthwhile to share some of my observations on the longest and most expensive campaign in history. I will follow this, as time permits, with a little more detail on various facets of the campaign.

First, by way of background, I served as a Co-Chairman of the campaign for over two years, becoming Deputy National Finance Chairman in February 2008. In May our Finance Chairman, Tom Loeffler, resigned and as a result, I became de facto National Finance Chairman for McCain 2008. I jumped in close to full time, attending 7:30am senior staff meetings, travelling to selective events with Senator McCain, and overseeing all of our fund raising efforts.

On a personal level, it was my honor and privilege to serve a truly great patriot who would have made a superb President. I made many new friends, worked with a wonderful team, and don’t regret a single moment. Some of the highlights were being at Senator McCain’s side in Dallas, the night he clinched the nomination …

… and staying with the McCains at the Sedona cabin on several occasions. I even got him to wear a West Point (USMA) hat.

Now, let me comment briefly on John McCain, Sarah Palin, fund raising, and why we lost. I will follow this, as time permits, in the next few weeks with a little more detail on each.

John McCain

John McCain is simply one of the finest and most honorable men I have ever met. He is at one point a great statesman, and at the same time a regular guy who likes nothing better than hanging out in jeans and an old T-shirt, cooking ribs and hamburgers for his guests in Sedona. There is no pretense here – what you see is what you get – the real deal. But what impressed me most during this long campaign were his indefatigable energy, his determination and his consistency in putting country first. Who can ever forget his decision to lead the support for the surge in Iraq when the American public was squarely against it? He knew this could cause him to lose the nomination, and it almost did. As he dropped to single digits in the polls and was all but written off by the national press, he led the fight to reform immigration, an anathema to so many of our best supporters and contributors. It became next to impossible to raise money during this period, but his example kept us together, working hard during the long summer of 2007. Remember his cost cutting and his traveling alone, carrying his bag through airport security, conducting town halls and restaurant stops through New Hampshire. Determination, honor, conviction – that’s John McCain.

Sarah Palin

I did not recommend Sarah Palin and was surprised by her selection. However, I am now a fan and deplore the small minded people who are striking out against her. Sarah and her husband, Todd, spent time with Marlene and I at our home in Virginia in early September. She is smart, quick, charming, and able. Both Sarah and Todd impressed us on a personal level, and of course her ability as a communicator has been proven. If there are any questions on her preparation for interviews, the finger should point not at her but to those who helped her prepare. Having talked to the top people in the campaign, I am convinced that any criticism has come from third level, fourth raters who for some reason have an axe to grind. Sarah Palin will have an important role in the future of the Republican Party.


There has been a lot written on fund raising, and I intend to share more in depth observations later. At this point, let me share a few highlights:

  • Fund raising for the McCain primary and McCain-Palin 2008 was by far the most successful in history for a Republican presidential campaign.
  • The campaign raised over $400,000,000 eclipsing the record set by Bush-Cheney 2004. These numbers include money raised for the Republican National Committee, under the McCain-Palin Victory 2008 banner.
  • We exceeded by substantial margins every goal or challenge given to us by campaign leadership.
  • The Trailblazer, Innovator, Navigator and Aviator programs helped enormously in our major donor fundraising. We recruited over 1,000 people who together accounted for close to $100 million funds raised.
  • Senator Obama did raise more, but not as much more as believed when one considers the huge amount his campaign raised and spent during their long, contested primary. In my view, the key advantage Senator Obama enjoyed was the flexibility to spend his money however he pleased due to the absence of public financing constraints.

Why We Lost

For my part, the best and most accurate summation can be found in Charles Krauthammer’s column in the November 7 Washington Post. He wrote:

“The patient was fatally stricken on September 15 – caught in the rubble when the roof fell in.” He adds: “This was not just a meltdown, but a panic. For an agonizing few days, there was a collapse in faith in the entire financial system….This did not just have the obvious effect of turning people again the incumbent party, however great or tenuous the responsibility for the crisis. It had the more profound effect of making people see shelter in government.”

That, in my view, was the key to our loss. Never in my life have I seen anything remotely as crippling and trouble as this meltdown. Never in the history of polling have 90 percent of the population felt the country was going in the wrong direction. Did the campaign make some mistakes? Of course, but all campaigns do. And the campaign did a lot of things right. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that John McCain came back from the near death to win the nomination and was actually about three points ahead before the financial collapse.

And of course, David Plouffe and David Axelrod ran a superb campaign for Senator Obama, who proved to be a fine orator and campaigner. As my own candidate has stated, we Americans all pray for the success of President-elect Obama, and we will lend our support to help make it so.

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McCain Puts Sound Organization Together

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

The McCain campaign recently announced the appointment of Steve Schmidt as Senior Advisor, reporting to Rick Davis. The press of course, presented this as a major shake up, which it was not. Rather it was the positive and natural evolution in a campaign organization that is morphing from a small start up company to a larger organization almost overnight.  As Deputy National Finance Chairman, I’ve had the opportunity to view this first hand.

Having been President and CEO of two major companies; Northwest Airlines and Marriott Hotels, as well as National Campaign Manager for former President Bush, I have some understanding of organizational needs, and view this as a great move. Rick Davis is the man who engineered one of the greatest political comebacks in recent U.S. history, operating with minimal funding, and helping John McCain capture the nomination after the media and many people had written him off last summer and fall.  Rick remains as the Campaign CEO, with more time to focus on large emerging challenges such as the Republican Convention and selection of a running mate.  In addition, we now have in Steve Schmidt, a chief operating officer who was earned enormous and well deserved respect for his political, strategic and operational accomplishments.  It also has been a natural evolution, with Steve spending more time at headquarters in the weeks preceding his appointment, so he has been able to hit the ground running. Thus, overall, I view this as a superb organizational development and am excited by Steve’s new role and the added leadership he will bring to the campaign.

Plea For Unity

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Yesterday I submitted my resignation as Finance Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve over the past 18 months under two good friends, former Chairs Ed Gillespie and John Hager. I have great admiration for both of these men, and they served the Republican Party and the Commonwealth of Virginia with great distinction.

My letter to Chairman Jeff Frederick stated:

June 2, 2008

Delegate Jeff Frederick
Republican Party of Virginia
115 East Grace Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Jeff:

Congratulations on your election as Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. You campaigned with great vigor and energy, characteristics that will undoubtedly serve you well as leader of our party in Virginia.

With this letter I submit my resignation effective immediately as Finance Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. There are two reasons:

  • First and foremost, I serve as Deputy National Finance Chairman for the McCain campaign. The demands and needs of this position are increasingly significant, and I need to devote more time to ensure that we reach our targeted goals.
  • Secondly, I believe it is important for you to have the opportunity to select your own team, including Finance Chairman.

It has been an honor to serve as Finance Chair of the Republican Party of Virginia for the past year and a half, a period when we doubled the amounts raised over 2006. I wish you great success in your new role, and you can count on my continued support in your noble quest to elect Republicans to national, state and local offices.


Fred Malek

I learned a lot about my wonderful state over these 18 months and made a host of new friends, people who are dedicated, competent, and a pleasure to know. As I devote my time to the McCain campaign, this knowledge and these people will be helpful.

I also had a very nice conversation with Jeff Frederick yesterday, was impressed with his approach, and will be supportive of his efforts. It is essential for our party to remain united to be successful in our pivotal races this year and next. Jeff has great energy and determination, and I believe he will be successful. It is up to all of us to help make it so.

John McCain is a great candidate and will win Virginia and be our next President, and this will help Jim Gilmore prevail in his Senate bid. We are blessed with a united ticket at the top for 2009 with two of the finest people I know in elective politics, Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling. I will be doing my part to keep our party united. If we do so, we will be successful.

My Marriott Connection

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

The Washington Post recently cited me in a story about people leaving Marriott to become executives elsewhere. Here’s what they said about me:

Fred Malek was president of the hotels division and now has his own hotel investment company.

I appreciate the mention, and it’s true — but it leaves out part of the picture. I haven’t totally left Marriott. The fact is, through my current work as Chairman of Thayer Lodging, I’m still in partnership with Marriott as we own five of their hotels. In fact some of our best investments and recent sales have been with Marriott, including the sales of the Orlando Grande Lakes resort with a Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott, as well as Washington’s largest hotel, the Marriott Wardman Park. Marriott’s a great company and I’m thrilled to remain a part of the family. In fact, as the Post pointed out in its profile of me, my philosophy on work is based on something Bill Marriott once said: “Success is never final.”

Going Green By Purifying Hotel Air

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Recently the Washington Post published an interesting article on Marriott’s efforts at going green with energy efficient approaches in the hotels managed by Marriott. In my view, this is effective and an important model for business in general. And, as a past President of Marriott Hotels, I know they will carry out this initiative in an effective and comprehensive manner.

The firm I now chair, Thayer Lodging Group, is also committed to energy efficiency and is taking this a step further and combining with health living. Our initiative is to purify the air in our guest rooms and meeting rooms with an air purification system that is designed:

  • By deep cleaning the coils inside P-tacs and air handling units on a more regular and efficient manner, less pressure is created against the coils which causes the units to run at peak efficiency. This, in itself causes the until to use less electricity. Studies have shown that a clean coil uses 18 to 25% less electricity then the “normal” use coils. The purifiers use up about 3% of that savings so the net is 15-22% savings.
  • Also, deep cleaning coils on a more regular basis will increase the life of the units as well. We are also gathering data that will confirm that the Pure Rooms have 90% less complaints from costumers concerning non-working HVAC units. The cost savings of recovering from that guest complaint is huge.
  • The process uses a micro-fiber encasement to protect humans from breathing in anything that’s inside the pillow or mattresses. The encasements are also moisture resistant so that the human body’s natural fluids, such as the pint of water that the body sweats out every night, will not find its way into the bedding. As well, the encasements keep all human skin cells and dander from the bedding. These contaminants are what causes the pillows to lose their fluff and the mattresses to flatten. We are gathering data now, but the manufacturers of the pillows and mattresses all agree that the life of these items will increase. If a pillow doubles its life when encased and an encased mattress lasts three years longer, imagine the number of these items that don’t go to the landfill.
  • Indoor air quality is also listed as a positive for the L.E.E.D. certification, which Pure will accomplish.

We are working on other “green” associated benefits but these are what we are emphasizing right now.

Parachuting With President Bush

Monday, April 21st, 2008

You may have seen the article the Washington Post business section did on me that appeared in today’s Business Section: “Brokering Power In Business and Politics: Buyout Firm Founder Fred Malek’s Career Spans Nixon to McCain.”

I was amused to see that the piece picked up on one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in my life: Parachuting with former President Bush.  Here’s what the reporter wrote:

Malek, by his admission, is not entirely warm and fuzzy, but he is likable and has a knack for winning people’s trust. He could relax a mouse who was about to be eaten by a cat. In this case, he created a clubby, insider atmosphere, showing off photos from a lifetime of moving in and out of power. There’s Malek with his former executive assistant, Gen. Colin Powell. There’s Malek with his ex-boss, President Richard Nixon. There’s Malek with former president Bush, after parachuting out a plane to celebrate Bush’s 80th birthday. “Did Bush jump, too?” Rued asked. “Hell yeah,” Malek said.

Here are some more details from that jump.

It was June 2004.  President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 80th birthday by parachuting twice onto the grounds of his presidential library.  He made both leaps in tandem with experienced jumpers from the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute team from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  My jump was made a few days earlier along with his son Neil and several of his grandchildren.   The President gave us encouragement and congratulated us on completion. While I’d jumped before when in the Army, I found leaping from a small plane at 13,000 feet terrifying.

First lady Barbara Bush watched the jumps, as well as former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Of course, as a Navy pilot during World War II, Bush bailed out of his plane when his torpedo bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire south of Japan.  That was probably his most famous parachute jump of all.  Still, for an 80-year-old, the former President did quite nicely on his 80th.  A moment I’ll always remember and treasure.


Fred Malek President Bush from Washington Post

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Obama Is Wrong On Capital Gains Taxes

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

An interesting – and quite enlightening – exchange occurred during last night’s debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

ABC News moderator Charles Gibson brought up the prospect of raising capital gains taxes.

Here’s part of the back-and-forth with Obama that caught my attention:

GIBSON:   You have however said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, “I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was 28 percent.”

It’s now 15 percent. That’s almost a doubling if you went to 28 percent. But actually Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.


MR. GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.


MR. GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year — $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That’s not fair.

And what I want is not oppressive taxation. I want businesses to thrive and I want people to be rewarded for their success. But what I also want to make sure is that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don’t have it and that we’re able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools.

And you can’t do that for free, and you can’t take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children and our grandchildren and then say that you’re cutting taxes, which is essentially what John McCain has been talking about. And that is irresponsible.

No, it’s not.  I disagree with Sen. Obama.  Raising the rates for capital gains taxes is a dreadful idea – particularly during troubled economic times.

John McCain’s position is better:

Low taxes on dividends and capital gains promote saving, channel investment dollars to innovative, high-value uses and not wasteful financial planning. John McCain will keep the current rates on dividends and capital gains and fight anti-growth efforts by Democrats.

That’s how we stimulate economic growth.  In my opinion, hiking taxes is standard discredited economic folly.

I’d love to know your thoughts.    How would increasing the capital gains tax rate affect your investment habits and decisions?  If you have a moment, leave a comment.

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The Cancer Discussion Continued

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Over the weekend, John McCain said something worth repeating.  Here’s the AP story:

Sen. John McCain called Saturday for a presidential campaign that is more like a respectful argument among friends than a bitter clash of enemies, and said he is better able than either of his Democratic rivals to govern across party lines.

“We have nothing to fear from each other,” the Arizona senator said as he wrapped up a weeklong trip designed to broaden his appeal beyond the voters who cast ballots in last winter’s Republican primaries.

“We are arguing over the means to better secure our freedom, promote the general welfare and defend our ideals.”

“Let us exercise our responsibilities as free people. But let us remember we are not enemies,” he added.

I’m a fierce believe in policy and issues debate.  And, like Senator McCain, I don’t consider my debate opponents to be my enemies.

This point was quite relevant to me last week when I posted on this blog my thoughts about Elizabeth Edwards and cancer research.

That posting got noticed in several circles in the blogosphere – and produced an outpouring of responses.  Many of them were thoughtful and, although several disagreed with my position, were worth presenting on my blog.  This is such an important – and emotional – issue that I’m eager to keep the conversation going, even with folks who don’t agree with me.  In fact a few of these comments led to me to alter my view, and I now feel Mrs. Edwards truly did a service by further raising the profile of the critical issue of cancer in the political equation.  The more focus and discussion the better.

Many more comments, unfortunately, left the realm of polite debate.  I’m aware of those comments as well and, although I do appreciate their eagerness and earnestness on this issue, it’s probably better off to maintain a higher plane of discourse.

But thanks to all for taking the time to read my thoughts.  It’s a valuable conversation.  Let’s keep it going.