October 2010

Q&A with Douglas Wilson at ULI

by DWC Team on October 21, 2010

Q&A with Douglas Wilson Company Chairman/CEO Doug Wilson from National Real Estate BISNOW

For the past 22 years, Doug Wilson’s core business has been to act as a court-appointed fiduciary for 100 of the largest financial institutions in the country, to work as a receiver, taking over broken, problem deals. The San Diego-based firm operates on a national platform and handles all asset classes and product types. Bisnow sat down with Doug this week at ULI in DC. He tells us his business is an early warning barometer when things start to become troubled and difficult. When he’s not at work, Doug likes to travel with his wife of 33 years and three sons. The next trip? Ten days over Thanksgiving south of the border for a Mexican wedding with 600 attendees.

Bisnow: When did you first realize we were headed for a financial crisis?

Doug: The early warning was three and a half years ago with residential projects, starting with broken condo conversions in California and Florida, and then it gravitated to the master-planned communities and the land assets before the housing market imploded after 2006.

Bisnow: When did your business as a receiver start to pick up?

Doug: The flood gates really opened in 2008 and 2009. Over the last few years we’ve had everything from a ski resort in Idaho for Credit Suisse called Tamarack, a $270M credit, to large land tracts in Florida, high-rise buildings, high-end hotels, master-planned communities. We today in the DC have a couple of fairly dominant projects that were part of the Opus East bankruptcy. As receiver, we are completing building a 450k SF office building.

Bisnow: What do you do as a receiver?

Doug: We’re usually called when borrower doesn’t have any equity and the lender is worried about the preservation of the value of their collateral, and they want to move the value along. We step in and oversee construction, preserve entitlements, make sure insurance is in place, oversee operations, sell assets, so it’s not a boring business.

Bisnow: Do you expect to act as a receiver for a flood of troubled assets?

Doug: Because of the way this cycle is playing out, because the regulators, the FDIC, the government and others are not forcing the banks or the servicers to dump all assets—to mark them to market—they’re allowing lenders to work with borrowers, to extend and modify loans. There isn’t an overwhelming amount of foreclosures contrary to what people say. The fact of the matter is, we were very busy in 2008 and 2009 and this year, although we are still busy (we currently have 50 projects worth $1.5B) it isn’t the velocity that we would have thought.

Source: National Real Estate BISNOW

The Highlands Hotel Residences is a 3.4 acre parcel of land in Tahoe, California. The land is planned for 61 Ritz Carlton Residences, to be completed in 2 phases.