China: An Economic Superpower?

Earlier this week, the Chinese government sentenced another activist to 10 years in prison for the crime of “incitement to subvert state power”, otherwise known as advocating for political reform.

Perhaps the most important feature of a thriving free enterprise system is the free exchange of ideas, political and commercial, yet in China, you can be locked up not just for advocating for democracy, but also for publishing  an analysis of a  Chinese industry.

Without the open exchange of ideas, no country’s economy can ever truly thrive.  China, essentially run by un-elected gangsters with guns, will continue to bump along, reverse-engineering the West’s technology and manufacturing other countries brilliant inventions, like the i-Phone.

Liberals such as the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, openly admire, even envy, the power that the Chinese government can exert over its own people, but as long as China’s information network is closed and its economy is

Militarily, the Chinese are a very real threat. Economically, not so much.

run from the top down by a clueless bureaucracy, they will never triumph over the West.

33 Sales: What did they get for their money?

For 2011, the Greenwich MLS reported a total of 78 single-family sales priced between $2,000,000 and 4,000,000*. Since I consider this price-range to be Greenwich real estate’s bread and butter (in Topeka, Kansas, it’s more like $200,000-400,000), I picked out 33 properties that I consider to be useful “representatives” of what this amount of money got you.  One thing is certain; you got a heck of a lot more in 2011 than you would have in 2008.

*That’s “Greenwich” only. The grand total is 130 sales in this price-range if you add Riverside, Cos Cob, and Old Greenwich.

10 Indian Chase (off Bruce Park) sold this year for $3.8M

Economist Walter E. Williams

Not only is Walter Williams funny, he is also dead-on accurate in his assessment of capitalism, the US economy, the effects of minimum-wage laws on African American teen-age unemployment (presently at 55%), and anything else he cares to think about.

Today, he’s guest-hosting on the Rush Limbaugh Show and his co-host for an hour has been another great economic thinker, Thomas Sowell.  Even if you never listen to Limbaugh, it is a shame to miss these two guys.  They are that rarest of commodities on the main-stream media circuit, “black conservatives”, routinely ignored, if not shunned.  Instead, on most radio and TV channels, if the producers “require” an African-American economist or social theorist, we are treated to the likes of Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates or Princeton’s Cornel West, both liberals, both completely unoriginal in their pronouncements. Phooey.

The great Walter E. Williams

Once again trendy: The LL Bean Hunting Shoe

From the Daily Mail, this amusing report about the iconic LL Bean “Hunting Shoe”, once again finding itself back in style. Way back in the early 1970’s, as a young punk, I first wore a pair of these, in their moccasin form, to Greenwich High School every day.  My ability to set trends was non-existent, but a girl named Meg Whitehouse, who did have some social power, noticed my shoes and said “Wow, where did you get those??” She insisted that I bring the Bean catalogue to school and within a week, she was wearing the same shoes.  From then on, I saw them everywhere (so yes, I get partial credit, thank you).

Another interesting part of this story is that LL Bean still manages to manufacture things in the State of Maine.  Like New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, Maine is an in-hospitable environment for businesses, particularly manufacturing. With the best of intentions (of course!), well-meaning politicians have for years piled on regulation after regulation, all designed to “protect” workers and the environment.  The end result, all the businesses either move away or don’t set up shop to begin with.  Somehow Bean thrives.  Do they get exemptions from the State?  Or are they just so successful that they can afford to stay?  I shall investigate….

The Bean boot, like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, "goes in and out of style".


Shhhh….secret Riverside deals

I was speaking to a broker this afternoon as she strolled along some exotic Caribbean beach. She told me she has two deals on a couple of Riverside properties, priced between $4,000,000 and 8,000,000.  One has signed contracts and will be reported darn soon, the other’s just an “accepted offer/still show”.

Now that’s the way to sell real estate.

Un-named Greenwich broker, hard at work unloading some Riverside properties...

Gideon Joins Century 21?

Ok, just kidding, but Sotheby’s, like Century 21, does happen to be controlled by the same entity, something called “Realogy”.

These are the various companies under the Realogy umbrella:

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate

Century 21 Real Estate

Coldwell Banker

Coldwell Banker Commercial

ERA Real Estate

ONCOR International

Sotheby’s International Realty

So I’m giving Sotheby’s a try and Sotheby’s is giving me a try.  We both retain the right to dissolve the relationship at any time, typical with independent contractor employment agreements.

Real estate agents get no salary, no benefits, no “job security”.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

The gold jacket; good enough for Tiger Woods, but Gideon says no.

And it begins

Not sure why this intrigues me so, but I was down at Tod’s Point today (with dog-boy) and noticed the already growing pile of discarded Christmas trees. I’ve heard various excuses for why they get dumped so quickly, but honestly, does a decorated/lighted, well-watered evergreen in your living room look so bad that you must rush it out of the house?

Of course, this year, members of the Fountain family took full advantage: My visiting niece and nephew (great-nephew?) wanted a Christmas tree, so we drove around all the usual spots on December 24th, only to find everyone empty and closed down. My brother reminded me that my own blog (!) had observed that dumped trees start arriving at Tod’s Point even before December 25th. Sure enough, we got down there and found one perfect, still labeled tree, lying dead on the tarmac! We grabbed it, brought it home and decorated it, looks beautiful.

(I felt a little like poor ol’ Bob Cratchit, stealing an orange for Tiny Tim)


Bon Jovi Found Dead….Again!

Bon Jovi: Still not dead.

AP: For the second time in less than a month, police have discovered the body of 49 year-old rocker, Jon Bon Jovi, this time outside a Laundromat, near his home in Sea Bright, New Jersey.  Mr. Jovi struggled with police and EMT personnel as they attempted to load his body into a chilled container, shouting “I’m not dead yet, you idiots! Good lord, this is worse than the Richard Gere gerbil rumor!”

The Sea Bright Coroner’s Office issued this statement:  “As Coroner, I must aver, I didn’t throughly examine….him.”

Note:  There’s an Internet hoax going around claiming this guy died…

Shhhh….don’t tell that pesky Chris Fountain!

Turns out, even at only $6.6M, it's still a record price for the street


32 Twin Lakes Lane closes…$6,600,000.

Unfortunately, this is approximately the price my brother Chris said it was worth w-a-a-a-y back ONE THOUSAND NINETY THREE days ago.  Back then, as you’ll recall, it had just come on for $14,995,500 and Chris and I, like most brokers, discussed what we thought it might actually get.  I’m afraid I thought around $9M.  In my defense, if it had come on for, say, $9.995M, it might very well have sold in the 9’s.  But leaving a property twisting in the wind for that long can only diminish the eventual selling price, a cautionary example!

But ok, so Chris got this one right…yippee for Chrissy!


“When life deals you lemons, make lemonade”; that’s one of those trite, cutesy little clichés I like to avoid but dammit, sometimes these sayings are just too appropriate to avoid.

A case in point is broker Joanne Erb. She thought she had a deal on 84 Field Point Circle but got gazumped at the last minute. What did she do? She picked up her customer and whisked her over to 14 Meadow Lane and sold that one instead! The Field Point Circle place fetched $39,500,000 while Meadow Lane got “only” $32,500,000, but I’d say Joann made a nice recovery here.

Her partner at Round Hill Partners, Renee Gallagher, pulled the same trick back in 2009. Renee’s guy was trying to buy 24 Conyers Farm Drive but got gazumped and it sold to someone else for $18,700,000. Does Renee cry “Oh, boo-hoo!”? Nope, she turns around and sells him 435 Round Hill Road, for an even $20,000,000. That is good brokering.

Oops! Broker Erb gets gazumped on this one (84 Field Point Circle)...what to do?