July 1st 2012
As a psychoanalyst at heart, I’ve always been fascinated by what makes captains of industry “tick.” I chose Frederick Peters, president of Warburg Realty, for my first column because I admire his capacity to lead fearlessly, while having no fear of showing his human side. I learned that his blog is as much an outlet for his love of writing as a way to educate on real estate. I admired Fred even more at the conclusion of our interview than at the beginning. We had a great time talking culture, opera, art and the beloved true grit of the industry … that is after we ogled a picture of his adorable 16-month-old grandson Owen on Fred’s iPad.
WM: Why did you chose real estate?
FP: At the time I chose it, it was almost always a second career for people. I had been a musician, I had my young kids. My daughter was born when I was 26. We grew up together! In 1977, my wife and I bought our first apartment, the apartment we still live in today. I was completely bitten by the bug. I had a passion.
I was always intellectually inclined. I studied literature at Yale. One of the things that has been cool for me about the business that has expanded with social media is that there’s so much more room to be who you are in a controlled public forum. My blog afforded me the chance to tie the various pieces of my life together with my interest in writing.
WM: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
FP: I am still passionate about music. I go to concerts and I’m involved in the world of new music. I also bake. Unlike our deals, it’s all done in an afternoon. The other thing I’ve become passionate about is gardening which, unlike baking, is a much longer process than real estate.
WM: What drives you?
FP: I’m one of four brothers. Underneath this friendly exterior, I’m actually very competitive.
WM: What is your fondest memory and what is your most devastating memory in the business?
FP: My best moment was in 1991 when the Ashforths asked me if I wanted to buy the residential division from them. It was in the middle of the last big recession, so I was terrified. We negotiated for almost a year, then I became president of this new entity. That was the most exciting day of my career.
I haven’t had too many really bad experiences. Because I am so paternalistic, I hate it when people leave the firm. Closing offices at the time of the last recession was the worst think I have had to do.
WM: What’s the key to handling the pressure?
FP: I allow myself 24 hours to feel crummy after a set-back. Then I move on.
WM: How do you take care of yourself?
FP: I try to have one technology-free day a week. I’m training myself that not everything requires an immediate response. People survive if you don’t get back to them for a few hours, or even, God forbid, the next day.
WM: Do you have a close friend in the business?
FP: There are a number of people I really like. My closest friend outside of the office is Barbara Fox.
WM: Can competitors be friends?
FP: I don’t see why not. What we have in common is greater than what divides us.
WM: Getting back to the lighter side, can you sing? Or dance?
FP: I’m a good ballroom dancer. I love to dance! And I’m an opera buff. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love opera.
WM: Who in the world of business do you most admire?
FP: I would have to say Warren Buffet. I admire his courage. He’s such a contrarian. “It’s only when the tide goes out that you see who’s been swimming naked,” is one of the greatest quotes of all time.
WM: Do you have any enemies?
FP: I don’t think you can be successful without stepping on a few toes.
WM: What’s the most important characteristic people need to get to the top in business?
FP: Determination, intelligence and you’ve got to make relationships work.
WM: What is the single value you hold most sacred?
WM: What do you love most about a deal?
FP: Assembling the puzzle. It requires all of our skills. You have to be mathematically astute, personality-smart, and you have to see the path from here to there.
WM: Is you life more glam than grit or the other way around?
FP: I’d say my life is all grit! I’m not looking for glam. I want to be in the trenches.