A fantastic piece written by Mr. David Hackett on Chris Brown.
Pic above via Sean Dreznin – Pictures in article by Salvatore Brancifort
After building up a portfolio of prime Sarasota properties, Chris Brown keeps looking for the next investment.
IN THE SPAN of a decade, from 1994 to 2004, Chris Brown went from sleeping on the couch in his parents’ condo with less money in his bank account than he owed on his cell phone bill to owning $8 million to $10 million in Sarasota properties, from a strip mall and apartment complex to a number of homes.
Then, in 2004, he had an epiphany: The market he had ridden so far, so fast was headed over a cliff.
“I told my wife, Michele, that none of it made sense,” Brown recalls. “People were paying $20,000 for mortgages on properties that were earning only $18,000, and the banks kept lending them money. I said, ‘We have to sell everything.’ Within 90 days, we had, even our own house.”
It was 2004, near the top of one of the frothiest real estate markets in Florida’s history. Flush with cash, seasoned at doing deals and in good standing with lenders, Brown capitalized on the real estate fallout of the Great Recession.
Today, Brown is one of Sarasota’s most prominent real estate investors, owning prime properties in Siesta Key Village, including the iconic Beach Club, the Hub Baja Grill, the Cottage and the former Blu Smoke, which he is redeveloping. He also owns the restaurants on the properties.
Photo via http://www.beachclubsiestakey.com
“I started buying in 2005 and now have two corners of the only intersection in the village,” says Brown, who also owns the nearby Morton’s Siesta Key Market and Siesta Key Village Hardware.
Now Brown is staking a claim on downtown Sarasota. His portfolio includes part of the historic Kress Building, now occupied by Fit2Run, as well the nearby Smokin’ Joes bar. He is a part owner of Indigo Hotel. And, in the past three years, Brown has assembled a rare Sarasota jewel: an entire block at 1700 Main Street, ripe for redevelopment.
“I haven’t seen him make any mistakes,” says John Harshman of Harshman and Co. Inc., a downtown Sarasota commercial real estate firm. “He’s able to recognize opportunity and to accept risk. You have to be impressed with what he’s done.”
Brown didn’t always buy at the bottom of the market. He bought the Beach Club and other Siesta Key properties in 2005 when prices were still rising. But he said those prices were validated because the properties were insulated by their proximity to one of the world’s most celebrated beaches.
“You can’t predict peaks and valleys,” Brown says. “But you can recognize when the numbers don’t make sense. In 2004 and 2005, they didn’t make sense to me. By 2011-12, my phone was ringing off the hook with bankers trying to make deals with me. [I] turned out to be in the right place at the right time.”
That timing has allowed Brown to sift through the ashes of the real estate meltdown to find bargains unimaginable a decade ago.
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