Capstak Influencer | Cliff Mendelson, Founder of Metropolis Capital Advisors

by Capstak

Cliff Mendelson | Metropolis Capital Advisors

Clifford Mendelson | Founder and CEO
of Metropolis Capital Advisors

Cliff Mendelson founded Metropolis Capital Advisors in 2009, a time when most lenders were withdrawing from markets and Wall Street powerhouses such as Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns were failing.

His courage in the darkest days of the Great Recession proved a source of strength to the commercial real estate sector.  Since its founding, Metropolis Capital Advisors has sourced more than $150 million in equity and several billion dollars mezzanine and senior debt. 

Cliff has more than 30 years experience in real estate finance and sales.

Before launching Metropolis Capital Advisors, he led the structured finance group at Transwestern, one of the largest privately held commercial real estate and development firms in the United States. He completed more than $3 billion in transactions with Transwestern.

Cliff joined Transwestern after heading the East Coast hotel brokerage group of CB Richard Ellis while simultaneously running the Mid-Atlantic and New York City real estate finance division of CB’s subsidiary, LJ Melody & Company.

His earlier experience includes creation of the hotel brokerage division of The Carey Winston Company, the predecessor of Transwestern.

Cliff, a graduate of Syracuse University, teaches a course in structured finance for the master’s in real estate program at Georgetown University. 

He answers our questions:

 

1) Metropolis Capital Advisors has completed structured financing deals across the United States. As a boutique firm, how do you remain competitive against institutional capital advisors?

We have a very deep bench of investors — equity providers and debt providers — that we have built up over our years in the business.  We have built that deep bench because we do more for our clients. We are active in finding them opportunities through our investment sales team. We help them create deals — and we work together to create relationships and trust that lasts.

 

2) What are the most important attributes you seek when interviewing a potential candidate to join Metropolis Capital Advisors?

I want to get a sense of their personality, and how their personality fits with the position. When I’m interviewing an originator, for instance, I am looking for a rare combination. I am looking for some with a great gift of gab, great people skills. At the same time, they need to have superior financial acumen and the ability to advise our clients wisely.

 

3) You have been in the industry through many up and down cycles. What do you think the biggest issue commercial real estate is facing in this current cycle?

As the recovery gets longer and longer, everyone naturally is holding their breath for the next shoe to drop. They get more cautious. We’re now at that point in the cycle when it takes a lot more time to get deals done because of that caution. I’m not sure that the caution is unwarranted. I don’t know where the next bubble will be or when it will burst, but I know it will burst.

 

4) As an instructor of structured finance for the masters in real estate program at Georgetown University, what is one piece of advice you give your students?

The first thing I tell students is that what everyone says about real estate is a falsehood. It’s not about “location, location, location.” You can have the best location in the world, but if you over-leverage it, you’re going to get foreclosed on. What’s important is “relationship, relationship, relationship.” Trust and relationships are everything in real estate. Everything.

  

5) We heard you are such a big Bruce Springsteen fan that you have attended 125 of his four-hour shows. Any particular song or album that really resonates with you? 

For an individual song, it would have to be “Thunder Road.” In picking a favorite album, that’s like asking me to pick a favorite child.  But I guess I would go with “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” Bruce plays a lot from that album to anchor his shows.

 

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