Big article in NY Times bares Ginn problems

    It is one thing for bloggers and real estate agents to post online articles about troubled real estate developers, but it is quite another when the mainstream media turns its investigative resources in that direction.  Yesterday, no less than the New York Times ran an extended piece on the beleaguered empire of Bobby Ginn, who has developed some of the most expensive golf communities in the southeastern U.S.  You can read it for yourself by clicking here, but I cannot help but make a few observations.
  • For Ginn and his partners, the response to questions about their problems seems to be "it's the economy, stupid." If only people had not stopped buying, they imply, then the 30 lawsuits they are fighting for alleged overvaluing of properties and certain other marketing misdeeds would not have been brought.
  • Throughout his career, Mr. Ginn seems to have understood well the H.L. Mencken proposition
    For Bobby Ginn, America is indeed the land of the second chance...and the third and the fourth...

    that, "No one ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American people."  Reading about his two decades of business problems, it is hard to understand his penchant for selling $500,000 tracts of dirt. Yet since the 1980s, Mr. Ginn has had the uncanny knack of finding organizations to bankroll his big ideas, despite his lack of consistent performance, lawsuits, at least one sizeable settlement and angry customers he left in his wake. ("Honk if Bobby owes you money" was the ubiquitous bumper sticker on Hilton Head Island in the mid 1980s.)  And plenty of wined and dined customers fell right in line.  Even now, some observers in areas where purchasers have been left with empty lots and empty dreams say things like, "Bobby sure did a great job of building a luxury property."  When you read the Ginn saga, you understand that America is indeed the land of the second chance...and the third and the fourth.
  • Salesmen who can sell coals to Newcastle share one thing in common -- a raging optimism about the future. In the Times article, Mr. Ginn says that, "when the depression ends, there will be a pent-up demand for happiness."  Despite the legions of unhappy customers he has left behind, Mr. Ginn expects to be selling happiness again.  But even the greatest hitters in baseball never hit a home run when the pitcher was throwing at their heads.  With those 30 lawsuits and hundreds of bitter customers to deal with, Mr. Ginn may be ducking for some years to come.
If you cannot click through to the Times article, please let me know and I will forward a copy.

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