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Management firm hits home run.

In 1990, Oskar Brecher and Arthur Mignone, partners in American Landmark Company, made a decision to expand their third-party residential management business and to join the forefront of New York management firms. Eighteen months and 2,800 new units later, one could say they are indeed making their mark.

"We have now joined, what I believe is, the upper ranks of the top management companies," Brecher beamed of his 4,500-unit management portfolio.

Most recently, as a result of a competitive bidding process, American Landmark was named managing agent for 14 luxury pre-war Manhattan residential properties, representing 1,400 units. All but two of the buildings are cooperatives and many of the buildings were originally owned by Bing & Bing. Nine of the 14 buildings had been managed by American Landmark Account Executive Meryl Sacks before she came to the firm.

The 14 buildings include Southgate, 482 units in five buildings in Beekman Place; 970 Park Avenue, a 44-unit cooperative; Carnegie Plaza, a 73-unit condominium at 162 West 56th Street; and 245 East 72nd Street, a 123-unit cooperative; and 235 East 73rd Street, an 88-unit cooperative.

"I think we proved to them they had the best chance of doing with us what they wanted to do," said Brecher.

The growth began in 1990, he said, when Edward J. Coleman and Albert E. Mayas, both formerly of Brown, Harris, Stephens, Inc., came on board as executive vice president/director of management and senior vice president/director of operations, respectively.

American Landmark Developments Inc., a development/management firm founded in 1980 by Brecher. The firm's main businesses was new development and the conversion of rental units to cooperatives and condominiums mostly in the Washington, D.C. area. "We put together a very capable team, although a small one, to manage our own buildings," he said.

When they had converted and sold off most of the units, Brecher was faced with either closing down or expanding the management firm. He chose the latter.

Brecher credits the strength of the company with the energetic staff people and their longevity with the company and the technology and methods they employ. "The systems we have, especially back office, are really honed," he said.

American Landmark purchased a Management Information System (MIS) 10 years ago and they have been upgrading it ever since. The highly sophisticated and costly system, Brecher said, is used by only three other companies in the United States to manage other people's properties. The next closest third-party user, he said, is 1,500 miles away. "Unless you have an owner's point of view you would not invest in such a system," he said.

Brecher said the system is "integrated" and that it works on an accrual basis rather than a cash-receipts basis. Information is recorded for each building in a custom-made fashion.

"What impressed the [boards] the most is we can produce information in the fashion they want," he said. "That I think makes them very comfortable.

"We can give it to them on demand," he said. "We can produce the February 29 reports on March 1 or February 29."

Efficient Management

The challenge of management company's today, Brecher said, is delivering a high level of management services efficiently and at reasonable cost. A favorite motto of Brecher's is not to do anything twice.

"While the requirement for service is much broader than its ever been, the fees have not kept up with the addition of service," he said.

Managers today, he said are doing more financial management then ever before. In a way, he said, what they do is asset management in the traditional sense.

"You are becoming much more financial advisors to the co-op and condo entities," he said.

One area in which the firm lends its advice is reserve funds, an integral issue in planning budgets. Brecher said American Landmark does not recommend that each building have a reserve fund. That depends on the individual cooperative or condominium entity.

"We are not very doctrinaire about it," Brecher said. "We don't have a point-of-view that says |This is what it must be.'"

Brecher said he may recommend that a building of relatively modest means have a reserve fund because, if there is a sudden need for cash, the unit owners are less likely to have it on short notice. In a more "well-to-do" building, he said, the money may be better off in the unit owners' pockets. Wealthier buildings can also, he said, obtain corporate lines of credit.

"The trick is to know in which building you can get away with that and in which ones you can't," he said.

There are buildings in between, Brecher said, and that's where the art comes in.

Buildings are also faced, Brecher said, with a whole host of new regulatory issues including: Water meters, Local Law 10, recycling, licensing, and handicapped access to name a few.

"It's very, very complex to the point we have people in the office, although they have other broad responsibilities, specializing in areas [of concern]," he said.

Brecher said American Landmark has achieved a better coordination of management and sales. Through its affiliated companies, The Marketing Directors, owned by Brecher's wife Adrienne Albert, and City Living, Inc. a broker specialist is assigned to each building to help people sell their units. Unit owners may use the broker, who is familiar with the building, or choose one of their own.

"We have taken a position," Brecher said. "Each side of the business has to stand on its own."

Brecher cautions that American Landmark is not looking to enlarge the portfolio any further at the moment as they are still "digesting" the new buildings.
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Title Annotation:American Landmark Co.
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Feb 19, 1992
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