Peter J. Burns III: Bouncing Back From Oblivion...We All Can!

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It was 2000 and I had just moved to the Phoenix area to be near my two little girls, who lived with their mother after our divorce in 1996 in Florida. Living in the "desert" was a new experience for me, as I had always lived on the water back East. However, nothing was more important than being near my two daughters, so it was the "Wild West" for me now.

The divorce had been earth shattering, both emotionally and financially. I literally had to start from scratch (actually even less than that, lol) when I arrived out West. I had been bouncing around in Las Vegas and Denver, where I had friends willing to shelter me as I contemplated my next move. Moving to Phoenix to start my slow trek back to solvency and hoped-for success was my plan...and I dearly wanted to be close to my young daughters as they grew up. 

As Fortune would have it, I was able to meet an established and innovative fellow entrepreneur almost immediately - we hit it off and I joined him in his "Party Limousine Bus" company. Since my business background starting out had been in recreational rentals, my experience dovetailed nicely into what my new friend was doing. I quickly helped him expand his core business and then together, we branched off into the "VIP Entertainment Card" and a very unique format of an Entertainment Publication called "NightLife Magazine", which I coined the "Insertazine."

That spawned a number of other successful ventures and I then entered into the real estate vertical of acquiring single family homes, refurbishing them and selling them on a "contract for deed" purchase. With that real estate partner, we built the portfolio to 27 homes valued between $150,000 and $650,000.

While getting my feet on the ground in Phoenix, my old Mercedes that I drove down from Las Vegas was wearing out and I had spied a fabulous classic car that I just had to have. Alas, I simply didn't have the wherewithal at that time to meet the owner's price and he wouldn't consider my rather "creative" terms...so I forgot about the dream car and devoted myself to focusing on my new business ventures and spending as much time as I could with my daughters. 

Lo and behold, the car's owner rang me up out of the blue one day and asked if I still wanted his car. I said that unless his price was much lower than we had chatted about months before, I couldn't afford it. He told me that I should come over and see him because he had a very "creative" idea of his own for me. He gave me directions to his home in the hidden oasis of The Phoenix Country Club, where the big old money of Arizona lived. Very established, spectacular older mansions and the home of the venerable Phoenix Open, this area was also home to one the country's premier private golf clubs.

I pulled up to a spectacular Manor House and my dream car was parked out front, gleaming from a recent waxing. My eyes took in the estate with its palm trees, two 4 car garages and even a guest house in back that exceeded 3500'. The owner greeted me and asked if I wanted to tour the mansion, which I certainly did. It was built in 1929. The home reminded me very much of the type of properties that I grew up around back East.

In a nutshell, the Manor was over 12,000' with a Great Room reaching up 45' and a fireplace that I could stand in. There was a fully stocked law library complete with an old fashioned Mahogany elevator that took one to the owner's wing...fully half of the upper floor with several rooms comprising the Master Suite. There were a dozen bedrooms, a servants cottage and even a fully blessed (by a Cardinal three popes ago) Roman Catholic Chapel with stained glass windows, pews for a dozen and an altar. There was a home movie theater and even a full bar in the basement level, as well as an 800 bottle wine cellar.

The fella with the beautiful Rolls (1987 Cornich II, 37k original miles, in immaculate condition) and the magnificent mansion offered the following "opportunity" to me:

If I would purchase his mansion by wrapping the mortgage already in place ($2.8 million), he would "give" me the clear title and keys to the Rolls. All I had to do was write him a "token" check for $10,000 and the mansion's deed and car title were mine. He then produced three recent appraisals on the property, which clearly showed a current value approaching $4.5 million...an immediate "paper" equity of $1.7 million. The $22k per month mortgage payment and property taxes were a bit of a hurdle to swallow but...I was now in the real estate investment business and by sheer pluck, I surmised my partner and I could re-market the property....

Besides, I needed a nice place to live and I dearly wanted that Rolls so...I harangued my partner to cut the $10,000 check and promptly moved into the mansion as soon as the paperwork was done. For the next year, yours truly "lived the life" in one of the area's premier properties (at one time, the largest home in the State) and tooled around in a very cool "ride."

The most remarkable thing about this entire occurrence is that I moved into this new home...exactly 6 months to the day that arrived in Phoenix with only $600 in my pocket but with the determination to get back in the game.

Lessons learned...go for it and never think that just because you are down, you are out.

Posted on March 22, 2018 .