Rocking with Metallica part 2: That is Mr. Penny Lane to you sir

I became such a Metallica groupie last week that my friends are calling me Penny Lane, the “Band Aid” groupie character played by Kate Hudson in the movie Almost Famous. They accuse me of having a “man” crush on Lars — Ahh, jealousy does not wear well on them.

Where to find the best shows

After seeing several shows in all sorts of venues, I can say Metallica is consistent — they alway deliver a rockin’ set. It’s the crowd and the venues that really set the energy level.

The Oakland show was the most intense I saw, followed closely by the Nassau Coliseum show in Long Island. What makes one Metallica show more intense than the other? The size of the mosh pits and slam dancing groups. Try to see a show where there will be an aggressive, active crowd. The great shows with super high energy can happen anywhere (and always in Europe), but I found the older venues in the U.S. tend to promote more energy than the newer venues. But, all that is just on the margins — all the shows had tons of energy.

Check out the Nassau mosh pit love these two shirtless skinheads are showing — they are about to hug it out after slamming the crap out of each other.

Check out the New York Times Review of the Naussau show.

A tight band rockin’ in New Jersey.

After party

After the Saturday night Newark show, the band hosted an after party at Craftsteak at 10th Ave. and West 15th St. The band was all there: Lars, Kirk, Robert and even James who usually passes on the late night scene.

Spoke with Kirk Hammett’s security guard/assistant. We were reliving a story about a plane trip from Belgium to London last summer. The band was playing at a music festival in Belgium, and Lars let me tag along with him.

Metallica had two planes working that trip because James and Lars were in London and Kirk and Robert were in Paris. They all met in Belgium and, after the show, one plane took James and Robert to Greece (for their next gig three days later) and one plane went back to London and Paris because Lars and Kirk were going to go down to Greece the day of the show.

Kirk got on our plane, and when we landed in London, Kirk realized he had forgotten his passport. Not wanting to mess with the paper work, he hid in the toilet and was completely freaked out trying to avoid detection by the custom agents. He ended up getting away with it — amazing enough — but it was fun to relive that story.

Lars, on top of the world. His night is just beginning.

Had a good talk with the bass player, Robert Trujillo, and his wife. They went out on my boat with their baby a few months back, so we were reliving that and talking about the Bay area.

Hung with Lars until the end. From a peak of maybe 100 people at 2 a.m., there were about 15 die-hards left around 4 a.m. when the bar officially closed. The rest of the band had left but Lars was not quite done yet — he has a bit of a reputation as a night owl — so they agreed to let us stay. It was me, Lars, Steve, the guys from the warm up band, the Sword, and about 5 other random folks. We sat around a table drinking wine and shooting the shit until we finally stumbled out around 5:30 a.m.

Next day

I went back to the Hotel Gansevoort, packed, got 45 minutes of sleep from 6 to 6:45, got in a car for JFK at 7, and caught the 9 o’clock American Flight back to San Francisco.

Thank God I got a business class upgrade ’cause I slept from wheels up to wheels down. I got home in time to join my family at a Super Bowl party that was being thrown by, of all people, Skylar Ulrich — Lars’ ex wife and mother of two of his kids. They threw a great party with about 10 couples and lots of kids. After an awesome game, I finally got to sleep. Exhausted.

So, maybe I do have a slight man crush. Better get back to work this week or people will start talking. I will check in next week from the MBA CREF Conference in San Diego.

I shot this Master of Puppets video. Rock!

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Jim Flaherty is CEO of and the creator of the Backshop loan origination system. He is a trained credit professional with experience installing enterprise underwriting systems for commercial real estate lenders, rating agencies and investors.

On the road with Metallica

I have been looking forward to this week for months. Metallica is finishing up their North American Tour in support of their Grammy nominated new album Death Magnetic with shows in Chicago and New York. I am friends with drummer Lars Ulrich, so I have the privilege of getting great seats and passes to their shows (thanks Steve!).

Now that I’m a groupie, I have learned that, while not everyone loves (or even likes) Metallica, those who do like them, really love them. Since I have clients/friends in both Chicago and New York — and I love Metallica — I figured why not do some entertaining Heavy Metal Style!

So, last night in Chicago, 15 of us met for dinner/drinks at the Ram Brewery, then we hit the show at Allstate Arena.

Our seats were in row AA — literally the first row off the floor — and Metallica put on an amazing show.

Heavy Metal — up close and personal.

Afterward, we had a few drinks at Club Magnetic, the backstage open bar, then I took the three woman in our group into the “inner sanctum” to meet Lars and get an autograph. We all figured Lars would rather meet 3 ladies than 12 men, so that is why we took the women! Thanks Lars!

If you want to meet a rock star, 3 women are much more effective than 12 men.

I arrived in New York today and will be going to the shows with more clients and friends. The trip is not all fun as I also have several meetings lined up. So, if my wife is reading this, it really is a work trip (at least partially), and thanks for holding down the fort while I am playing Heavy Metal groupie!

BTW, I also saw the Oakland show on December 20th with my wife and 10-year-old son, who is taking guitar lessons and already has an ear for metal. Who says Heavy Metal and the Holidays don’t go together?

It’s a Family Affair: me, Andy and Larie.

Last night I shot this video of the opening of “The Day That Never Comes.” Have a taste!

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Jim Flaherty is CEO of and the creator of the Backshop loan origination system. He is a trained credit professional with experience installing enterprise underwriting systems for commercial real estate lenders, rating agencies and investors.


Attending the inauguration of our 44th President made me feel inspired and hopeful. My wife and I went as guests of the MBA’s political action committee (MORPAC) — and we felt like we witnessed history. The group we were with consisted of both democrats and republicans (and at least one libertarian) but all were moved and awed by the magnitude of the event.

One of the best quotes summing up the event: “What was once the ultimate impossibility will become the reality against which future generations will measure the magnitude of their aspirations.”

Obama and Michelle dancing at the Southern Ball. We were only about 50 feet away.

Hectic but fun

We arrived on Sunday evening (unfortunately having missed the concert on the Mall) and went to McLean, VA where we stayed with my wife’s aunt and uncle. Monday morning, we went to the Air and Space Museum for a private tour, arranged by MORPAC, and then spent the rest of the day on the Mall soaking in the vibe.

Lots of people milled around, and vendors sold all things Obama. We had dinner at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse and late night drinks at the Sofitel Hotel. We were lucky (we thought) to score “Silver” tickets to the swearing-in ceremony, which was supposed to give us access to a reserved standing area relatively close to the capitol. So we headed back to McLean around 1 a.m. to prepare for the big day.

Tuesday we got up early but after suffering through a slow commute on the Metro and having to drop our formal ware off at the MBA’s office, we didn’t reach the Mall until about 10 a.m. We foolishly thought that since we had reserved tickets, we would be able to still get into our section.

Not so.

As it turned out, if you weren’t in line by 7 a.m., you didn’t get access into any of the reserved areas. There were just way too many people, and the security gates did not seem staffed nearly well enough. After about 30 minutes trying to fight through the humanity, we decided on plan B and high tailed it back toward the White House to watch the swearing in at the Willard Hotel.

The Willard Hotel, one of the oldest in Washington, is located right across from the White House on Pennsylvania Ave., directly overlooking the parade route. MORPAC reserved a corner suite on the 10th floor where they had food and drinks set up in a very civilized environment.

We got there about 10 minutes before the swearing-in began and watched the ceremony from the suite. Not exactly what we had hoped for but certainly a lot more comfortable than standing in the 20-degree weather. We, like everybody there, were blown away by his speech and totally in awe at the size of the crowd that came to witness the event firsthand. We ventured out into the streets a few times but spent most of the afternoon at the hotel watching the parade, which passed literally right below us.

That evening, we put on our formalwear and to the Southern Ball, one of the 10 official inaugural balls. The event was held near RFK Stadium and had probably 5,000 attendees.

Susan Tedeschi performed, but everyone was there to see The President. Joe Biden arrived first around midnight, gave about a 5-minute speech and did a quick dance before leaving. Obama arrived at about 12:30 a.m., and the crowd went crazy. He basically thanked the crowd for their support and said “the work starts tomorrow!” He did a quick dance with Michelle and was gone probably 10 minutes after arriving.

I shot this video of his speech and dance:

While the ball itself was not that special, we were able to get about 50 feet away from the stage and got by far our closest view of the Man — a nice way to end the event. Got back to McLean about 2 a.m. and crashed for a few hours before our flight back to San Francisco.

View of the parade route from the MBA suite. That’s “The Beast,” Obama’s top-secret armored Cadillac limo. Said the General Motors spokesperson: “One of the specifications is that we don’t talk about the specifications.”

Parting Observations

African American Community
The fact that Monday was Martin Luther King Day and Tuesday was the swearing in of our Nation’s first black president was not lost on us or the crowd. I would say at least half of the people attending the inauguration were African American, and the pride and inspiration that community demonstrated was beyond words.

If Obama’s presidency does nothing else except inspire people of all colors that anything is possible with personal responsibility and hard work, it will be a success.

The Security and Crowd Control
The event must be judged as a huge success because no one, especially the President, was hurt. That being said, 2 million visitors made the city crowded and hard to get around.

However, despite the frustrations many felt with regard to the swearing-in tickets, the crowd was friendly and inspired, with no trouble makers to be seen. An amazing fact was, despite the gathering of about 2 million people, there was not a single arrest made during the event. Well done crowd!

It was cold. Enough said.

Everyone was hopeful. The businesspeople who thought things could not get any worse, and that Obama might inspire confidence began to find a bottom (after all, oil is at $40, interest rates are at 4.5 percent, and housing is finally starting to get affordable again).

The politicians were hopeful they could ride the momentum to enact meaningful legislation. People of all colors were hopeful that they will now be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Hopeful that the world may look at America with a fresh perspective and put aside old ways of thinking. Hopeful that maybe, just maybe, a wave of openness and transparency was sweeping the nation and the world.

It was awesome.

Air and Space Museum — Pre Wright Brothers plane.

The Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, in which adventurer Steve Fossett became the first person to fly an airplane solo, nonstop around the globe without refueling.

View from the suite, with Bush leaving by helicopter.

My wife Larie and me at the Willard Hotel.

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Jim Flaherty is CEO of and the creator of the Backshop loan origination system. He is a trained credit professional with experience installing enterprise underwriting systems for commercial real estate lenders, rating agencies and investors.

Four Actions to Help Fix the CMBS Industry

The best things about conferences are the unexpected and unplanned meetings.

Last night at the CMSA/MBA Capital Markets Conference in Washington, DC, I enjoyed an experience that restores a bit of hope: a illuminating dinner with three CMBS experts, each with his own insight into saving the market.

I had dinner with:

– Toby Cobb, head of Deutsche Bank’s real estate group, on special assignment to monitor developments in Washington, DC

– Pat Sargent, a seasoned real estate and securitization lawyer with Andrews Kurth, and the incoming president of the CMSA

– Jack Toliver, head of the CMBS ratings group at rating agency DBRS

All three share a desire and passion to get the CMBS market working again, and each brought a unique prospective. After a few rounds of cocktails and some really big steaks, each person proposed the one thing they thought was most critical to the market’s recovery:

1. No Government Bailout
Toby Cobb thinks the government is doing more harm than good when it comes to CMBS.

The change in direction on TARP from buying assets, including CMBS, to investing directly in bank stock, is an example. The announcement and switch caused disruption and uncertainty that contributed to the free fall in CMBS over the past 60 days.

He thought the government could play a leadership role in helping the private sector come up with a plan, but that the economics should be left in the private sector.

2. Rule of Law
The issue that most concerns Pat Sargent is the renegotiation of contracts.

The entire economy is based on the strength and enforceability of contracts. If these contracts are changed, especially if they are changed by servicers in a self-serving way, the entire structures lose credibility.

Without structural credibility, investors will be less likely to return to CMBS.

3. First Pay Rating
Jack Toliver, a vocal critic of the lending practices of 2006–2007, thinks the SEC can provide some help to investors in Structured Products by differentiating AAA securities that are “First Pay.”

In a standard CMBS deal, the AAA class gets 100% of the payments from 0% to say 70%. That means, even if real estate values go to 50 cents on the dollar, the AAA will get all of the cash, and, therefore, recover 50 cents and only lose the next 20 cents.

In other words, the bonds get the first money out of the assets even if they do not get paid back to par. But there are also AAA rated CDOs that were the “top” pieces of B notes, that were subject to senior A notes. They achieved AAA ratings because it was thought not all B notes would default, so at least some of them would pay off and, therefore, the first bonds to receive the payments were “safe.”

But that is not the case, and these are not “First Pay” securities. They rely on an underlying senior security to pay off before the junior security receives its first dollar. The value of that security can go to zero if all the B Notes fail, where the value of a “First Pay” CMBS bond would not go to zero. That should be differentiated.

4. Transparency
And, of course, I was promoting transparency to the rent roll and standardized underwriting models (the common calculator).

All good ideas if you ask me …

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Jim Flaherty is CEO of and the creator of the Backshop loan origination system. He is a trained credit professional with experience installing enterprise underwriting systems for commercial real estate lenders, rating agencies and investors.

Internet at 35,000 feet!

I am on a plane to New York for several meetings and to attend the CMSA/MBA Capital Markets Conference in Washington DC this Wednesday through Friday.

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The Not So Deadliest Catch

I spent the day Fishing and Crabbing off of the Marin coast in the “High Tide” -– my 28 foot long, twin engine MasterCraft X-80 that can usually be found pulling us around on a wakeboard. Not today: We took up the carpets, loaded my 4th and 2nd grade kids, and got my buddy who actually knows how to fish to be our guide.

We started the day by dropping a crab pot in 150 feet of water about 7 miles off Bolinas. The trap was loaded with an old fish head and, after the drop, we hit the Man Over Board button on the GPS to mark our spot and then headed in toward the coast.

Andy with his monster from the deep.

We went to a spot called Double Point about half way between Bolinas and Point Reyes and got the poles ready. We were fishing for rock fish with sardine bait. Basically, you put a heavy weight on the line and bounce the weight off of the rocky shore below trying to get a fish to hit.

The closer you are to the rocks, the better, so there is a fair amount of positioning the boat. Needless to say, we crushed it!

My son Andy got the first hit and it turned out to be the best fish of the day — a 27-inch Blue Lingcod. The fish was ugly with big teeth and a gnarly looking face with spikes coming out of it, but lingcod are prized for eating. We went on to get six more fish including a Cabezon and a few Red Rock Fish.

We headed back out to the crab pot to see if we caught any Dungeness Crabs. After pulling up of the crab pot, we were pleased to see a bunch of keepers. We ended up with eight to keep and threw back five or so for being too small.

We powered back enough fish and crab to feed us and my buddy and his family for at least three meals (plus my dogs loved the skin and scraps). Awesome!

It was a big difference for me and the kids fishing in the ocean as we usually only fish for Trout in the Sierra lakes (Lake Kirkwood is our favorite) where a 12 inch fish is the norm.

To pull up a “creature from the deep” that feeds the entire family for a few days was awesome. Plus, to transform the boat from a Wakeboarding machine to fishing platform adds a new way to use the boat, which is always a goal.

Me and the kids: There’s no better way to get crab.

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Jim Flaherty is CEO of and the creator of the Backshop loan origination system. He is a trained credit professional with experience installing enterprise underwriting systems for commercial real estate lenders, rating agencies and investors.

Watching the U.S. election in London

I’m in London this week for the annual European conference of the Commercial Mortgage Securitization Association (CMSA).

The media have been focused on the presidential race, but, when it looked like Obama was going to win, and we left home in Notting Hill to go join “the masses,” we found the streets mostly empty. Granted it was already 2 a.m. Wednesday morning local time, but I thought we might see more activity.

We headed over to the U.S. embassy in Mayfair because we heard there was a party there. When we got there, it looked “too” official with everyone dressed up and fairly conservative. So we headed to Piccadilly Circus / Leicester Square where the rowdy people were hanging out (it is comparable to Times Square in New York).

Here’s where we found the party.

We went to a bar called Yates that was hosting an all-night election party. We paid the cover, and when we went inside, there were two definite groups in the bar. In the front were about McCain supporters. From the middle to the back of the bar, there were probably 500 people pulling for Obama.

We set up shop in the middle of Obama territory and waited for Pennsylvania and Ohio to come in. I got a call from my wife who was at an election party in San Francisco when they called Ohio. In London, they had not made the call yet so I announced it in the bar. People were skeptical but then as if on cue, the broke the news that Obama was going to carry Ohio and Pennsylvania.

McCain supporters in front, Obama supporters in back …

Case closed: Obama won.

The place erupted — shots, champagne, hugs, tears — the whole thing. Brits were congratulating Americans for our ability to reinvent ourselves. If felt cool to be an American again in Europe. The U.S. backpackers might not have to pretend to be from Canada anymore!

After it was clear Obama won, I limped back to my hotel and watched the acceptance speech from my room (about 5 a.m. now). Inspiring, emotional, historic. When I finally passed out, I was drained but happy.

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Jim Flaherty is CEO of and the creator of the Backshop loan origination system. He is a trained credit professional with experience installing enterprise underwriting systems for commercial real estate lenders, rating agencies and investors.

CMSA Promoting European IRP Version 2

What a week to be in London!

I find myself in London on this historical election night. I am attending the annual European conference of the Commercial Mortgage Securtization Association (CMSA), and the excitement around the U.S. election is intense.

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Metallica Death Magnetic Private Show

Last night we were privileged to see Metallica play a final practice show before starting the Death Magnetic World Tour. I am friends with the band through our kids, so I was able to secure a group of passes to the show.

About 1,000 people got into the Cow Palace in South San Francisco to see the new set and hear the new songs. If you have not heard it, get a copy of the Death Magnetic album. Rick Rubin produced it, and it is awesome.

The house lights go up for “Seek and Destroy.”

James Hetfield

Kirk Hammett belts out “The Day That Never Comes.”

Set List:

That Was Just Your Life
The End Of The Line
Harvester Of Sorrow
Wherever I May Roam
Broken, Beat And Scarred
Until It Sleeps
The Four Horsemen
The Day That Never Comes
Master Of Puppets
Fight Fire With Fire
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman
– – – – – – – –
Last Caress
Seek and Destroy

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Jim Flaherty is CEO of and the creator of the Backshop loan origination system. He is a trained credit professional with experience installing enterprise underwriting systems for commercial real estate lenders, rating agencies and investors.

Blue Angels: Burning fuel and pulling Gs

Seeing the Blue Angels perform over San Francisco Bay makes me proud to be a taxpayer!

In the world of multi-billion dollar government bailouts and endless deficits, seeing the US Military burning some fuel and pulling Gs seems to make things feel better.

The market up 11 percent helps a bit too. Enjoy the pics.

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