Just seven years after his brokerage firm collapsed under a mountain of troubled mortgages, former Lehman Bros. chairman and CEO Dick Fuld is back in the real estate business, USA TODAY has learned.
Last year, Fuld’s financial advisory firm, Matrix Advisors, launched a licensed real estate brokerage and hired a seasoned real estate broker and asset manager to run it, public documents show.
In February 2014, Matrix hired Howard Schussler, a former asset manager and leasing associate at Kimco Realty, a publicly traded owner and operator of shopping centers, according to Schussler’s LinkedIn page. Schussler also worked at C-III Capital Partners, a national real estate services and investment management company.
In April, Matrix opened Matrix RE Brokerage LLC, a licensed real estate brokerage, according to New York Department of State business records. Schussler is also a licensed real estate broker with New York under Matrix RE Brokerage, records show.
Matrix’s new web site, which was under constructed this week, said its real estate arm “provides real estate transactional and advisory services which include sourcing investment opportunities, equity and debt, financial modeling and due diligence for all asset classes.”
Neither Schussler nor Fuld returned USA TODAY’s requests for comment.
On Thursday Fuld, who was widely blamed for Lehman’s 2008 collapse, will be honored as the keynote speaker at conference in midtown Manhattan in what is being billed as his first public appearance since the $30 billion brokerage firm and investment bank went bust.
At the conference, Fuld, 69, will talk about how companies valued at under $500 million can make it in today’s tougher capital environment, according to a press release by Marcum LLP, the accounting and advisory firm sponsoring the event.
Fuld will also touch on Lehman and the financial crisis in his speech, the news release said.
Following Lehman’s bankruptcy, which was the biggest in history, Fuld was grilled by Congress, called a “villain” and portrayed as the poster boy for the kind of Wall Street excess that led to the financial crisis. Fuld, in turn, blamed the government for denying to save the firm, as it did Bear Stearns — as well as an “extraordinary run on the bank.”
In 2010, Lehman’s bankruptcy examiner said that while Lehman officers choose to ignore signs it was “undertaking excessive risk,” there was scant evidence of gross negligence. In 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission staffers ended their probe into possible financial fraud at Lehman Brothers without recommending enforcement action against the firm or its executives.
Fuld’s rare decision to step into the spotlight this week appears to coincide with his efforts to beef up Matrix Advisors, which provides advice on operations and assistance on financial transactions.
In addition to hiring Schussler, Matrix also recently hired John Yanchek, a former natural resources analyst at Goldman Sachs, according to the company’s website. The Matrix web site, which is being built by Quick Media Solutions, was mostly off limits late Wednesday following USA TODAY’s story about Matrix’s recent expansion efforts.
Before access to the site’s pages were removed, the web site listed Fuld as the chairman, CEO and founder of Matrix, and former Lehman executives Ernest Greenand David Karlin as managing directors.
Matrix also moved into a new 6,832 square-foot space on the 6th floor of 400 Park Ave., according to Real Estate Weekly. Matrix was previously located at 780 Third Avenue, according to its old web site — a plain white page that said “Coming Soon” below the company’s name and address.
Matrix also appears to be tied to entities that collectively own a 36% in National Stock Exchange Holdings Inc., which recently bought the National Stock Exchange, a small exchange in Jersey City, N.J., public documents show. Thor Investment Holdings LLC owns 16% of the outstanding equity of the National Stock Exchange Holdings, while TIP-1 LLC owns 20% of the outstanding stock.
Both entities as located at Matrix’s new address, according to an SEC document, which names Fuld as an “executive officer” of TIP-1 LLC.
Matrix is expanding in other ways as well, including the recent hire of Wirework & Nappi, a lobby group, according to public filings. Douglas Nappi, former chief counsel of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, didn’t return a request for comment, but the filing says he and his partners were hired to help with “Foreign Investor Visa Programs,” wherein wealthy foreigners can speed up the visa process by investing in a pre-approved U.S. business or entity.