American Dream Still Lives in All of Us – David Lichtenstein story

I want to share with you the story of David Lichtenstein and The Lightstone Group – my story. It’s a story appropriate for everyone from New Jersey to California, from Montana to Texas, black or white, rich or poor.  You only have to be an American to understand how it applies to you. I was very fortunate to be born in America, a country that encourages its citizens to work hard, work smart and seize a fair chance to succeed in every possible way through our great democracy.

Despite what you read in the newspapers about our struggling economy, the American Dream is still very much alive. It still encourages people like me, who come from even the most humble beginnings, to climb the ladder of success.  Not wanting to sound overly narcissistic, it is important that every single person in the United States knows the story about someone like David Lichtenstein. It is an American success story told over and over again by many besides myself. It is a story that reminds us all that believing in the Dream has been in the DNA of Americans since the nation first declared its independence from Great Britain.  From John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the reality of the Dream has proven itself over and over again as common men from all walks of life went on to become great ones in our land of opportunity.

Now, I’m not in the same class as those previously mentioned. In fact, I revere each of these gentlemen’s special contributions to American history and to American know-how, respectively. However, I share the same exact ladder that each of these men once climbed to attain his greatness. In fact, it’s the same exact ladder that every successful American has had available to them to rise above many of life’s struggles.

We may not need to be endowed with enough gifts to climb that same ladder as high as Thomas Jefferson or Bill Gates once did. However, that ladder has many rungs for success-seekers to climb,regardless of what height they may aspire to reach and to the level their talents and fates lead them to.  Their ultimate level of success was– at least – a few rungs higher than the one from which they once began their climb.Of course it is important that their smarts, effort, faith and luck all line up like the starts. For me, David Lichtenstein, the general direction of my climb has been upwards (setbacks here and there as to be expected) and I am very thankful for that.

So, what has been my story?  What has been the story of David Lichtenstein in business and in life?

I, David Lichtenstein began my career as a real estate investor in 1986 with an $89,000 property investment. Two years later I began my own real estate company – The Lightstone Group.

Yes, I took risks and they generally panned out for me. Risk taking is inherent in the American Dream. We are guaranteed nothing but the opportunity to succeed. Knowing and understanding this, I took additional risks that led me to my next big break, which was the acquisition of two large outlet mall properties in Orlando, Florida.

That same year, The Lightstone Group, under my leadership bought a group of Chicago office buildings through the procurement of Prime Group Realty Trust.

Establishing The Lightstone Group Value Plus REIT (LSVP REIT) in 2006 brought tremendous growth to the company through investments in outlet mall properties. This empowered investors to create balanced portfolios through investing in stable real estate properties in a diversified manner. By December 2009, we transferred our portfolio of 22 retail outlets to the Simon Property Group for $2.235 billion.  Now, remember that my first deal was only for $89,000 twenty years earlier.The following years consisted of a steady climb from the tens of thousands tobillion dollar transactions. “Only in America”, as they say.

In 2007, The Lightstone Group closed on the 366-room Crown Plaza Hotel and the adjacent CoCo Key Water Resort for $10 million, at auction.  As the real estate market inevitably ebbs and flows, I weathered the changes and continued to grow my investments by sticking to a timeless strategy.

From then on and throughout the period of American history known as “The Great Recession,” there have been successes and some disappointing setbacks from time to time.Fortunately, the general direction of The Lightstone Group has been upward.  One must learn to make difficult decisions as change occurs because success is always on the horizon and it is possible to weather a few storms on the way to smooth sailing.

It is important to realize that the real estate business is not that difficult to understand.  You buy low and sell higher to make a profit.  If there is one thing that I have learned from all of my experiences so far, it is that you do not need to be a genius in order to become successful.  All you need is a fair amount of intelligence, a basic understanding of how a business works, a high degree of good judgment and the ability to focus on the bigger picture.  It requires hard work, long hours of effort and the ability to deal with stress. In America, all things are possible, and I’m living proof of that.  I am humble and thankful for what I have achieved, but I also know that no one handed me anything – I earned it in the land of opportunity.

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