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Every company has challenges…

by Suzanne Licata

“I remember picking up walnuts in my back yard and I was so nervous about it my jaw would just shake,” Brock said. “You’ve heard of LBO’s, leveraged buy outs? This was a VLBO, very leveraged buy-out!”

In 1980, Charles E. Curry was moving to Washington, D.C., asked Brock how long it would take to sell the company’s assets. Brock said, absent a fire sale, about two to three years. That was going to take too long for Charles E. He told Brock he ought to just buy the company.

When Brock pointed out that he did not have nearly the assets to do so, Curry’s response was to suggest Brock purchase all the assets except the land, the Curry family would take his note, as would the few charities that had been given some stock. Charles E., also required he get a life insurance policy.

“Charles gathered the 8-10 people in the company and told them the news,’” Brock said. Brock went on to tell the few that, yes, we’ve made this deal and do have a huge debt now and if they are nervous, he didn’t blame them, he would help them find another job if they needed to go but would be grateful if they stayed, promising to work his tail off to make it work. “I was about to launch into paragraph two when one guy said, ‘Well, what’s new? You hired us, trained us, sounds like you’re in a lot of debt and what we need to do is get out of here and get back to work.’ And then they all did just that.”

At the time, the thought was Brock would have to sell most of the company assets to cover the debt, maybe keeping flagship properties like Antioch Center and the Kendallwood apartments. However, they sold just one building, kept all the other assets and continued to grow the company as they reduced the debt to a negligible level. The hard work, smarts and focus of loyal employees overcame that challenge.

When big business decisions carry an impact on its long dedicated workforce, Curry’s can-do spirit really comes into play.

At one time, the Antioch Shopping Center represented as much as 60 percent of Curry’s business and the staffing to support it. In 2006, it was time to sell. “This was a huge change for us,” said Todd. “Antioch had been central to our business for 50 years and, the sale put the jobs of many long-time employees at risk.”

For more than 80 years, Curry had worked almost exclusively on its owned assets. “That year,” said Todd, “we upended our business model, making a big investment in bringing our team up the brokerage and third party management learning curve. They knew how to lease and manage and they were game to take care of others like they took care of Curry.”  Today, brokerage and third-party management is a significant part of the business, contributing greatly to the company’s bottom line.

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