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LOS ANGELES-”It’s not the bonuses of AIG that’s the problem, or the gigantic salaries on Wall Street, or the commercial real estate gains, it’s the lack of balance in the system.” So said Thomas Barrack Jr., founder, chairman & CEO of Colony Capital LLC, when discussing how we got to where we are during his luncheon keynote at the 2009 USC Gould School of Law Real Estate Law and Business Forum, held Wednesday at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.

Barrack Jr. explained that the way to get the train moving again is not by blaming people.Congress is lashing the banks for lending to those who shouldn’t have borrowed, he explained. “It’s not anyone’s fault,” he said, “it’s a cycle…it’s not real estate’s fault or the financial world’s fault, it’s everybody’s fault.”

The way to thrive in the worst of times is to give up the past, he explained, noting that everyone’s goal is to survive in order to take advantage of the opportunity. “Give up the expectations you had…they are all wrong, and the people who adapt will be in the middle of the greatest distribution of wealth we have ever seen in history,” Barrack Jr. said.

On a bad note, Barrack Jr. explained that in his opinion, “the effect on commercial real estate hasn’t even been felt yet.” The beginning of the end, he added, is to “fix the banks.”

His suggestion to move back to the “good life” is to “embrace the programs set forth to help the economy, embrace the administration, work with them, deal with them, there is so much opportunity out there.”

The conference was packed with panels, many focused on capital, such as a panel titled, “Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?” How, From Whom and in What Form will Debt Capital be Available in the Next Five Years? That panel featured several top speakers, including Dean Papas, a partner in Goodwin Procter’s Business Law Department and a member of the Real Estate, REITs & Real Estate Capital Markets Group, who noted “we’ve been helping a lot of clients with modifying loans.” Papas added that even clients who are considered to have financial strength and are highly regarded, “they are still getting hit when they go back to modify these loans.”

Fellow panelist Kenneth W. Swenson, division counsel of Real Estate Banking & Special Assets for Bank of America, noted that “95% of our workout stuff is homebuilders and condominium projects.”

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