A Status Update From Concrete Equities

Although this isn’t relevant to most readers of this blog, I feel it’s important that I chronicle the events that are happening now with Concrete Equities – because it doesn’t look like anyone else has a blog on which they are doing so. My intention isn’t to turn this into a “Concrete Equities Blog”, but since I have a rather large chunk of money invested with these guys, I think you can understand why this issue is important for me to track.

This morning I received an update from the President of Concrete Equities Inc., via email. If you’re an investor with Concrete Equities, please take the time to read through this discussion thread (UPDATE: it has since been deleted, but Google’s cached version has some of the info) – you’ll learn a great deal about your investment and the status of is. That thread is also where they announce meetings of investors. As for this message from the President of Concrete Equities, it’s hard for me to separate fact from fiction. I think the financials will reveal the truth in time.  This is a long message – the first section is about the Mexico investment, of which we have a unit in Santa Clara, and the remainder of the email is about the Calgary investments (we have the Castleridge investment).

Dear El Golfo (Santa Clara) Investor,

At this time, our firm would like to update you on current developments on this particular project.  El Golfo de Santa Clara region remains viable for future tourist development.  Being the first point of beachfront on the Sea of Cortez along the coastal highway in the state of Sonora it is developing into a great drive-to destination for Americans.  When the project began, the coastal highway was under construction and the international airport was being conceptualized.   Since that time the coastal highway is near completion and the international airport to service El Golfo de Santa Clara and the Puerto Puenasco (Rockypoint) area is well underway.  Also please keep in mind that your investment is a solid, equity based land hold with no mortgage or debt position on your asset. Continue reading A Status Update From Concrete Equities

News Stories on Concrete Equities Protest

On Monday, June the 1st, over 200 investors who gave their money to Concrete Equities took to the street to protest what the company has done. I wasn’t able to be a part of it, but I applaud all those who were there fighting for our collective investments. Today, June 4th, Concrete Equities is being challenged in court by the lawyer representing the investors. We’ll see what happens – my understanding is that even though three of the five groups of limited partners have legally voted out Concrete Equities and put a new General Partner in their place, Concrete Equities is refusing to accept the results of the vote and turn over the required control.

Here’s a round-up of some of the media coverage the protest received, and some photos from people who were there.

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“A commercial investment dispute spilled onto a downtown street yesterday as more than 200 investors protested in front of the head office of the company at the centre of the dispute.”
Calgary Metro News Story

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“The trouble started in March when Concrete Equites, as general partner, asked the limited partners to sell all of their real estate to a new company in exchange for company shares. The limited partners didn’t bite and they say they then ousted concrete as general partner in 3 of the 5 partnerships but Concrete did not cede control and instead filed papers in bankruptcy court asking that a receiver be appointed. Now investors can only watch as this drama plays out in court.”
CTV News Story

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“A group of disgruntled investors will head to court this week in a bid to regain control of their properties from Concrete Equities, a Calgary-based commercial real estate fund. More than 200 people protested outside the company’s offices Monday, demanding three years’ worth of financial statements related to the ownership of five buildings downtown that were placed under receivership earlier this spring….Mitrovic said the properties, which include the SNC Lavalin building downtown, were intentionally placed under bankruptcy protection in a desperate bid to prevent the installation of a new general partner in accordance with a series of votes that won the overwhelming approval of investors.”
Calgary Herald Story

A few more pictures of the protest after the break. Continue reading News Stories on Concrete Equities Protest

Concrete Equities Admits To Breaching Alberta Securities Laws

Well check this out – looks like I should have been checking up on Concrete Equities late last year:

“CALGARY, Dec. 23 /CNW/ – The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) has concluded a settlement with Concrete Equities Executive Club Inc. regarding allegations that it breached Alberta securities laws. As of June 2, 2008, Concrete Equities Executive Club promoted and sold Class B shares to 18 Alberta investors, raising $1,620,000. Concrete Equities Executive Club admitted it breached Alberta securities laws when it engaged in an illegal distribution by distributing its Class B shares to 13 of these investors without a prospectus and without being registered to trade in them. Concrete Equities Executive Club paid $80,000 to settle the allegations and $2,000 toward investigation costs. In addition, Concrete Equities Executive Club has offered to recind and refund all investors who purchased its Class B shares and has undertaken to refund the investments of the 13 unqualified Alberta investors.”

A word to all investors: always do research on the companies you invest with, and the people who run them. Especially the people who run them!

UPDATE: I found a CTV News story on this.

Limited Partners Fight for control of Concrete Equities Investments

This press release was sent out by the group of volunteers who are leading the charge on reclaiming our properties from Concrete Equities.

Limited Partners Fight for control of Concrete Equities Investments

Calgary, Alberta Canada, June 1st, 2009 – The ten member Steering Committee and supporting Limited Partners of five (05) commercial investment properties in the Calgary area met today to raise awareness to potential investors to business practices being conducted by Concrete Equities.

The group of investors represent a minimum individual investment ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 and are comprised of individuals from several demographics, including pensioners and people that rely on the distributions from the investments for their income. The net portfolio is valued at approximately $300 million CDN. Continue reading Limited Partners Fight for control of Concrete Equities Investments

Global TV Story About Concrete Equities

Until the truth comes out about Concrete Equities, this is about the hardest that the news media can be on them, but it should be more than enough to give potential investors significant pause. If you’re an investor with Concrete Equities and you don’t know what’s going on, you need to read this discussion thread. If you need to contact in touch with the person on point for your property, please email me and I’ll connect you.

New Thoughts Media Corporate Site Launched

All I asked for was a couple of logo changes and minor layout tweaked, but the very talented Darius Wey instead created a new corporate home page for Thoughts Media Inc. It looks awesome! Thanks Darius!

Apple Thoughts Now Live

I figured I’d just re-publish my welcome message, so here it is:

“I’m thrilled to announce the launch of the fifth Thoughts Media site: Apple Thoughts. It’s been almost two years since we launched our last site (Zune Thoughts), and I’m really excited to be expanding our network with another great site. Why an Apple site? For the past three years or so, I’ve been watching the “Apple tide” rising. By that, I mean the overall impact that Apple has in the market – and I mean real impact, not the mainstream media fawning and hype that accompanies every new product Apple releases. The number of people I know that have switched to Macs is staggering – the painful launch of Vista certainly didn’t help things, but Apple is making tremendous gains in the market. Earlier this year, 40% of all notebooks sold at retail over $1000 USD were Macbooks, and who can forget this picture? The iPhone? Game-changing. Not the right phone everyone, and definitely over-hyped, but it changed the whole landscape of smartphones and what people expect from them. The Apple tide is rising, and as someone who makes a living online, it would be a poor decision for me to ignore that fact.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking: an Apple enthusiast site? From the guy who really doesn’t seem to like Apple very much, and has been known to be quite critical of Apple, iPods, and Steve Jobs in particular? Well, here’s the second announcement: Apple Thoughts is the first Thoughts Media franchise site. By that I mean that I will not be in charge of running it: Thoughts Media Inc. provides the server, back-end infrastructure, and monetization support, while the franchisee provides 100% of the editorial content and community management. I’ve tapped a very talented, opinionated, passionate, Apple-lovin’ guy to be the Executive Editor of Apple Thoughts. His name some of you will doubtless recognize: Vincent Ferrari. Vincent has been a member of the Thoughts Media community for a number of years, and was on the Digital Home Thoughts review team for a time. He’s got the right kind of personality to be a fantastic Executive Editor, and if I ever need an AOL account cancelled, I know exactly who to call.

Here’s a special request to everyone reading this: if you use a Mac, an iPhone, or any product made by Apple, please make a commitment to this new community. Starting a community is tough work – it’s a classic chicken-and-egg scenario where, when someone comes to a Web site with sparse comments and empty forums, they think “Oh, I won’t make this community my home, there’s no one here”. So I’m asking all of you Mac-usin’, iPhone-totin’ types to read, comment, contribute, share, help, and above all grow the Apple Thoughts community. My hope is that by this time next year, Apple Thoughts will have a vibrant, passionate, helpful community of Apple fans. We need you.

Please join me in welcoming Apple Thoughts!”

Oh, and I’ll add this from a forum post I made since some people seem to be freaking out that I launched an Apple-focus site, even if I’m not the one running it:

“I don’t own an iPhone, I don’t own a Mac, and I don’t own any Apple product now that my wife’s iPod Shuffle broke (which didn’t surprise me, but let’s not get into that ). But I’m not going to be writing here on Apple Thoughts other than perhaps commenting in the forums like everyone else – I’m not even a member of the Apple Thoughts editorial team! I won’t be writing reviews or news posts. So from an editorial perspective, I remain completely focused on Windows Mobile, Windows Vista, the Zune, and overall Windows ecosystem. I’m still a Windows fan, and you can expect the editorial coverage on the other sites to remain the same. I’m super excited about Windows Mobile 7, Windows 7 (just got my beta invite!), and I remain firmly committed to the Windows world.”

TomTom to World: No Maps For You!

Know what’s bad for business? When a customer comes to your Web site three days in a row, looking to buy something you sell, and all three days he sees the same page saying that the online store is closed.

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I’m heading to Japan in six days, and I wanted to find out if I could get a map for my TomTom GPS unit – and TomTom is giving me the finger. Ironically, I found torrent listings for the map – is that what it’s going to come down to? If the store isn’t open for the customer, he has to get a “hot” version of the product? Idiotic. TomTom, get it together!

Bill Gates on Creative Capitalism

The Wall Street Journal has published an excellent article about Bill Gates and the work he’s starting to focus on after his full-time job at Microsoft has finished. He’s promoting the concept of “Creative Capitalism”, which involves not only the pursuit of profits, but also improving the lives of others. In discussing this article on the private Mobius discussion list, I shared my views in response to a post by Jeff Kirvin about the way Wall Street and public companies work.

“I remain convinced that when a company goes public, it sells its soul to the investors and hands it’s brain to the board of directors – it can no longer do what it wants, pursue it’s own vision, or run a “just enough profit” style of company that encourages fair treatment of employees (with profit sharing, fair wages, and other elements found in responsible corporate behaviour). I have tremendous respect and admiration for companies such as Kingston that do not go public. I wish more companies were kept private.

I’m a believer in capitalism, but always tempered by compassion and generosity – things that seem foreign to most public companies who (necessarily so, sadly) need to be focused on the non-stop, quarter after quarter growth. Yet as an investor with mutual funds myself, it’s not like I can excuse myself from wanting ever-increasing profits either. We live in a screwed up world, that’s for sure.”

In the span of my lifetime, I fully expect Bill Gates to accomplish more for the world’s poor than anyone else in the past 100 years – I’ve always admired him as a computer geek, but the past couple of years I’ve come to admire him even more as a human being. I think this quote says a great deal about what drives Gates (in response to William Easterly’s comments about how the money sent to Africa over the past few decades has done nothing to raise the economic status of the region):

“”I don’t promise that when a kid lives it will cause a GNP increase,” he quipped. “I think life has value.”

On the opposite end of the quote spectrum, you have this assclown.

WARNING: Wealthstreet Investment Seminar

UPDATE OCTOBER 26th 2009: As of a couple of weeks ago, Wealthsteet’s phone number has been disconnected and the company is apparently out of business. I have no information about how to get in touch with Dave Jones, nor what this means for investments on the Wealthstreet Dragon Fund, a fund operated by Dave Jones. This blog entry has a comment that seems to indicate the Dragon Fund may still be intact, but I don’t know whom to contact to get further information. Some further updates on this can be found here.

UPDATE: This blog post was originally written in February of 2007. At the time I was quite impressed with WealthStreet and Concrete Equities. Now, as of May of 2009, I’m very concerned for my Concrete Equities investment after reading this forum thread. I certainly don’t believe everything I read online, but there are enough red flags to warrant significant concern. Most concerning of all to me is that Dave Jones has recently stepped into the role of CEO at Concrete Equities. How can I expect fair and impartial advice from Wealthstreet regarding my investment in Concrete Equities if the same man is running both? I can’t, and that’s very troubling to me. My “Wealth Coach” at Wealthstreet no longer works there, and no communication was sent out to his clients informing them that he was leaving. I had to call Wealthstreet and find this out when I asked for him and was informed he no longer works there. I would advise extreme caution regarding getting involved with Wealthstreet at this time.

UPDATE #2 (August 20th, 2009): The forum thread at Canadian Business I linked to above is no longer valid. It has been deleted, and my post in those forums asking why the thread was deleted, was itself deleted. This is called “a clean up” – someone is trying to erase all traces of this issue online. Lawyers and accusations of libel are involved. Thankfully, you can still get some of the discussion via Google’s cached version.

On Saturday, February the 3rd, I spent six hours in a investment seminar put on by Wealthstreet, a Calgary company that I’d been hearing about for years and meaning to get in touch with. I’m better than most with finances, but I have a firm belief that you should do what you’re good at and avoid what you’re not good at – and for me, that means seeking advice from people who do this for a living. I bought stocks all of one time in my life, and I lost money on it.

We’ve done some work with World Financial Group (WFG), but over the past year I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with them. Our consultants are the nicest guys in the world, but niceness does not a balanced portfolio make. The WFG plan had us sink 100% of our money into a single mutual fund, and after a few months I gave my head a shake and realized how exposed we were because we had almost no diversification (Enron stock holders unstand this now). I took some steps to correct that, but ultimately things still aren’t right – and that’s why I found this Wealthstreet seminar so fascinating. I’m indebted to my parents for inviting Ashley and I to attend this with them – it was a real eye-opener. After the first half was over I made an appointment to meet with a Wealthstreet advisor to re-work our portfolio (meagre though it may be).

I’m publishing my seminar notes for two reasons: first, so that people searching for Wealthstreet can find this blog post and see my positive experience with their seminar. Secondly, even for those people reading this blog that live outside Calgary (which is most of you), I think you’ll find many of the basic financial concepts to be sound no matter where you are in the world. It’s certainly worth thinking about your financial future no matter how young you are, and simply shoving all your money into RRSPs (or 401K’s if you’re in the USA) isn’t a good long-term solution.

I’ll make one caveat about my notes: they might not be 100% accurate, so don’t take them as such. There was a great deal of information, and I may have gotten some of it wrong. Besides, what kind of a person takes financial advice from a blog? 😉

Dave Jones, Wealthstreet CEO

  • Family is important, the allocation of time should be focused 99% on everything else in your life, 1% on focusing on your investments
  • “You don’t get a mulligan when it comes to your retirement.”
  • You should have four to seven income streams in order to retire
  • 40% of Canadians have made an average of three withdrawls from their RRSPs
  • IBM sold to Lenovo because they couldn’t afford the pension for their own people
  • Pension Crisis is looming: too many people retiring, not enough growth in the funds to compensate for the amount of draw from pensioners
  • Bullet Proof 50% of your portfolio, Growth & Income 40% of your portfolio, 10% speculation
    If you speculate with 10% of your portfolio, and only 5% performs, it might out-perform the rest of your portfolio
  • Your house an as asset must be put to work – you can’t eat a doorknob
  • 1 in 7 Albertans will be the victim or attempted victim of mortgage fraud
  • House rich, cash poor: people who own a house worth a great deal, but they can’t afford the property taxes
  • Personal savings as a percentage of disposable personal income is -5%. Someone who earns 100K a year is spending 105K
  • 10% of the world owns 90% of the assets…Trump and Kiyosaki worry that 1% of the world will eventually own 99% of the assets Continue reading WARNING: Wealthstreet Investment Seminar