Eliot Spitzer, in his first big business venture since he was shamed out of office by a prostitution scandal, is shopping around a plan to start a vulture fund that would scoop up distressed real estate assets around the country, revamp them, and flip the properties for a profit.
Late last month, the former governor of New York gathered a group of high-level Washington, D.C.-based labor union officials in a conference room at the headquarters of his father's real estate business in Manhattan and pitched them his idea for starting such a fund, a source said.
During the meeting, Mr. Spitzer expressed relief that he was no longer burdened with the frustrations of being governor, according to the source. And, in contrast to his repentant resignation speech that he delivered beside his tearful wife, Silda Wall, he took a more relaxed view of his indiscretions.
He has told friends and associates that he is consoled by passersby who stop him on the city sidewalks and tell him that sex is "no big deal" and that the disclosure that he frequented prostitutes was distorted out of proportion, the source said. Europeans, the former governor has noted, have been especially supportive of him and perplexed by the fallout from the scandal.
In the half-hour meeting, Mr. Spitzer told the officials that he was determined to take his ailing father's real estate company to "the next level," the source said. Mr. Spitzer said he would lay out his business plan in greater detail at a later date, and would ask the labor officials to consider investing pension fund money under their control.
Mr. Spitzer is moving aggressively to occupy a niche created by the credit crunch, the subprime mortgage crisis, a surge in foreclosures, and a declining real estate market. He is looking to mine for riches in projects that banks are no longer willing to finance.
Distressed real estate funds — also known as "vulture" or, more euphemistically, "opportunity" funds — typically promise returns of more than 20% and are active in Florida, Nevada, and Southern California. They rely heavily on pension and university endowment investments. Mr. Spitzer is said to be envisioning projects valued between $100 million and $500 million....MORE