Neil Freeman, chairman and chief executive officer of Aries Capital, LLC, and Michael Shindler, president and chief executive officer of Four Corners Advisors, Inc., announced that the two Chicago-based firms have formed a strategic alliance to provide an end-to-end hotel advisory, transaction and financing platform for hotel developers and investors across the United States, Caribbean and other international markets.
The allied firms will primarily focus on serving sophisticated commercial real estate developers and investors who want to add hotels to their development or asset portfolios, but who do not have a commensurate level of knowledge in hospitality. Through their combined expertise, Freeman and Shindler will provide executive-level consulting, along with interim and permanent debt placement, to effectively fill this knowledge gap for clients and provide value at every stage on the hotel development and transaction continuum.
Freeman and Shindler met 30 years ago on the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) soccer fields in Lincoln Park when their children were young, and both have forged successful careers on multiple sides of the transaction table. Freeman, a Stanford MBA, is an innovator in real estate and hotel finance. His firm, Aries Capital has a long history of being on the leading edge for new financing techniques such as Fannie Mae agency lending in the 1980s, CMBS in the 1990s, New Market Tax Credits in the 2000s and now Opportunity Zones. Shindler, an attorney, is well-known for his innovative thinking. He has led complex hotel and mixed-use development projects internationally in senior management positions at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Hyatt Corporation, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Hard Rock Hotels & Resorts, and now as Four Corners Advisors, Inc.
“This strategic alliance affords us the opportunity to give our clients more,” said Shindler. “Now when clients ask about financing, instead of saying ‘that’s out of my scope,’ I can say, ‘I am in an alliance with someone I trust, someone who knows the business, the lending community and which potential financing sources to approach based on first-hand experience.’ For Neil’s clients, I in turn can provide earlier-in-the-development-process knowledge, experience and expertise to help those that might be floundering a bit on the necessary steps to get to fundraising.”
“Michael’s knowledge of how to put deals together, including combining the layout, brand, market dynamics and financial feasibility is second to none,” said Freeman. “He will help us enormously to understand whether a turnaround or development project will succeed and identify risk levels that we can report to our lending sources. It’s exciting to explore solutions to our clients’ problems with Michael, and in a calm, mature way.”
Freeman and Shindler believe they can add the most value for clients who are already well-versed in commercial real estate, albeit new to the hotel space, because those clients are better able to comprehend, assess and leverage advice.
“Success takes a team approach,” said Freeman. “We want to work with clients who listen to our analysis of the market and financing alternatives and help put the remaining pieces together. In return, clients know that we have their best interest at heart and we will be honest with them, whether the message is good or bad. As a boutique financial company, we can choose which clients fit with us and which ones don’t. We choose quality over growth.”
“I never expect anyone to do exactly what I tell them. The sophistication of my typical clientele gives me the ability to put forth what I know. The client digests and uses that information to advance the project,” said Shindler.
Four Corners Advisors has relocated to share Aries Capital’s River North offices and the firms are already collaborating on several deals. Outside of the strategic alliance, the companies will continue to operate their respective businesses.
“We’ve both been at this a long time; we know what we know and what we don’t know. We put our clients’ needs first and we’ll provide value for service and for fees paid. Plus, we like each other, and it’s nice to work with friends at this stage of our lives.” said Shindler.