The BIG Picture: They like to talk—and do

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John O'Connor, Editorial Director
John O'Connor, Editorial Director
I had the good fortune to speak with two uniquely qualified insiders during the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry conference. Bob Kramer and Newt Gingrich are very different people, but they both seem to have a knack for anticipating—as well as affecting—future events.

I'm sure you're familiar with Bob Kramer. But in case you aren't, he's the NIC's president. Bob is the driving force behind the organization, which essentially exists to make people who buy and sell capital in this field more knowledgeable. In addition to being extremely bright, Bob always seems to know where the puck is going next.

When I talked to him for a McKnight's Newsmaker video (see it at, he spelled out why real estate investment trusts are currently in the catbird's seat: Their balance sheets are very strong and they have access to equity markets. He predicted that most of the big deals in the next six months would involve REITs.

Almost on cue, Ventas announced it would acquire the minority interests in 58 senior living communities from Sunrise Senior Living. The deal gives the firm full ownership of all 79 properties Sunrise manages for Ventas.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is more of a political visionary. In many ways, he's the counterpoint to Bill Clinton. But despite their significant ideological differences, they managed to come together and create a centrist political coalition to tackle the long-term problems facing Social Security and Medicare.

In fact, they share much in common: Both are Southerners of fairly modest origins. Both fought relentlessly to escape their humble beginnings by force of will, becoming Type A overachievers along the way. And both struggled to manage, shall we say, fidelity issues. But perhaps their strongest bond is their brilliance. These are two very smart scrappers who have repeatedly made doubters pay.

Many feel Gingrich is too polarizing a figure to ever be elected president. Of course, many people also laughed when he was a newbie congressman who spoke of eventually becoming Speaker of the House. And it may not be a coincidence that he is quietly building a massive war chest, in case an opportunity to jump into a presidential race presents itself.

Should that happen, I would not be surprised. When you meet men like Kramer and Gingrich, you soon discover they don't just talk about making things happen.