Sitter: Walter Gropius, 18 May 1883 - 5 Jul 1969 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Patricia Marshall Tate, a Boston portrait artist who painted some of Massachusetts' most powerful political figures -- including James Michael Curley and Kevin H. White -- died Sunday in a nursing home in Washington, D.C. She was 82.
Mrs. Tate worked for 50 years out of her Beacon Hill studio, creating works that now hang in the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery and in the homes of her subjects.
Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, Cardinal Richard Cushing and Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law school professor, also posed for her. The Smithsonian bought her portrait of the architect Walter Gropius in 1984.
Boston Herald Sunday November 22 1936
Tate's Son OBIT
REAL ESTATE'S RELUCTANT TYCOON: John Lie-Nielson; AN EMPIRE BUILDER WITH A FRUGAL TOUCH By N.R. KLEINFIELD Published: May 5, 1985 N Y Times
ATLANTA— IN the early 1960's, John Lie-Nielsen, who by then had already sold highchairs, sorted coins in a bank, sold insurance, run a dance studio and still only reached his late 20's, decided that there was big money to be made in real estate. Mr. Lie-Nielsen, at the time, had small money. In round numbers, he had about $2,000.
He was living in Sacramento, Calif., and he was looking for a property that he could buy cheap and sell dear. Open-eyed, he trudged through the ghetto area of the city and came upon a two-family home in danger of dissolving into a no-family home. ''The foundation was shot,'' he says. ''The roof was shot.'' He bought it for $8,500, with $2,000 down.
If he was going to sell it dear, he needed to fix it up. So he hired all the labor he could afford, which was himself. He jacked up the house until it was plumb and repaired the foundation. He glued on a new roof. He rebuilt sinks, learned how to do formica counters. He worked cheap. ''I was so cheap,'' he says, ''that I would try to rebuild a toilet when I should have bought a new one.''
A year later, Mr. Lie-Nielsen sold the house for $13,500. ''And so,'' he says, ''I was on my way.''
Two months ago, the Johnstown American Companies, a real estate enterprise that manages more apartment buildings than any other company in the country, announced that it was spending roughly $200 million to buy the Consolidated Capital Companies, one of the largest fund raisers for real estate investments and a company three times the size of Johnstown. The combination will mean a real estate service company boasting sales of about $200 million annually.
Johnstown American is the empire that John Lie-Nielsen built once he got on his way. It is a company that neither owns nor develops real estate - areas that Mr. Lie-Nielsen considers too unsteady for a public company - but has a finger in just about every other piece of the real estate pie.
THE desk in John Lie-Nielsen's office - in an industrial complex in the northern reaches of Atlanta - is nearly chest-high, because it is designed for someone who prefers to be erect. Mr. Lie-Nielsen is hyperactive. Like a barber, he is usually standing. When he's on the phone, he paces. His stand-up habits have gotten contagious. When his secretary comes in to take dictation, she stands up. Sometimes, Mr. Lie-Nielsen holds stand-up meetings in his office. He finds they end more quickly.
In appearance, Mr. Lie-Nielsen seems about 35. His birth certificate says 50. He has strawberry blond hair, wears rimless glasses and looks as Norwegian as his name sounds. ''I just got a feel for real estate,'' he says in trying to articulate the reason for his success. ''I just got a feel for if you buy an undervalued asset and add some value to it and increase the rent, you could make some profit.''
The core of Johnstown American is managing buildings - setting and collecting rents, making sure the grass is cut, seeing that the gurgling toilet in Apt. 4-C is fixed by nightfall. Johnstown currently manages about 155,000 rental apartment and condominium units in 30 states, primarily in the Sun Belt. It also manages roughly 145 commercial and industrial buildings, including several shopping malls. It boasts a network of brokers specializing in commercial and condominium properties, a mortgage banking unit and a carpet distributor.
All in all, managing rather than owning properties can be a sweet business that is relatively immune to economic jolts. But it is not without a constant stream of migraines. In most parts of the country (unlike New York City), there is tenacious competition among owners of apartment buildings for tenants. Managers like Johnstown must keep a lid on costs. Squeeze the lid too tightly, however, so that the shrubs get a little brown or that broken sliding door doesn't get fixed and tenants feel no guilt about moving to Wonderful Acres down the street. The apartment management market, moreover, is crowded with small firms. If Johnstown doesn't keep those apartments full, owners can turn quickly to someone else.
Mr. Lie-Nielsen, though, has other aces up various sleeves. Besides running Johnstown American, he puts together private partnerships to buy real estate properties, typically apartments that are later resold.
The way in which the public and private Mr. Lie-Nielsen and the nest of Johnstown subsidiaries feed off each other can get dizzying. For instance, an ideal situation would unfold something like this: One of the Johnstown brokers gets an exclusive to sell an apartment complex. The broker picks up the phone and calls John Lie-Nielsen. He puts together a syndicate and buys it, paying the Johnstown broker a commission. He calls Johnstown's mortgage company to arrange a loan. The management subsidiary is hired to manage the complex. And the place needs some new Johnstown carpeting, of course.
The interlock between the sibling companies has helped the profit of Johnstown (which is traded on the American Stock Exchange) to quadruple in the last three years, and Mr. Lie-Nielsen sees it continuing to rise. In the first six months of the current fiscal year, ended Feb. 28, earnings climbed to $3.9 million on revenues of $32.2 million, compared with income of $3.1 million on revenues of $16.6 million in the 1983 period.
Perhaps the most critical ingredient that Johnstown has is John Lie-Nielsen's imaginative eye. He gives an example of how it sees: ''There was this property we looked at in Atlanta that was called the 'Snooty Fox.' The buildings were really ugly. And this ugliness was exacerbated by their using tones of brown and tan, which highlighted the ugly architectural aspects of the buildings.
''But I saw that it had some redeeming features. There was a little pond. In advertising, you resort to a bit of puffery. The pond became a lake. My idea was we call the place 'Lakeside Villas.' Instead of the brown and tan, you paint it a gray-blue and a gray so you don't have the contrast and you continue the nautical theme. My idea was we put some flags out front and we put a wheel - a nautical wheel - a big, big wheel, on the side of the building. As it turns out, there was a title problem and we never did the deal. But the seller asked if he could use some of my ideas. The place is now called Lakeside Villas and he painted it my nautical colors.''
IT is getting on toward 1:30. Mr. Lie-Nielsen suggests lunch. He further suggests that George Lane, Johnstown's president, come along. ''We'll go to where George and I always eat when we have lunch together.''
Denny's is about half-filled when they arrive, so there's no problem getting a good booth. The food is sort of acceptable, though Mr. Lie-Nielsen sends his apple pie back because it is not hot enough. ''As you can see,'' he says, ''we still live frugal.''
Though worth millions, Mr. Lie-Nielsen likes to stretch a dollar. He and his wife, Pat, moved into a new home just two years ago, and now none of their four children have to share a bedroom. He has driven around in an old BMW for years. After a closely contested battle with his wallet, he splurged for his 50th birthday and bought a Jaquar.
The company is stingy, too. ''When someone gets an office, we decorate up to a point,'' Mr. Lane says. ''In my office, that's my rug on the floor. Those are my leather chairs.'' Mr. Lane used to have his own company. He met Mr. Lie-Nielsen shortly after he hit Atlanta, and their companies merged; since then, Mr. Lane has been instrumental in Johnstown's growth. His view of Mr. Lie-Nielsen? ''John,'' he says ''is your classic Type A workaholic personality.''
John Lie-Nielsen was born in Boston in 1935. His father, Oistein Lie-Nielsen, was Norwegian and spent most of his life associated with the sea. His mother, Patricia Marshall Tate, was a portrait painter. When Mr. Lie-Nielsen was two, his parents divorced and a custody battle ensued. While it dragged on, he lived with grandparents in Norway. The father prevailed, but not until his son was six. He arrived back in this country not speaking a word of English.
His father followed a peripatetic life. After a timber business in Georgia failed, he moved to Florida and hired himself out as a yacht skipper. He graduated to racing yachts and now lives in Maine and builds boats.
John Lie-Nielsen majored in economics at Emory University in Atlanta. To pay his way, he sold almost everything: highchairs, cars, photograph albums, ad space. He ran coin machines in the basement of a bank. When he first got out of college, he sold life insurance for Aetna, but, as he puts it, ''I didn't really believe in the product.''
He journeyed to Sacramento and found work in the personnel department for the state government of California. At the same time, he started a dance studio with a partner. The venture fizzled and remains a sore point with him.
At the same time, his interest in real estate grew. He formed a company called Johnstown Properties. Its single asset was John Lie-Nielsen. Its second asset was the ghetto house in Sacramento. Beyond that, he saw it buying and selling rundown buildings until he had enough money to build a marvelous utopian city that he would call ''John's town.''
In 1966, he moved to San Francisco and eventually worked as the administrator for the Langley Porter Institute, a state psychiatric hospital. He learned things that would be applicable to managing buildings: dealing with occupancy, maintenance, security. He started buying properties, first alone, then with partners, fixing them up and reselling them.
In 1972, he joined Consolidated Capital as vice president of acquisitions. He helped Consolidated make a lot of good deals for apartments. Johnstown, in turn, got many of the management contracts.
In 1978, Mr. Lie-Nielsen moved Johnstown to Atlanta, then a rather depressed market. But he saw boom. Properties were bought for $15,000 or so per apartment. A few years later, they were sold for more than double that. And the Atlanta boom extended his vision to a desire to furnish good shelter everywhere. ''Our goal is to be the biggest, most profitable real estate manager,'' he says. ''We decided to really go for it.''
APARTMENTS managed by
Johnstown come in sundry colors and designs. But all of them are run almost identically. The company has put together six thick manuals that tell the team on the premises how to do things, down to the most minute details.
Under ''product preparation,'' for instance, which expounds on decorating a model apartment, it is mentioned that ''Personalized touches may be added - such as a half-finished letter on a book or a nightgown draped across the bed. . . An apple pie in the oven, slowly baking at 200 degrees, lends a warm, homelike aroma.''
Under ''lease renewals and rent increase,'' a brochure is included to hand to anyone planning to move when the lease expires. The flyer is entitled, ''What does it really cost to move?'' The sum Johnstown came up with is $1,151, forbidding enough to persuade many tenants to stay put.
Standing in his office now, Mr. Lie-Nielsen is studying a map of the Southeast. In one whirlwind tour the next day, using a rented plane, he plans to visit 23 apartment complexes in five cities. They are part of a new deal he is patching together. No one likes to inspect 23 apartment buildings in one day, but Mr. Lie-Nielsen insists on standing on every property in which he invests.
It's after 8:30 P.M. He phones his wife to say he'll be home shortly. He locks his office door. The night janitor walks by and, seeing Mr. Lie-Nielsen, asks, ''You going now?'' ''Yes,'' Mr. Lie-Nielsen says. ''Well, will you turn off the lights?''
''Okay,'' Mr. Lie-Nielsen says. ''I'll get them.''