4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Burn Zones is a true account by Jorge P. Newbery of losing everything and coming back stronger. Today, Newbery is the founder and CEO of American Homeowner Preservation, a socially responsible hedge fund geared to helping distressed owners retain their homes. He was 24 when he entered the property industry as a mortgage originator. Quick to observe his clients' successes, the young man soon started his own property portfolio. Within a few years, he gained a reputation for successfully rehabilitating apartment blocks in some of the roughest neighborhoods of the country. The acquisition of Woodland Meadows, a 1,100-unit apartment complex in Columbus, Ohio, took his portfolio to 4000 units and took two years to complete. The complex was no sooner signed off when disaster struck in the form of an ice storm. A conflagration of unscrupulous journalists, delay tactics by insurers, and city officials with suspect motives, ultimately resulted in Newbery losing everything and being left $26 million in debt.
Newbery is a profoundly authentic storyteller. He borrows the sporting term "burn zone" from his competitive cycling days (he reached the 1988 Olympic trials.) It is a section of a race marked by factors that eliminate the majority of contenders. Newbery had always prided himself on training hard and remaining focused through the burn zones that came his way. But in his own words, he never fully recovered from what transpired at Woodland Meadows, "rather it feels like …a wound that keeps reopening." He is as quick to own his mistakes as he is to praise the efforts of others. One such individual is John Gregory, a father-figure at Woodland who ran a faith-based community enrichment program. It was John who suggested replacing the complex's paid security services with resident-run community patrols. And John, who facilitated the training of residents to help with the rehabilitation of the complex. When Newbery appointed him as his complex manager, he paved the way to Woodland being a shining example of community inclusion.
I particularly like the way Newbery Senior i.e., Jorge's father and the rest of the author's family, are portrayed. It is in the makeup of the Newbery family that we find the explanation of Jorge's confidence in taking the "road less traveled". His father, an Argentinian activist immigrant, married his mother, an English stage actress late in life. They had four children and were dubbed "the gypsies" by their white neighbors on account of their mixed race, long hair and unconventional ways. Whatever the young Jorge wanted to do, they supported him whether it was driving him to the ice-cream depot on weekends to stock his ice-cream trike or allowing him to leave school at 16 to start a record company. Although, Jorge never gets his farther to drop the diminutive "-ie" from his name and remains Jorgie forever to the old man.
Burn Zones is a cautionary tale of flying too close to the sun, that should give any aspirant entrepreneur the chills. Newbery can maintain suspense, to the point where his reader risks "squandering enamel" along with him. The text touches on issues of race profiling but remains upbeat and positive. Despite everything, Newbery remains committed to the belief that one can "do well by doing good." There was nothing I didn't like about this book.
I'm rating Burn Zones 4 out of 4 stars. It is professionally edited with no errors that I could find. It would appeal to sportspeople and business people, and anyone familiar with the "burn zone."
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon