Some 20 years ago, Alan Feldman came back to Philadelphia to work for a firm in which he built a real estate investment business that raised capital from investors around the country and invested it. About 15 years ago, coming out of the financial crisis, the firm focused on apartments. When the whole firm was sold — his was leading one of its business units — to a private equity firm, they disbanded, assimilated, sold or closed the other businesses, leaving only his. That led to a transaction where he bought the business back from the private equity firm four or five years ago. He was planning to take the company public — they had a large apartment portfolio, the capital markets were booming, interest rates were low, and money was free and cheap. That led to a seminal decision to sell Resource REIT to Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust in 2022.

"It was a good transaction for our investors," Feldman told attendees at last year's Philadelphia Smart Business Dealmakers Conference. "But it was a tough transaction in the sense that all of our employees ended up going elsewhere. Everyone did well."

Approaching the sale, he says he leaned on his advisers. However, there was a lot of outside noise in the process.

"When we were making the decision to go public or not, I had a lot of people who were advisers, but not my advisers — wanted to be our advisers — and everybody has a different agenda," he says. "And so, the hardest part is I actually had a board who wanted us to go public — or some of them did, some of them didn't, because they get to be public directors; it's good gig. And I had employees who wanted to keep going. But it was absolutely the wrong decision at the time because I probably would have made more money had we gone public, until the markets crashed. But in trying to stay focused on what is best for the shareholder, whether it's a public shareholder, or private shareholder or your own shares, but at the same time getting good advisers close to you, whether it's for post-transaction, during the transaction, is critical. Everyone has an angle. There's nothing wrong with that. Everyone deserves to make a living. But trying to stay wholly focused while you're selecting those was a very difficult time."

Through the process, he says he leaned on an affirmation he's held that success is the result of hard work, focus and working to keep the ship oriented in the right direction. But also, luck.

"But after the transaction, luck being, of course, the most important one," Feldman says. "It's rare that you're going to have success or failure based on luck alone. But in our case, specifically, literally, we were smart to take the path that we did two years ago. We were so lucky that Mr. Putin decided to move west about two weeks later than the day we signed a definitive merger agreement. We worked really hard in those four months and if we were three weeks late, it wouldn't have happened. And we would have had an OK transaction. And we still had worked hard. And we still were extremely focused. But luck would have been in the other direction. And, so that was an epiphany, really — like, it really does matter. But you better keep focus on one and two, and three will take care of itself."

In the current M&A environment, he says the priorities for sellers should be to work hard, stay focused on strategy and the luck will come.

"I just wouldn't worry for one second about when multiples were 18," he says. "Because if that's what you're consumed about, that's not what your business is worth. Your business is worth from today forward what you can make it. When the multiples come back up to 18, hopefully you have a good business to sell."