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Lessons To Be Learned

Meme: quote on morality by Napoleon I of France

Morality is “the human attempt to define what is right and wrong about our actions and thoughts, and what is good and bad about our being who we are.” (Source)

I’ve been listening to Barbra Streisand’s audio book, titled “My Name is Barbra,” a long-awaited memoir by the superstar of stage, screen, recordings, and television, read by the author herself, with anecdotes and music. It’s 48 hours and 17 minutes long, yet I can’t stop listening to her tell the fantastic tale of her life from the beginning and all of her personal thoughts about life and morality. She makes it very clear in the memoir that she cannot abide by lies, deception, immorality and a host of other dishonorable traits she encountered over the years by people who can think only of themselves.

Cover for Barbra Streisand's memoir My Name is Barbra

There is even such as thing as “The Streisand Effect,” “an unintended consequence of attempts to hide, remove, or censor information, where the effort instead increases public awareness of the information.”

I found myself relating to her in so many ways—certainly not the incredible talent that she is, but her background as a Jewish girl with a big nose (I had mine fixed and it’s still too big!) growing up in Brooklyn (10 years earlier than me, but me in New Orleans) and how she sees life so similarly, which must come from our cultural and religious roots.

Listening to Barbra and a few things that happened this past week has prompted me to explore with you the question of morality…morality in business to be precise. Take this for what it is…a kind of lesson to be learned.


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as they say, and in addition, the copies make the original more valuable. That’s what’s happened to us, so we should be flattered, but I’m not.

In 2008, we developed our first Fractional Ownership property utilizing a very specific fully rotational calendar developed by my team. On an Excel spreadsheet we created a color-coded calendar version to make it easily understood. We used the calendar over the years as we developed more properties in this manner. It was a proven success. Until now, none of our competitors “stole” it—they developed their own, as they should.

Intersecting street signs with Integrity, Ethics, Respect, and Honesty signifying morality

Very recently, I received several emails from some of our Fractional Ownership owners asking how a new competitor had gotten their email address. We do not sell our mailing lists and any list of interested buyers would have been privy to our staff and partners. So it was easy to know who had stolen our materials…and “spammed” those on the list with unsolicited emails—it must have been the ex-financial partner. To have used the list without express permission is not only illegal, it’s immoral.

This new competitor is a Fractional Ownership property on the Paris market launched by an ex-partner, an ex-client, and an ex-employee (“Ex” for a good reason—theft and dishonesty). This group is responsible for not only copying our model, but using our calendar artwork, as well as our private mailing list in order to solicit buyers for their project. It turns out they have used versions of our attorney’s documentation and our own internal documents, as well.

Our calendar looks like this, in case you recognize it in their materials:

An example of the share calendar developed by The Adrian Leeds Group for fractional ownership properties

So, should I be flattered? Intellectual property is so difficult to protect, but this is so blatant, that for me it’s more than wrong…it’s immoral. They don’t seem to care. They only care about how much money they will make by copying our model and usurping all the hard work we put into developing the system and the properties. They recognized a good thing when they saw it and because they had access to our materials took advantage of the lack of a non-disclosure agreement that I should have had with the partner. He blatantly told me, “I did not acquire them wrongfully, and they were paid for, by me, as part of a joint venture.”

This is just a heads-up. If you don’t want to be a party to this immoral behavior, then don’t patronize the copy-cats who ride on the coattails of others, and encourage your friends to do the same. We can’t do more than this to protect ourselves from such imitators, so we count on you to hold them accountable, even if we can’t. Besides, we’re the originals and they’re mere copies.


For several years, two of our clients have wavered over whether they would sell their apartment and buy one with a sea view that they currently don’t have. My staff and I, and even one of our trusted partner agents, met with them on a few occasions to discuss their situation, free of charge. We all invested our time because we like these people, and want to help them make the right decisions. They are also our clients, who should normally assume that if they take our time, they will let us manage the transactions for them. It’s an unwritten agreement between normal responsible adults. Wouldn’t you agree?

Instead, we got an excited and enthusiastic email announcing proudly that the property had been put on the market that day by another agency. They chose an agency to list the property with whom they had no special relationship—at least not one we knew about nor one to which they admitted having.

The apartment with a sea view

Their excuse was lame: “We selected this XX office because they have a solid online network via XX, other realty platforms and the manager is a staunch supporter of MLS here on the Côte d’Azur. We believe the broadest internet exposure increases sale probability.”

Our partner agent is from the same agency group as the one they chose. There is nothing that agency has that we don’t have. Nothing. If there was another reason, then they didn’t have the guts to tell us the truth.

My staff and our agent were shocked…and of course, disappointed. The disloyalty is just as immoral as the theft of our materials by our competitors. Why be those kinds of people when it’s so easy to do the right thing?

Take note. Don’t waste a professional’s time if you don’t intend on working with them! It shows you have respect for that person and in truth, that’s all we want and need. Money comes when you take care of your clients and when your clients take care of you.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds at Place des Vosges in ParisAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Can I pick your brain cartoonP.S. Small note: Never, never, never tell a professional who charges for their time because of their education, knowledge or experience that you want to “pick their brain.” There is nothing more insulting than that!


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