Friday, September 20, 2013

THE MAN WHO HAD EVERYTHING - Steven L. Good

The Wall Street Journal of January 7, 2009 carried a shocking story:

Real-Estate Executive Found Dead in Apparent Suicide

CHICAGO -- Real-estate executive Steven L. Good was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound Monday in his Jaguar in a forest preserve outside Chicago, said the Kane County Sheriff's Department.

Mr. Good, 52 years old, was chief executive of Sheldon Good & Co., one of the nation's largest real-estate auction firms.  His father founded the company in 1965.

In a prepared statement Monday, Sheldon Good President Alan Kravets called it "a testimony to Steve's leadership that Sheldon Good & Co. remains well positioned for the future [and] poised for significant growth."

As chairman of the Realtors Commercial Alliance Committee, Mr. Good said last month in an industry outlook news release that market conditions were "very challenging."

According to the company's Web site, Sheldon Good "has sold more than 45,000 U.S. and international properties in more than 100 different classes and produced more than $10 billion in sales."

Mr. Good wrote a book called "Churches, Jails and Gold Mines...Mega-Deals from a Real Estate Maverick."  In it, Mr. Good tells how he purportedly turned his auction firm into the real-estate equivalent of Sotheby's or Christie's.

"That book is a must-read for anyone in real-estate auctions," said Chris Longly, spokesman for the National Auctioneers Association.

No one was more shocked when they read the story than I was.  You see, I knew Steven Good - we went to Evanston Township High School together - as together as you can with a student population (at that time) of over 6,000 students.  Steven Good would not have been able to pick me out of a lineup, but I knew him - everyone knew Steven Good.  Beyond high school we knew each other professionally but I am getting ahead of myself.  Let's start at the beginning:

Steven Loren Good was born November 16, 1956 to real estate magnate Sheldon Good (b. 1933) and Lois, nee Kroll (1933-1985). Steven was the couple's first child.  He would later be joined by a younger brother, Todd.  

I first encountered Steven when we were both students at Evanston Township High School.  Everyone knew Steven because everyone knew of his father Sheldon Good who pioneered auctions as a way of selling commercial real estate.  Sheldon Good & Company started in 1965, so by the time we were in high school it was a household name to people who lived on the North Shore.

Steven was popular in high school - he was on the tennis team, and student council - and he graduated, as did I, in 1974:

Steven L. Good - 1974

I envied Steven Good back then.  I just assumed that he would be joining his father's firm, and I envied his being able to step right into a top-tier position after college.

Steven went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University, and a law degree from DePaul University.  He interned for a U.S. senator, in the U.S. Department of Justice and the Cook County State's Attorney's office.  According to their website, Steven joined his father's firm "in the late 1970s," and that's really when his star began to shine. 

Steven's father, Sheldon Good, revolutionized the commercial real estate industry when, in 1970 he auctioned a chain of fast food stores in downstate Illinois.  Others had tried auctioning commercial real estate with limited success, but Sheldon Good made it work - and made it work big.  Steven joined his father's company just as it began to take off.  In the 1980s and 1990s you could not drive around Chicago without seeing one of Sheldon Good and Company's signs announcing an upcoming real estate auction.  Here's Steven standing next to one of their famous signs:


  
The company expanded, building success upon success and became the nation's premier real estate auctioneer.  As often happens in businesses made up of more than one generation, the younger generation wanted to take the company in a direction the older generation was not ready to pursue.  That was the case with Sheldon and Steven Good.  Sheldon reported that he would retire when he turned 70 (2003) but this was not quick enough for Steven, and so, in 2001 Steven bought out his father's controlling interest in the firm. Sheldon Good would remain on the payroll as Chairman Emeritus, but it was Steven's company to run. Although the name of the company remained Sheldon Good, it was now Steven Good who was calling the shots.

And so, at the age of 45, Steven Good was owner and manager of one of the country's top real estate firms. I continued to envy Steven Good his success.  I was doing well myself, but nowhere near as well as Steven Good.

Looking at the firm from the outside, one could see the picture of a family firm: 71-year-old Sheldon F. Good, chairman emeritus, at his desk and his son Steven L. Good, 47 and CEO of the company his dad built, down the hall. Nearby, some 70 employees making the firm one of the most successful real estate auctioneers in the U.S., selling everything from Aspen trophy homes to mining rights in Montana - no wonder I was envious.

But, it turned out that all was not rosy between the Goods, father and son.  Crain's Chicago Business reported in 2004 that it was a dysfunctional family firm.  The paper said that the two Goods rarely spoke, parties in a bitter court feud stemming from the son's 2001 buyout of the father's controlling stake in the firm, Sheldon Good & Co.  In a lawsuit he filed in October 2002, Sheldon Good accused his son and the firm of a litany of offenses, from denying him commissions to sticking him in a small office.  The other member of the Good family, Todd Good, Steven's younger brother, had already joined and then left the family firm.  He left in 1997 because, as he reported, of a dispute with Steven.

Family troubles did not stop Steven Good, the businessman.  He continued to grow the company, and even wrote a book in 2004, sharing his secrets for success.  The book is called "Churches, Jails and Gold Mines, Mega Deals From a Real Estate Maverick".  One reviewer called the book's thesis, "My company and I are great." Steven was thrilled that he was able to get real estate magnate Donald Trump to write the afterword to the book.


About the time the book came out, Steven Good was interviewed by Dr. Margot Weinstein, a career consultant and real estate expert.  You can still see the interview on Youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAhyJgjnQI8

Steven was also active professionally.  Among the many positions he held in the industry were Chairman of the Realtors Commercial Alliance Committee and Past President of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®.

While he was slaying dragons in the real estate market, Steven Good was not neglecting his personal life.  He had a beautiful wife, Jami, and three sons:  Scott, Logan, and David.

As the year 2008 ended and 2009 began, it looked to the whole world like Steven Good had it all: He was at the helm of a tremendously successful company; He was respected by colleagues nationwide; He had a beautiful home in Highland Park, Illinois, and a beautiful family.

I have tried very hard with all the stories I have written for this blog, not to judge the people I wrote about or the decisions they made.  So on that morning in January of 2009, we don't know why Steve drove out to the Kane County forest preserves in his Jaguar and ended his own life, but he must have felt that he had no other choice.

Here's Steve's obituary from the Chicago Tribune - January 7, 2009:

Steven L. Good, suddenly died.  His zest for life will be missed by his beloved wife, Jami; loving sons, Scott, Logan and David Good; brother of Todd (Sue) Good; son of Sheldon and the late Lois Good; fond son-in-law of Kay Fasman; dear brother-in-law of Gregg (Renay) Mandell and Jeff (Mary) Mandell.  He will be missed by his many nieces and nephews and all who knew him. Memorial Services Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. at North Shore Congregation Israel, 1185 Sheridan, Glencoe, IL 60022.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to North Shore Congregation Israel.  Arrangements by Chicago Jewish Funerals, 847-229-8822.

Steven is buried in Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois:



After Steve's death there were rumblings about financial improprieties, and in fact, Sheldon Good and Company was forced to declare bankruptcy in April of 2009.  What remained of the company was ultimately purchased by Racebrook Marketing Concepts LLC in July of 2009, who continues to use the Sheldon Good & Company name to this day.

I do not envy Steven Good any more. May he rest in peace.

It has been said that the best way to get the true measure of a man is to ask those who work with him.  I'll end this article with some of the comments made about Steven by his colleagues after his tragic death:

He treated me well and served the organization diligently over the years with his enthusiasm, expertise, knowledge, commitment, and financial support.  I rarely saw him without that effervescent smile and a twinkle in his eye.

Steve went out of his way to take an interest in me personally and professionally and made time in his extraordinarily busy schedule for me.  He made a big impact on my career and opened doors for me that otherwise wouldn't have existed.

Steve was truly one of the smartest people that I have known.  He always seemed to be a couple of steps ahead of what everyone else was thinking, and had a knack for looking at things differently and more creatively than anyone else.

I will never forget his bigger than life positive attitude, his incredibly quick wit and his generosity.

Steve was accomplished, generous and astute.  He served as a resource to many within our industry. A brilliant thinker, he usually had the solution to a problem before most knew there was a a problem.

He met challenges head on and mastered the art of problem-solving.  Steve had that ever-present smile that allowed all to "warm up" to this powerful and respected professional.  He had friends across the continent who adored and admired him.  No one worked a room better than Steve - and before he left that room, he made sure he established lifelong friendships.

He was straight to the point and the first to offer a helping hand.  He was generous to a fault.  He gave to our industry, his alma mater, his community and to a host of charities.  He loved the real estate business and poured himself into every opportunity to share his expertise.  His ego could fill a room, but he could also be all about inclusion and consensus.  He found humor in his need for the spotlight, his Inaugural video was as suited for MTV as the September evening we celebrated with him just a few years ago.

There was a purpose to nearly everything he did, and his competitive spirit was memorable in its scope and depth.  Steve had decided long ago he would, to borrow from Daniel Burnham, "make no little plans." He was forever striving for the next goal, the next triumph, the next success.

He was a gentleman.  A positive fellow who would go out of his way to make sure you were doing fine.  He had a inner light that would instantly brighten the mood of any environment.  He cared deeply about the Association and its members.  He stayed active in the industry and particularly in his volunteer efforts at the local and national levels.

Steve was one of the most charismatic people I have ever met and an incredible source of inspiration to so many people.  Steve accomplished more in his one lifetime than some men could in 10 lifetimes.  And, can we ever forget his fabulous smile?

Steve taught me so much and he was a true friend.

Steve Good...there are not enough words to state what a wonderful person he was and the appreciation that I have for being blessed by knowing him.  Steve always had a smile on his face and was always focused on a new business venture for the near future and was very free in sharing his enthusiasm about the projects he was working on.  His enthusiasm was highly contagious.

Whenever I spoke with Steve he would always leave me smiling and had an incredible talent of making me laugh.

Here is a man who always stepped up to the plate.  No matter how big (always better) or small the project Steve was there.  He basked in the limelight.  He loved publicity and looked for every opportunity to promote himself and his company.

I had the pleasure of meeting Steve when I first came to Chicago.  His knowledge and love of his profession and his city was very enthusiastic and catching.  He always had opportunities to offer and advice to share, and was a leader and mentor to many, particularly in his work and dedication to helping others succeed as well.  I valued his guidance and leadership in our commercial alliances and international projects, among many other things.  A room really came to life when Steve walked in.  I learned a lot about many things from knowing him that can never be taken away.  His personality and style were unmatched.

As a leader, Steve inspired others with a "can do" attitude.  His words of encouragement came in the form of phone calls, short notes and brief stops in my office to simply say "hi."  As one who was extremely successful within the industry and life, he encouraged others to join in that success.

Looking back, every conversation with Steve began and ended with a warm smile, a genuine inquiry regarding how things were going on my end of the world and, with every project I was working on, a very real "How can I help?"  Steve's humor, joy, energy and optimism transcended our roles within the organization.  He truly made me feel like I was a partner and not an employee.

Steven L. Good 1956-2009

2 comments:

  1. Hi Jim-

    My name is Scott Good, and I am Steve's oldest son. Its been a few years since anyone has written about my dad, but seeing this article put a smile. Feel free to contact me if you'd like to chat sometime.

    Best Regards,
    Scott

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  2. I met Steve in 1998 when I hired him to auction a 36 story office building I owned. I also owned a commercial real estate brokerage company. He was a great guy and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent together. Don't over analyze anything it was the economy that killed Steve and his business, just as it did mine. somehow I managed to survive, but I'm not sure how. Having it all and losing it is much harder than never having it at all. Blake scott

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