Founded in 2012, MSP was formed for the purpose of being the entity that would lead the development and oversee the management of real estate projects initiated by its principals, Charlie Wendell, Clarence Kerr and Stephen Wendell. The description below gives a brief overview of the lives of these gentlemen and their prior business ventures, which have all led to the founding of MSP.
Although working as a CPA during the early part of his career first in Charlottesville, VA and then in his home state of West Virginia, Charlie Wendell developed an interest in real estate and started dabbling in real estate deals on the side. Before long, he had led the development of several small office buildings that were leased to established local businesses and two larger office buildings that were leased to the WV Department of Mines. Additionally, Charlie led several coal mining operations in West Virginia that proved to be very successful endeavors for he and his partners.
While he experienced a great deal of success in the coal mining business, Charlie knew that he did not want to be in that business long-term, so he decided to take on a new type of real estate project, hotels. After what is perhaps still the most difficult development process Charlie has faced in his 35 years in the business, in 1983 Charlie opened his first hotel, a Holiday Inn in Oak Hill, West Virginia, a town just a five minute drive away from where Charlie was born, grew up and was living with his family at the time. The hardships, mistakes, mishaps and lessons Charlie learned from his first hotel deal have proved invaluable to the success he has achieved over the last 30 years.
Around the same time Charlie was opening the Holiday Inn, Clarence Kerr, who has over 40 years experience in the hotel industry, was working as the Vice President of Operations for American Motor Inns (“AMI”) of Roanoke, Virginia, which was the largest Holiday Inn franchise holder in the world at that time. Through his development and ownership of the Holiday Inn in Oak Hill, Charlie met Clarence and they formed a friendship. Then, when AMI merged with Prime Motor Inns in the late 1980s, Clarence and Charlie decided to start their own hotel venture together with the purchase of a Sheraton hotel in Bluefield, WV, which they converted into a Holiday Inn in 1987. The two also started a hotel management company, VIM, Inc. (“VIM”), in order to manage the Holiday Inn in Oak Hill as well as the newly acquired hotel in Bluefield, VA. Shortly after transforming the Sheraton in Bluefield to a Holiday Inn, the hotel was selected as one of the Top 20 performing Holiday Inn hotels in the world, which, at the time, included over 1800 Holiday Inns.
Encouraged and spurred on by the success of their first hotel venture together, Charlie and Clarence have led or are currently leading the development of 25 hotels in total. While the hotels are each owned by separate single purpose investment partnerships or companies, Charlie and Clarence have personally invested in each deal alongside other outside investors. Additionally, VIM has served as the management company for each hotel, which allows Charlie and Clarence to closely monitor their properties and maximize the potential of each hotel. Of the 25 hotels they have developed or are developing, 15 have been sold, including 7 hotels to Equity Inns, Inc., a then newly formed REIT, in November of 1994 for a total of $40 million. Today, 6 hotels are still operating under the control of Charlie and Clarence, 2 other hotels are currently under construction in Sumter, SC and Tallahasse, FL. Additionally, 2 more hotel will be under construction in 2017 in Mt. Pleasant, SC and Nashville, TN.
Charlie Wendell’s son, Stephen Wendell, joined the team in the fall of 2012 and currently serves as General Counsel of VIM as well as a principal of MSP. Prior to joining the company, Stephen worked as a law clerk for the Philadelphia Eagles from 2010 to 2011 and as a corporate associate in the capital markets group at Proskauer Rose in New York City. While a lawyer by trade, Stephen has of course been surrounded by real estate his whole life, and while living in Philadelphia and working for the Eagles, Stephen decided to start his own real estate investment company with one of his former college classmates, Ryan, called RSW Investments, LLC. Stephen perceived that there was room for development in the Philadelphia real estate market, specifically in the mixed-use apartment/retail space in the area known as Southwest Center City, which had once been considered a fringe area of the city but that now is considered “up and coming.” With some wise advice and guidance from his father, Stephen led his first real estate deal in Philadelphia with the acquisition of a mixed-use apartment/retail building located at 1622 South Street in 2011. Over the next two years, with the help of the team of third-party partners he assembled in Philadelphia, Stephen was able to find a bakery to occupy the retail space, develop and sell a single-family home on the previously vacant back portion of the property and eventually sell the apartment/retail building to the bakery occupying the retail space in September of 2013, which ultimately gave the project’s equity investors a 153% return on their equity invested. Since Stephen has joined the team, there has been an additional focus on developing mixed-use projects in Philadelphia, thus enhancing both the geographic and asset-type diversity of the projects under the MSP umbrella.
Ultimately, the decision to establish MSP was due in large part to its principals’ desire to put one brand name behind all the real estate projects that they have developed. Moving forward, for every project our group undertakes together, whether it is a hotel in the mountains of Virginia, a mixed-use building in urban Philadelphia or an office building near the coast in Charleston, SC, MSP will serve as the entity controlling the development and management of the special purpose investment entity that is the owner of the project. As detailed above, the principals of MSP have a great deal of experience in not only the field of real estate development, but also the fields of law, hotel management, accounting and finance. Collectively, they bring their experience and a long history of success in the real estate industry that has been made possible by a shared set of values, including patience, diligence and commitment. These values are what the MSP team will continue to portray as they look to add future real estate investments under the MSP umbrella.