There are two operating theaters on the eighth floor, and as we were pulling the place apart, we uncovered a petrified cat that was probably in there for no less than 30 or 40 years.
Better a cat than a person, I guess. How do you feel about opening a hotel in the middle of a pandemic?
I think our proximity to Rush and within the context of the Illinois Medical District is somewhat fortuitous. Many of our guests are patients, like the guy that needs a new hip. I wouldn't want to be opening a hotel cold, especially in the major urban settings where you've got these large hotels that are so reliant on convention business.
What was your worst deal?
I bought a hydroponic tomato farm in Albia, Iowa, about 20 years ago. I got this million-dollar hydroponic greenhouse for like $100,000 and I was going to sell tomatoes at $1.75 a pound. By the time we brought them into market, the wholesale price was down to 80 cents and my cost to produce it was 97.
Best deal you've ever made?
When I was 22, I bought a 388-acre farm in southwest Iowa. I paid $95,000, put $5,000 down, and the seller was financing the balance. That night I met my neighbors, the Smith family. Well, the Smith family and the seller of the farm had been fighting for 25 years. And the Smiths so badly wanted to buy the farm that they offered to purchase it from me for $150,000.