When Miami real estate attorney Suzanne Amaducci-Adams takes to the seas for a sailboat race, she braces for disaster. Equipment could break; crew can fall out; boats could capsize or collide; the wind could change direction, slow down or build with force; and storms could form from nowhere.
“You need to plan for the unexpected,” Amaducci-Adams said. “And if something happens, you need to be able to change your course or change your direction on a moment’s notice.”
One race from Miami to Key Largo was plagued with ferocious winds, while Amaducci-Adams was stuck in her least favorite position — driving the boat, rather than handling the main sail, or jib and spinnaker sails by the boat’s mast, as she’s used to.
It was dark, ominous and blowing a gale. Everyone had a task, and if one person dropped the ball the entire boat would suffer.
“I was very nervous,” Amaducci-Adams said. “But we had a really good team, and I trusted implicitly the owner of the boat, and just listened to every word he said, every instruction he gave, and we were able to get home safely.”
It’s about trusting everyone onboard, according to Amaducci-Adams. Otherwise, she and her crew literally wouldn’t stay afloat.
It’s a real estate closing under another name.
“I don’t care how simple the deal purportedly is,” Amaducci-Adams said. “I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to go wrong, but something always goes wrong.”
Partner at Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod, Amaducci-Adams represents owners, developers and borrowers looking to buy, build and cultivate property long term. She’s overseen $6 billion worth of hotel loans, restructuring, mergers, buyouts and other deals.
Amaducci-Adams’ longest project —16 years and counting — is a piece of land in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in an “opportunity zone,” or economically challenged area with potential. She’s helped her client revamp, building a string of stores, a restaurant, marina and office building with residential condominiums and, if all goes to plan, a $600 million to $800 million entertainment complex.
It’s taken perseverance as the $1 billion project is a collaboration between the private and public sector at the mercy of the economy and various other factors — like former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland going to jail for corruption, or Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim getting ousted from office and later reelected. Slowly but surely, Amaducci-Adams gets a kick out of watching her negotiations become tangible structures.
“You get to take a project from a raw piece of land and turn it into something beautiful, and you get to see it, you get to touch it,” she said.
Crazy or inspired?
As with sailing, Amaducci-Adams has to trust those around her — particularly her clients, who can sometimes seem, well, insane. One client, Robert Christoph, offered a hefty amount of money to build a marina and fueling facility in Key West in 1999.
“Everyone kept telling me he was crazy, he was overpaying,” she said. “And I didn’t know him that well so I said, ‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’ ”
Christoph insisted, somehow confident he had hit a gold mine. And it turned out, he had. The project was a grand slam, according to Amaducci-Adams, and 10 years later set the highest price per foot of a dock slip sold in South Florida. That, she says, is when she realized the importance of sticking to a lane.
“ Business people see one thing, the lawyers see something else. When you put both your minds together, you come up with a really good product.” she said. “The Goldmans, people thought they were crazy for amassing all this land in Wynwood. Craig Robins was crazy for doing the Design District. These people have done tremendously well, and people now call them visionaries.”
Unlike in sailing, Amaducci-Adams is usually in the driver’s seat. She’s often the only woman in the room, too, though she barely notices, preferring to see boardrooms as gender neutral.
“I truly believe if you don’t see gender in your deals that gender is irrelevant,” Amaducci-Adams said. “I know that’s naive and that gender, I’m sure, is somewhat relevant, but I guess it’s a lot more of a positive attitude.”
Amaducci-Adams lives by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s mantra that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Amaducci-Adams hosts regular all-female dinners aimed at connecting women in real estate law and chairs a real estate group that’s nearly half women, though they’re usually disproportionately represented in the industry.
“In having a large network of contacts and people that you trust, good can come from it,” Amaducci-Adams said. “I’m not going to recommend someone who’s not qualified for a job, but I will open a door and provide an opportunity.”
She also has interchangeable law and fishing partners, thanks to all the marina properties in Miami, and often escapes to the Bahamas for fishing competitions. Amaducci-Adams organizes CREW-Miami’s annual sailfish tournament, which gives its proceeds to charity.
One year during final sail, the last in a series of four races, Amaducci-Adams and her partner managed to jump from 18th to second place and catch 15 sailfish — an unusual feat. Once ahead, she and her female fishing partner battled it out for top female angler.
“She beat me by about 38 seconds,” Amaducci-Adams said. “But it was the first time in tournament history, or that anyone could recall, that two women were duking it out on the same boat for top female angler.”
Whether by land or sea, Amaducci-Adams has a guiding principle: “You can’t follow. If everyone is in one direction, you need to be in a different direction.”
Born: June 1968, Denville, New Jersey
Education: University of Miami School of Law, J.D., 1993; Vanderbilt University, B.A., 1990
Experience: Partner, Bilzin Sumberg, 1998-present; Associate, Shutts & Bowen, 1995-1998; Associate, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, 1993-1995.
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