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Forward on Reverse: Who stole it?

National Mortgage Professional
Mar 24, 2014

Forward on Reverse: Who stole it?Atare E. Agbamu, CRMSreverse mortgage, Bart Johnson, Think Reverse!, Financial Freedom, National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association

They stole it. Someone walked into Bart's study, surveyed the sumptuous mind-food on his shelves, ignored other volumes, and took it.

Who is Bart? What did they steal from him? Who stole it? And why did they steal it? Barton "Bart" Johnson needs no introduction if you reside in ReverseCountry. As president of Financial Freedom between 2003 and 2007, he led efforts that made Financial Freedom into the largest and most profitable reverse mortgage company in the world, increasing its origination unit volume from 7,000 loans in 2002 to 49,000 in 2006, and dollar amounts from $415.7 million in 2002 to $5 billion in 2006. He remains active in the industry as co-chair of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Board of Directors since 2008.

Before his tenure at Financial Freedom, he held senior leadership positions at various financial services companies, including GE Capital Residential Connections Corporation, Mellon Mortgage Company, Fireman's Funds Mortgage Corporation, Manufacturers Hanover Mortgage, and Peoples Federal Savings and Loans Association of Detroit. Along the way, he owned, managed and sold several companies.

Bart is at it again. He is thinking and plotting strategies for a different kind of reverse mortgage enterprise. He is picking top industry brains and assembling scarce industry talent. In short, he is seeking to reclaim and expand the "interrupted promise" of pre-acquisition Financial Freedom on a grand scale with a uniquely Bartonian vision.

Yes, Bart is building a hybridnot a carbut a hybrid reverse mortgage company! (And he has promised to share some details in an upcoming exclusive conversation with our readers). What did they steal from Bart? To know what they stole from him, you have to know some of Bart's interests. Although he has a numbers-crunching background as a CPA, certified management accountant and auditor, Bart is an avid reader, an author with a rich library in his Irvine, Calif. home.

At NRMLA's 2008 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, Bart and I struck a deal: He would read my book, Think Reverse!, and I would read his business story, the plan for his hybrid reverse mortgage company, Life Stages Financial (LSF). Afterwards, we would discuss his story (mind you, every business plan is a story) and my book.

That was in November 2008. Fast-forward to late January 2009, I received a distressed e-mail from Bart. Someone walked away with the book. He had read some chapters of my recently-released, 16-chapter reverse mortgage marketing and origination guide. He placed the book on a special section of his bookcase for his current reading. When he returned to continue reading, it was gone. Someone stole it.

Bart believes someone walked away with it. Because he was deep into the book, and the book was deep into him, he shot me an e-mail that both flattered and humbled me. It was heartfelt. It was authentic. I felt his loss. With his permission, let me share the e-mail with you:

Atare, someone has absconded with my copy of your book & I have a bookcase with relevant volumes, and the book you so graciously provided to me, autographed and free of charge, is missing. A compliment to you, I suppose, as someone clearly saw value sufficient to pilfering my copy. In any event, I would like to replace the book, this time at full price. How would I best do that?

Who stole it? Who took Bart Johnson's copy of Think Reverse!? Why did they steal it? We can only guess. Maybe Bart has a point: "& someone clearly saw value sufficient to pilfering my copy." So, who is this book-value thief?

Among other books on Bart's bookcase, why did they walk away with a mere $50 dollar book from the library of a husband of 35 years, plus and a father of two grown children, a neighbor and friend with a great sense of humor, a wine-lover and wine-maker, a poet, and a distinguished business leader in one of the most exciting and promising industries of the 21st century and beyond? Why?

Could it be the recession we are living through? Mr. Barack Obama has said that the economy is very bad, and I believe him, especially after getting Bart's e-mail. Obviously, this book-value thief is a reader and a smart person who is probably plotting a reverse mortgage future like Bart. They may have just "borrowed" it. But Bart's study is not the Irvine Public Library! The "why" will probably remain a mystery. Meanwhile, I make the book thief a deal right here and now: Return the book to Bart's shelf with a note expressing remorse, go to "bookfeedback" on my site www.thinkreverse.com, leave an address, and I will send you an autographed copy of Think Reverse! & free of charge with these words:

"May you find purpose and profits in reverse mortgages. Go, reverse your thinking and steal no more."

Think reverse. Move forward!

Author and columnist, Atare E. Agbamu, CRMS is director of reverse mortgages at Minneapolis-based AdvisorNet Mortgage LLC. A member of the BusinessWeek Market Advisory Board, Agbamu is author of Think Reverse! and more than 100 articles on reverse mortgages. Through his advisory firm, ThinkReverse LLC, Agbamu advises financial professionals, institutions and regulators across the country. In a 2007 national report on reverse mortgages, the AARP cited Agbamu's work. He can be reached by phone at (612) 436-3711 or (612) 203-9434, and e-mail at aagbamu@advisornet.com or atare@thinkreverse.com.