What Can Agents & Sellers Learn From a Las Vegas Whale-Catcher?


You are selling your home, you want to sell it as quickly as possible for as much as possible. How do you find the best possible agent?

Get one who knows how to catch a whale!

In one of his more entertaining sessions, Brad Iman here at Real Estate Connect 2015 brought in Larry Altschul, senior vice president of customer development at MGM Resorts International. He’s the guy who is charged with bringing the “Whales” to Vegas – whales being the term used colloquially in business for high net worth rollers. In Vegas terms, it’s folks ready to bet at least $100,000 at casinos. Guys who, as Larry said yesterday, drop $100,000 on a weekend for fun and do not blink an eye.

He told us he brings them in, and also makes sure they pay.

They are not doctors or lawyers, they are business people who have taken risk all their lives, he told us. They have made gadzillions of dollars and certainly agents want to have them as clients because Whales buy whale-sized real estate portfolios. They have multiple homes, boats, planes, and maybe even buy homes for family and staff.

They are manna to Realtors.

Larry let us in on his secret, which is not too surprising: he researches high roller clients majorly. And drops some bucks on them, with pricey wine or a private jet.

“If you want to bag a wealthy client, learn as much about them as possible and use that knowledge to pique their interest,” says Larry.

Do your homework: Larry Altschul learned that a certain high net worth client he wanted to lure to one of his casinos drank and loved expensive wine.

That was his “in”. He called the man’s assistant, told her to tell her boss he had a $10,000 bottle of wine to share.

The whale took the bait, Larry sent the plane.

“The moral of the story is he lost $4 million with me,” Altschul said.

Not all the baiting needs to be pricey. Altschul knew one that one big-time gambler didn’t like garlic in his food, Italian food, go figure. So he made sure to bring the mark to an Italian restaurant that was light on the garlic.

“You’re unbelievable,” the man responded.

MGM Resorts International is extending this technique to it’s foreign recruiting, establishing departments around the world to cater to various nationalities and cultures.

“The best is to understand their culture,” Altschul said. “Always watch that you don’t make them lose face.”

Altschul also said that gambling is a natural part of the Chinese culture — no so much for the Middle Eastern.

Other brokerages have taken a similar approach in trying to attract overseas buyers.

Many are catering to the Chinese. Pacific Union offers up concierge services feeds its listings to Chinese-language websites, networks at events for Chinese silver spooners, communicates through Chinese social networks and uses targeted advertising.

The moral of the story is to think outside the box, and make sure your agent is. Recently, I heard of a top luxury broker in Dallas who was sending direct mail postcards to the wealthiest zip codes in Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, Atherton), showing them how much money they could save by selling their California mansion and buying one in Dallas.

How do I know? My son’s boss got one in the mail!