The Back of a Napkin

The Back of a Napkin

Recently, we have been in the final lap of the most complex financing project I’ve ever worked on. We’ve been wading through a Historic Tax Credit (“HTC”) and New Market Tax Credit (“NMTC”) deal for a landmark redevelopment urban project. In the beginning, it was like observing alien matter. There were lots of consultants–legal and others–along with the National Park Service, which ultimately administers funding.

In this process, I recalled several times what Ron Richey, a Fortune 500 CEO and mentor of mine, always said. “If it is too complicated to explain on the back of the napkin, it’s too complicated.” I guess Ron never saw an HTC or NMTC deal. This idea wouldn’t fit on the back of a tablecloth.

I kept thinking that if we were not going to get the paperwork correct, we would bow out of the job. Then I thought of the community and the citizens who would benefit from this development. And so we kept going. I’ve decided that if you can stomach the legal cost–and if you have the patience of Job–the tax credits are worth the trouble. We have learned valuable lessons for the next one.


  1. I’ve seen people make a fortune with ideas that would never be able to be explained on the back of a napkin…some sayings sound nice, and are true much of the time, but not always.

    Also, I noticed his quote could fit on the back of a napkin 🙂

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