When I first began to analyze CMBS bonds with my associate, Jim Brett, he discovered a website called deadmalls.com. There are a lot of mall loans in CMBS, and in 2008, when Jim and I began analyzing distressed CMBS for our affiliate, Country Bank, we were trying to get a handle on the difference between a good mall and a bad mall. After all, we started our work just when General Growth Properties, one of the largest owners of U.S. malls and a big CMBS borrower, filed for bankruptcy. We had to find CMBS issues with good malls and buy those bonds, while avoiding CMBS issues with bad malls.
So one day while Jim was researching on the internet, he came across deadmalls.com. It was a bit scary because a few of the malls secured by CMBS loans made it to the site where they were reviewed (I use the term ”review” loosely. The site is basically the opinions of interested reviewers, and some of the information is old). The stories of how these malls died, however, were riveting to Jim and me.
The site is pretty depressing and sobering, but very useful to follow the life cycle of some of the malls as they died. A typical theme was poor management, lack of capital investment and “the new mall across town.” I like to visit and reread some of the stories, particularly now as we watch Sears and other anchors struggle and internet shopping siphon off mall sales. Sad to say, I think deadmalls.com is a growing business.