John Sauter

Founder of Tower 14 Capital

John Sauter is currently the Founder and President of Tower 14 Capital, L.P, a Los Angeles based investment firm focused on opportunistic real estate investment. In August of 2019, Tower 14 made a $60MM commitment to acquire an interest in the real assets and operating platform of Middle Street Partners, a highly regarded apartment operator based in Charleston, S.C.

Prior to his time at Tower 14, Mr. Sauter was a Senior Managing Director and Principal at CBRE Global Investors. At CBRE John completed $2.0B of investment transactions and was an integral part of raising nearly $2.5B of equity for its funds and separate accounts.

John was a partner in MSD Real Estate Investments, L.P. an affiliate of MSD Capital L.P., the family office for Michael Dell for eight years before CBRE. During John’s tenure at MSD, MSD Real Estate Investments, L.P. completed 22 separate public and private transactions involving properties, debt, and stock valued at over $5 billion and nearly $1 billion of equity.

Prior to MSD, John was a Vice President of Acquisitions at Starwood Capital and was President of Troon Golf, a joint venture between Starwood and Goldman Sachs. Mr. Sauter worked on land, hospitality, and private equity related transactions valued in excess of $300MM for Starwood Opportunity Funds II, IV and V and its Mezzanine Investors, L.P. In addition, in his role at Troon, he helped the firm to grow EBITDA nearly 20 fold and took primary responsibility for the opening of the company’s offices and operations in Japan, the UK, and Australia.

Before Starwood, John was a partner at Investec, a Santa Barbara based real estate investment and development company where he assisted in the development and acquisition of approximately $400 million of multi-family, office, retail, and single-family home projects. He started his career as a financial analyst with LaSalle Partners in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Mr. Sauter is also a senior advisor to Dune Real Estate Partners, a $3B New York based real estate private equity firm. John received a B.A. in political science from Duke University and an M.B.A. from The Anderson Graduate School of Management at The University of California, Los Angeles.

Where did the idea for Tower 14 Capital come from?

The name Tower 14 came from the lifeguard tower by our house in Santa Monica and my wife and my anniversary is June 14th . The idea behind the life guard tower metaphor was “we will protect your investment the way a life guard protects your life…”

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day starts at 4:30 am with a light work out, prayer/meditation, inspirational music, a walk, and then a quick swim in the ocean. I always say “the most important thing you do each day is what you do before you do anything..” I really believe this. It is important to have a clear goal “to do good and be good each day”…after that I usually help get my kids get breakfast and off to school…Then I am usually at the office from about 8 am to 6 pm

How do you bring ideas to life?

Once I have an idea or an investment theme I want to pursue, I usually draft a strategic plan with my team and then try to surround myself with the right group of experts, advisors, and consultants to execute on our plan.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The realization that people can now work form almost anywhere. I think it will open a lot of new markets and places for people to live that are more affordable and offer a higher quality of life.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am very committed to making a list of everything (big and small) I hope to accomplish each day at the beginning of the day…the mere action of getting it all on paper seems to help get things organized and ultimately accomplished.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Having a clear understanding of what we can control and what we cant control…I spent my 20’s, 30’s, and most of my 40’s worrying about all sorts of outcomes that were really not that important and not in my control anyway.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That there is no such thing as meaningless suffering. I truly believe form the bottom of my heart that every setback, so called failure, tragedy, always builds our character and ultimately makes us more compassionate and grateful

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

You must carve out at least 30 minutes for your self each morning to exercise, pray, listen to inspiring music, and center yourself….I also recommend being relentless in your efforts to be kind and fair in every interaction throughout your day..It will pay dividends you can’t even imagine in the long run

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Bringing on a partner who had complimentary skills. My specialty is primarily investing in the equity in large real estate projects. We recently created a joint venture with a debt group to invest in re estate debt. It has opened up a lot of doors and new investment opportunities

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I think in the beginning I failed as an entrepreneur because I was too worried about failure. I always took the safe route and did not handle uncertainty well. I am much better now at taking calculated risks when I have a sense that something will work out even if all the pieces of the journey are not clear…I love the saying “ the road is made by walking…”. When we truly commit I now see that the probability of success increases dramatically.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think there will continue to be lots of opportunities as we come out of the pandemic to create new types of businesses that capture the changes that are and will occur in the way we live, where we live, and how we travel, and work. For example, the people who figure out how to create a sense of community and learning in an organization where people work from home 3+ days per week will be BIG winners.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Taking my wife on our first date. 19 years later she is still my inspiration and LOVE of my life

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I use word and excel the most. We also subscribe to Greenstreet, RE Alert, Trepp, and Co-star. I love the simplicity and intuitive nature of the whole Microsoft Office suite of products. I love trade journals that are thorough, deep, and rooted in data and research.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Road to Character by David Brooks. It provides concrete, historical examples of very ordinary people who rose to great heights despite their flaws and setbacks. It also provides at the end a very clear set of guidelines for how we can all build our character. In my opinion if you are not at least trying to improve your character and become a better person each day, then there is really no point in getting out of bed…the pursuit of money, status, the approval of others is a fool’s errand that will ultimately leave you lonely and sad.

Key Learnings:

  • How you start your day is the most important part of the day
  • Working remotely has changed the way we think about day to day business for the better.
  • Don’t spend so much time worrying about failure that you don’t take opportunities to succeed.