Finding the Right Speed

Tab 1

March 21, 2014


John Potter places himself behind the wheel of a souped-up Porsche 911 GT3 and hurtles around neck-snapping turns at speeds well over 100 mph, darting among other dan­gerously speeding automotive projectiles. As Founder and Principal of Magnus Racing, John does the driving for his own sports-car racing team. For the past six years, he has pursued his childhood passion as a rising star of the Grand-American Rolex Series of racing, now known as the Tudor United SportsCar Championship.

But there are some things 31-year-old John won’t do because he considers them too risky, such as sky dive. In fact, he doesn’t look at his race-car driving career as peril­ous. First, he’s had plenty of training and experience, and graduated several years ago from the venerable Skip Barber Racing School based in Georgia.

Second, there’s his driving style: confident but controlled — behind the wheel of cars built to handle the extreme paces they deliver for him.

John and Emily Potter; photo courtesy of John Potter

 

A Calculated Approach to Risk 

John applies the same overall philosophy to his other main vocation: investing in commercial real estate. “To know him is to know someone who’s pretty responsible and calculated in his risk-taking,” says Emily Potter, John’s wife. “He actually doesn’t have the personality where you’d ever guess that he races cars. What he does have is a passion to pursue some­thing that he could take very seriously and push himself and continue to grow.”

Tab 2

March 21, 2014


Choosing to own a racing team and drive the car himself “certainly calibrates where John starts with the measurement of risk compared to most people,” says Jim Tyrrell, the Potters’ Wealth Management Advisor in St. Louis. “Everything he does — whether it’s Magnus or commercial properties or investing — John measures every risk he can to help reduce the impact of unknown variables.”

 

Entreprenurial DNA

John earned a degree in economics and political science from Lehigh University, where he and Emily met. But he soon bent toward his lifelong love of auto racing and completed the rigorous Barber school. “My dream was to race the type of cars you see on the street: sports cars like Porsche, Ferrari, BMW,” he says. By 2006, John drove for established teams. He soon decided to combine his quickly growing racing chops with his busi­ness acumen and entrepreneurial spirit to establish Magnus Racing. He formed a partnership with Porsche to drive its factory-built racecars, moving to Salt Lake City in the process.

 

John was behind the wheel for several races in 2007 and 2008 before Magnus

became part of the Grand-American Rolex Series in 2009. He also began racing in the American Le Mans Series and added a co-driver for longer races. Magnus’ early climb culminated in the team’s first career victory, in the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona race with three other drivers, as the team finished second overall in its class for the year.

“John isn’t an adrenaline junkie,” Emily says. “In creating his own team, he has found it rewarding not only to drive, but also to own and run a strong operation, find and retain great crew members and oversee all the details.” Emily assists Mag­nus and the commercial real-estate side of John’s business in human resources and event-management capacities, as well as provides constant moral support.

That last factor can be important at times like the 2013 season in which John’s Porsche finished second. It was a heart-breaking result after he led the Grand-American cir­cuit standings heading into the final race. Fielded by a team for which he used to drive, a car wiped out John’s Porsche at the apex of a turn, causing enough damage to cost him the race and a first-team finish for the season.

Tab 3

March 21, 2014


The Right Place at the Right Time

Along the way, John has pursued commercial real estate investing on a somewhat parallel path to Magnus Racing. In another instance of taking advantage of opportunities while hedging risk, John leapt into investments in the Salt Lake City area in 2009 when the commercial real estate market was at its post-crash nadir. They included storage facilities, hotels, industrial offices, warehouse space and several retail locations including fast-food restau­rant locations.

“When the real estate market was looking terrible, I was at the right place at the right time and met people who helped me get into these projects,” John says. “But I did so at the lowest possible risk point. Every model that I ran for every project assumed zero capital appreciation — returns on cash flow only. So I didn’t have to worry whether there would be depreciation in their value.”

The Private Client Reserve has been the Potters’ partner every step of the way — for example, financing a $10 million construction loan for 

a hotel and retail project. “Financing such projects can be the most difficult area of this business,” John says. “The Private Client Reserve has taken the stress out of the process and helped me allocate my cash efficiently.”

"My dream was to race the type of cars you see on the street: sports cars like Porsche, Ferrari, BMW."
—John Potter

The Potters have hosted Tyrrell and some clients of The Private Client Reserve at select races. “They get to see cars that they are familiar with — with the same shell and aerodynamics, a street-based chassis, the same basic engines — in an exciting racing setting,” John says.

From his seat in the pit area, Tyrrell says, he has gotten a view of the heart-pounding action from a perspective that most racing fans would envy. “This is an experience that you just can’t buy,” he says.

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