REm 17 YEARS and 200 NOT OUT by Dave Buckley

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This January is REM’s 200th issue. To those not directly involved in the magazine’s production this may not sound a lot. But as the publication moves into its 17th year I believe this is quite some feat.

I don’t say this to try to blow my own trumpet. I was not involved at the start of REM. Indeed, I only really became involved a few issues before No 100 was produced. So I can only really tell half of the story.

I was the third of the JBs to run the magazine (my real first name is John though I’ve always answered to Dave). Leading the way was John Botting who sold the magazine to John Black after he (the first John) had suffered a serious illness. John Black took over at just the wrong time as it turned out. Soon after he bought the magazine the financial crisis of 2008 hit. The crisis had a major adverse impact on property markets around the world. Thailand was not excluded.

I think it is accurate to say that the magazine could easily have gone under in 2008/9. This is not an attempt to sully the management abilities of John Black who, sadly, passed away a few years back; more a reflection of just how bad things got.

John Black found himself constantly dipping into personal reserves to keep the magazine going. At the time I was working with him to produce the magazine. He was paying me and taking no salary himself. Eventually he decided enough was enough and I fully understood and sympathised with his position.

As a result – and with the financial support of a good mate – my mate and I bought the magazine from John Black. I won’t pretend we paid a big sum for it. Johnnie B wanted out pretty much at any price.

Why buy it, you might ask. Well I’m a believer in the “what goes down, must come up” rule of thumb that historically holds true in the money markets. I felt it was time for an upturn – and, fortunately, that feeling proved correct.

I had always given of my best while working for John Black but, yes, the increased sense of ownership meant I had an even greater incentive to make it work.

Of course, I’d like to claim that I did such a wonderful job that the magazine’s fortunes improved. But I don’t think that was the reality of the situation. No, business confidence picked up and the magazine was there ready to ride the new wave.

Pattaya went through something of a boom. People stopped worrying that projects might not be seen through to fruition – something that had been a concern earlier. New projects were cropping up all over the Eastern Seaboard.

For several years it was a good time to be involved in the Pattaya property scene. There was a party for almost every occasion. A project launch, a project having all its plans approved, the start of construction, ‘thank you’ for buying … you name it, there was a party to celebrate just about everything. And in addition to this there were the Movers & Shakers parties driven by Cees Cuijpers of Town & Country, in which REM was a junior partner in the early days.

I can recall one Friday night attending no less than three property parties. I felt I had to show my face at each so as not to favour any one project. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Of course, it wasn’t all about the parties. Although they were a very nice distraction. I met a lot of great people and made some lasting friends and it’s that aspect I look back on most fondly as issue 200 looms.

For a couple of months back in the heady days the magazine and its supplements ran to more than 200 pages. That takes quite some doing in a one month timespan and in a city the size of Pattaya.

Sadly such days have gone – for the time being at least, I hope.

In the same way as things go up, they also come down. About two years ago it became apparent to me that the market had taken one of its cyclical downturns. The value of the Russian rouble took a dive and developers of long-standing in the city grew concerned that buyers might not be able to meet their balloon payment commitments. Better not to start what the buyers might not be able to finish, they felt.

Again, a perfectly reasonable business stance to take. Though it wasn’t a lot of help to a magazine reliant on the property market.

All sorts of homilies came to mind. Don’t flog a dead horse, don’t throw good money after bad. That sort of thing.

When such thoughts run through your head, it’s horrible. REM had become important to me and, although I could not afford to stay running it, I did not want to see it disappear. Fortunately, friends offered to help keep it running and this is why REM has made its score 200, not out.

I remain involved in the magazine as a shareholder and contributor but credit for the magazine’s continued presence goes to my friend Paul Johnson and his partner Pure Phanthong.

Without their intervention you would not be reading these (well chosen) words. They have seen the magazine through to a point where it is well poised to take advantage of the next upturn. And history tells us there will be an upturn. Indeed, the magazine has recently seen former advertisers return and new advertisers come in.

Always lurking in the background has been the internet which has spelt the end of many magazines. Thai language publications have been especially hit recently my wife tells me. But Paul and Pure have with a new website adopted the internet as a valued friend to the printed publication which, I’m sure, is the way forward.

Some may think the recent upturn in advertising is influenced by ‘high season’. I don’t feel this is the case. I’ve never had a lot of belief in seasonal surges. Underlying confidence has little to do with sun on your back or rain on your head. It’s about the belief that the economy is or is about to improve.

If you have doubts about Pattaya’s future, I suggest you consider the upgrades the authorities are making at U-Tapao airport, the very real prospect of major new railway infrastructure driven by the Chinese serving the Eastern Seaboard, and the comparative stability enjoyed by the country in recent years.

REM is experiencing an upturn and I expect it to grow bigger in the months and years ahead. Like football managers we’ll take it “one match at a time” but I’m definitely getting that “wish I was still at the helm” feeling.

As we move into 2018 I’m not making any new year resolutions other than to do what I can to ensure REM grows and prospers through to 2019 and beyond. I’m confident this will happen.

Here’s wishing you all a great 2018.

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