Marvin Cohen, S.E.C.


A Biography

Marv was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1924, the first of two children of William and Daisy Cohen. Marv’s father had a successful women’s clothing store in New York, but for health reasons, in 1932 the Cohens boarded a ship bound for California via the Panama Canal. Two weeks later the Cohen family was temporarily housed in a Los Angeles hotel overlooking the 1932 Olympic Games; they were able to attend events every day.

The Cohens lived in LA for five years before moving to Hollywood. While attending Hollywood High School, Marv was president of the photography club, the largest club in the school. He graduated in 1941 and entered UCLA for one year until he was old enough to enlist in the Army Infantry. Of 36 months in the Army, 31 were in the South Pacific. He moved from island to island, ending up in Japan after tours at Guadalcanal, New Georgia, the Philippines and others. In addition to his regular Army duties, he published a newspaper and did radio broadcasts for the troops.

Returning from military duty as a Technical Sergeant with a Bronze Star, Marv continued his studies at UCLA, graduating with a BS in marketing in 1948. He later served as a member of the Alumni Association Scholarship Committee. He is an avid UCLA sports fan, having attended almost every UCLA football and basketball home game for over 50 years.

Marv worked briefly with his father after graduation, but after two years decided that retailing just wasn’t the right career for him. His mother had always thought he should be in banking, but young Marv got a real estate license in 1950. One week later he went to a real estate exchange meeting. Well! Yes, Marv exchanged his only listing, a vacant lot, for a house, at his very first meeting one week into the business. Since both properties were free and clear, ten days later he banked his first commission, $1,000. He decided he liked the idea of exchanging and as he says, “I’ve been hooked on exchanging ever since!” Oh sure, Marv has sold homes to users over the years… .four to be exact, and he just passed 50 years in the business in July, 2000. All the rest of Marv’s hundreds of deals have been exchanges or investment sales.

After making exchanges for over ten years, Marv decided to learn what he had been doing. He attended night classes at UCLA and after concluding many courses received the UCLA Certificate in Real Estate. He then took Dick Reno’s class in Northern California and subsequently sponsored that seminar in Southern California six times. Besides Reno, Marv has taken many seminars with Chuck Chatham, Bill Broadbent, Bob Steele and other exchange greats. He has been an active S.E.C. member since 1968. In one stretch he attended every meeting for eight years straight. He has completed exchanges in 28 states and Canada.

Marv’s wife, Adrienne, passed away in 1992. Before that time they used to attend many meetings together. Adrienne particularly enjoyed the meetings in Tahiti and Mexico. Their son, Jon, also attended many family meetings during his youth. Jon is now a successful Realtor, specializing in the marketing of foreclosure properties. He now lives in the Simi Valley area of Southern California. In 1999, at his son’s invitation Marv moved into Jon’s guest house. Marv enjoys being near his family, including a grandson and two granddaughters.

A strong believer in education, Marv was one of the first Californians to receive the GRI designation. He is CCIM #36 and one of the early Accredited Land Consultants as well. He has served as president of both the Los Angels CCIM Chapter and the California chapter of the Realtors Land Institute. He is a member of the national Court of Marketing Excellence and has also been president of Certified Exchangors and the Interchange, an exchange group that started in 1927. He started the San Fernando Valley Exchangors and has led that group six times over the last 30+ years, as well as more exchange groups and committees than you can count on both hands including the very large Investment and Exchange Division of the California Association of Realtors. He is now an Honorary Member for Life of CAR.

Early in his real estate career, Marv discovered that there was a good opportunity and need to exchange businesses for real estate. He obtained the special broker’s license that the State of California required at that time. His activity in business exchanges led to his election as vice-president of the California Business Opportunity Brokers Association.

In his youth, Marv enjoyed tennis, swimming and photography. He gave up the tennis some time ago, after two heart bypass operations. More recently, bouts with leukemia including chemotherapy, and melanoma surgery on his head at the John Wayne Cancer Institute have slowed him down a little, but certainly haven’t stopped him.

Marv has owned some real estate over the years but he has mainly worked as an exchange broker. His advice to those coming into the business is “Work on anything if it is feasible. Small ones become big ones later on. Always ask what they have to add, including property, services or cash.” His philosophy is that “nothing is impossible and that everything is going to work. We exchangors need patience and have to be tolerant.” About 95% of the transactions Marv has closed have been cooperative with other brokers. Most of his business has been generated by word-of-mouth referrals from other brokers and former clients.

Marv has won numerous exchange awards, several involving S.E.C. members. In one, Marv’s elderly client had come on hard times and had nothing left except his expertise in the hotel-motel business and a very large and valuable lifetime stamp collection. When the transaction was done, Marv’s client owned an older hotel that needed rehab and still owned his stamps which were safely locked up in a huge bank vault as security for financing the hotel.

In addition to enjoying his business, Marv has constantly been a volunteer, including the Boy Scouts and the Veterans Administration Hospital. Most recently, he has for many years volunteered at Northridge Hospital, in the largest emergency room and trauma center in his area, serving at their busiest time, late Saturday night into Sunday morning. Ask him sometime how hectic the emergency room was after the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Marv was previously a member and treasurer of the development board at the hospital.

Nowadays, when Marv tells people he is an exchangor, they say “Oh yes, one of those 1031 guys.” Most of Marv’s exchanges are not primarily tax driven. He understands how to solve problems using assets as vehicles. As Marv says, “There are hundreds of reasons to exchange.”

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