Firm of the Year: North America

1 Blackstone
2 Brookfield
3 Starwood Capital

Since the global financial crisis, large managers have benefitted from an investor trend toward fewer relationships. No firm has gained more from this trend than Blackstone, which continued to flex both its fundraising and capital deployment muscles in 2019.

The firm closed Blackstone Real Estate Partners IX on $20.5 billion, the greatest total to date for a closed-end fund. The final $3.2 billion came from high-net-worth individuals, demonstrating the manager’s ability to access private capital at a retail level. As 2019 drew to a close, it also neared $10 billion for its latest European real estate fund and closed the biggest acquisition of all time when it bought GLP’s US logistics portfolio for $18.7 billion.

Industry Figure of the Year: North America

1 Alan Yang – GLP
2 Nadeem Meghji – Blackstone
3 Dan Cummings – Bain Capital

Things came full circle for Alan Yang this year as GLP’s then-chief investment officer oversaw the richest portfolio sale on record in the private real estate industry. Last summer, Yang masterminded the $18.7 billion transaction with Blackstone while also exploring a potential public offering for his firm’s US logistics platform.

Prior to joining the Singaporean warehouse specialist, Yang was a principal for Blackstone and helped establish the firm’s Los Angeles office. He joined the Schwartz-Mei Group, an affiliate of GLP, in 2013 and in 2015 he became GLP’s top investment professional.

Yang’s meteoric rise continued after he closed the US portfolio sale to Blackstone. Last September, he was named chief executive of GLP Capital Partners, GLP’s new Santa Monica, California-based entity that will handle the firm’s next wave of investment in the US. So far, the firm has amassed more than $1 billion of assets.

Deal of the Year: North America

1 Blackstone – GLP
2 Related Companies – Hudson Yards
3 Blackstone – Bellagio

GLP elected for a private sale, having first explored an IPO

Logistics has become the dominant property type in the real estate world. Last year a single deal shifted the balance of power in the US logistics space, with Blackstone adding 179 million square feet of e-commerce warehousing, nearly doubling its holdings to 370 million square feet. The seller, GLP, was able to monetize its entire US portfolio for $18.7 billion, the largest realization ever achieved in private real estate transaction.

There are few firms that could participate in a deal of this scale. GLP, a Singaporean warehouse specialist, still owns 645 million square feet around the world and has already started to rebuild its US presence.

Blackstone was able to draw on two massive pools of capital to execute the deal: its opportunistic series for $13.4 billion and its core-focused Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust for the remaining $5.3 billion.

Institutional Investor of the Year: North America

1 Allianz Real Estate
2 California State Teachers’ Retirement System
3 Norges Bank Investment Management

Allianz Real Estate deployed $3 billion in equity and financing capital throughout the US alone. Its largest transaction took place in New York’s newest submarket: Hudson Yards. For $384 million, the company secured a 49 percent stake in an office condo that spans more than half of 30 Hudson Yards, the tallest building in the new neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side. The acquisition follows a similar investment it made into 10 Hudson Yards in 2016.

Capital Raise of the Year: North America

1 Bain Capital
2 Fortress Investment Group
3 Colony Digital Partners

Long active in the corporate private equity space, the Boston-based firm made its debut in the real estate fund space by closing Bain Capital Real Estate Fund I. Managed by the former Harvard Management Company team – which Bain acquired in 2010 – the fund closed on $1.5 billion. The vehicle has a value-add strategy targeting small to mid-sized assets. Investors include the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Capital Advisory Firm of the Year: North America

1 Evercore
2 Hodes Weill
3 MIRA

Bill Thompson: jointly leads Evercore’s private capital advisory practice

After separating from Greenhill in early 2018, Evercore’s real estate capital advisory team achieved marked success in its first full year of independence.

Throughout 2019, it advised on $2.7 billion of sales and recapitalizations, including a $1.1 billion recap of the Lubert-Adler Multi-Fund and the $1.17 billion Kayne Anderson MOB recap. It also closed $4.1 billion of capital across seven funds, including $1.8 billion for Fortress Investment Group’s Fortress Real Estate Opportunity Fund III and $438 million for Real Estate Credit Solutions Fund II, a credit fund managed by HPS Investment Partners.

 

Office Investor of the Year: North America

1 Starwood Capital
2 KKR
3 Allianz Real Estate

Starwood bought two properties in Oakland

While the Miami Beach mega manager may be best known for its hospitality investments, it was Starwood’s office activity that caught the eye of voters in 2019. The firm closed on more than $2 billion of office acquisitions across the US last year, including a two-building portfolio in Oakland, California, comprised of nearly a million square feet, as well as the Well Fargo Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a 55-story trophy asset in the heart of the city’s CBD. Starwood also purchased a seven-building office campus in Burlington, Massachusetts, a suburb 12 miles northwest of Boston.

Residential Investor of the Year: North America

1 Greystar
2 Ares Management
3 California State Teachers’ Retirement System

With $36 billion of assets under management, Greystar is among the leaders in residential real estate globally. The South Carolina-based firm is poised to further that position with the close of the tenth fund in its Equity Partners series, which hit its hard cap of $2 billion last year. The vehicle is the largest ever to target value-add multifamily properties in the US. The firm also continued its expansion into the student accommodation space with acquisitions such as a 134-unit property in Chicago, which closed in the fall.

Logistics Investor of the Year: North America

1 Blackstone
2 Nuveen Real Estate
3 Black Creek Group

It is one thing to be a part of the biggest logistics transaction of the year – especially when it is also the biggest private real estate transaction ever – but that was not enough for Blackstone. In addition to its $18.7 billion deal for GLP’s US portfolio, it also purchased another 60 million square feet from Colony Capital, then sold 29 million square feet to Nuveen Real Estate for $3 billion.

Retail Investor of the Year: North America

1 Asana Partners
2 Brookfield
3 Oxford Properties

Shops over malls is the strategy of choice for some retail investors

Most managers are shying away from the retail sector or at the very least downplaying it. However, Asana Partners has embraced the property type, closing its retail-focused Asana Partners Fund II on $800 million, hitting its hard-cap within 12 months of launching. The fund will target value-add opportunities in high-growth urban and infill neighborhoods in the US.

The North Carolina-based firm secured commitments from a variety of domestic pensions, including the Employees Retirement System of Texas, the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System, the Los Angeles Fire & Police Pension System and the South Carolina Retirement System.

Hotels & Leisure Investor of the Year: North America

1 Blackstone
2 Starwood Capital
3 Qatar Investment Authority

Blackstone has strong convictions about the Las Vegas market

Blackstone expanded its footprint on the Las Vegas Strip in 2019, purchasing MGM’s iconic Bellagio hotel and resort for $4.25 billion. The acquisition was the manager’s second bet on the gaming market – the first being The Cosmopolitan, which it bought at a distressed discount of $1.75 billion in 2014 – and capitalized on a broader trend of casino operators divesting from their real estate holdings.

Blackstone followed this up by buying stakes in two more Vegas resorts, the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay, in early 2020. The firm also scooped up a 65 percent interest in Great Wolf Resorts.

Law Firm of the Year (Fund Formation): North America

1 Kirkland & Ellis
2 King & Spalding
3 Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson

The Chicago-based law firm represented 28 real estate funds targeting the Americas in 2019, closing on more than $14 billion and targeting billions more for vehicles still in the market. Top closings from last year included $1.14 billion Dune Real Estate Partners’ Real Estate Fund IV, $1.3 billion Lennar’s Multifamily Venture II, and TPG Real Estate Partners III, which closed on $3.7 billion.

Alternatives Investor of the Year: North America

1 Harrison Street
2 Colony Capital
3 CA Ventures

One of the pioneering private real estate fund managers to focus on alternative assets – specifically student housing, life science office and self-storage – Harrison Street had a banner year on the fundraising trail and explored new methods for public-private partnerships. The Chicago firm raised $1.3 billion for its seventh US-focused fund, clearing its $950 million target. It also secured another $300 million in co-investment capital. Additionally, the manager raised $1.1 billion for its core open-end fund and it raised $525 million for its newly-established Social Infrastructure Fund, which pursues sale and leaseback opportunities from universities, health systems and government organizations.

Law Firm of the Year (Transactions): North America

1 Kirkland & Ellis
2 Simpson Thacher
3 Greenberg Traurig

Kirkland & Ellis advised on the sale of 1 Hotel South Beach

In addition to its work on the fundraising trail, Kirkland & Ellis also assisted private real estate’s elite firms on a bevy of large-scale transactions last year. Chief among those heavy-hitting clients was GLP, which the firm represented for the $18.7 billion sale of its US logistics portfolio.