AEW begins leadership transition in Asia

Jason Lee, the firm's Asia CIO, will gradually take over leadership responsibilities from David Schaefer as part of the succession planning for AEW's regional business.

Boston-headquartered real estate firm AEW has started its leadership transition in Asia Pacific as its regional boss David Schaefer is taking a back seat at the firm, PERE has learned.

Schaefer, formerly chief executive officer at AEW Asia-Pacific, has become AEW’s regional chair since January. Meanwhile, Jason Lee, the firm’s chief investment officer in the region, has relocated to Singapore from Hong Kong and taken on the title of head of private equity, Asia Pacific. It is understood Lee will be taking over the leadership responsibilities from Schaefer over time.

“It is with this in mind that we are beginning succession planning for our platform in Asia Pacific that has been so successfully led by David Schaefer for the last ten years.  David and I have discussed at length how best to facilitate a gradual transition of his role to our next generation of leaders in the region,” Jeff Furber, global chairman of AEW, wrote in a note to investors seen by PERE.

In his new role as Asia chair, Schaefer will be gradually transferring his day-to-day responsibilities, providing guidance to the regional team while remaining a member of both AEW’s Asia investment committee and its global management committee. Lee will work closely with Schaefer on the leadership transition while continuing to focus on his existing responsibilities as senior portfolio manager for the AEW Value Investors Asia fund series.

Schaefer: joined the firm with Lee in 2012 from DTZ

Schaefer and Lee joined AEW together in 2012 to lead the firm’s growth in Asia-Pacific following the departure of former managing director Peter Wittendorp and members of his team. Schaefer inherited a team of 15 professionals based in AEW’s Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul offices.

The team has grown to more than 50 people over the past 10 years. Most recently, the firm expanded its investor relations team in the region, hiring Morgan Sparrow from UBS as Asia-Pacific head of client services in October 2022. Before that, it hired former National Pension Service of Korea executive John Sungsoo Cho in 2020 and former senior investment manager at Korea’s Meritz Securities Steven Song in 2022 as associate directors in the team.

Both Schaefer and Lee had come from what was then known as DTZ Investment and Asset Management, now Cushman & Wakefield’s DTZ Investors.

At DTZ, Schaefer was the global head of institutional capital and head of Asia-Pacific. Before that, he was a managing director and head of Asia-Pacific at Citi Property Investors.

Lee was the chief investment officer and fund manager for DTZ’s debut Asia real estate investment fund Aveny Asia Real Estate Partners. Previously, he was a director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.