ARA names new CIO upon management reshuffle

With a value-add strategy, the firm's flagship fund ARA Real Estate Partners Asia II is understood to have been fully deployed in 2021.

ARA Asset Management has promoted David Blight as chief investment officer of its private funds division as part of its broader plan to consolidate the firm’s fund management business with that of parent company ESR, the specialist logistics investor that acquired ARA in 2021.

Blight co-founded ARA’s Australian business in 2015.

In his new role, Blight will work closely with Moses Song, chief executive officer of ARA Asset Management, following the firm’s acquisition by specialist logistics investor ESR in 2021.

Since joining ARA in 2015, Blight has been the chief executive officer of ARA Australia. Before that, he was chairman and chief executive officer of the global ING Real Estate Investment management platform.

Prior to the new appointment, ARA’s private fund management business was led by its former chief executive David Kim. Kim and three former ARA executives left the firm last month to lead the launch of an Asia business for ICG Real Estate, the property division of London-based manager Intermediate Capital Group, according to a PERE report. These include the firm’s former head of value-add and opportunistic real estate Stephen Tang, former head of investments and asset management for Australia Rohan Neville and former manager Isaac Leo.

ESR Group is understood to have been planning for a “seamless business and operational integration” since the acquisition announcement last year, according to a statement made by Jeffrey Perlman, chairman of ESR Group.

In this case, Blight’s experience and capability has best positioned him to lead the integration of the private funds division, according to Song. The pair believes a streamlined, centralized platform will enable the business to scale more effectively. “Going forward, we will reduce the number of smaller, niche products and focus on scaling our flagship funds,” he explained.

With a value-add strategy, ARA Real Estate Partners Asia II is understood to have been fully deployed in 2021. The fund invested primarily in office buildings, logistics and industrial assets and retail properties across the region.

With plans under way to launch the next flagship fund, Blight told PERE that he is seeing plenty of opportunities in the value-add space for office, retail and mixed-use properties. He expects more opportunities to present themselves in the next six to 12 months as the firm returns to the market for fundraising.

Despite having a primary focus on office assets, the flagship fund will have a sleeve for new economy real estate investments where the fund will have priority or proprietary access to certain ESR projects, which are typically funded through balance sheet capital or club deals, according to Blight.