ARA taps JLL exec for its first Japan hire

The Singapore-based subsidiary of real assets manager ESR has seen pent-up global investment demand for the country.

ARA Asset Management has hired former JLL executive Ken Sakuramoto to lead the firm’s expansion in Japan, PERE has learned.

This is the firm’s first hire in the country. As head of Japan, Sakuramoto will oversee the firm’s real estate investments across core, core-plus, value-add and opportunistic strategies, according to a source close to the situation. He will focus on all sectors outside of industrial – the primary focus for ARA’s parent company ESR – including office, multifamily, hotel and retail.

Prior to joining ARA, Sakuramoto was most recently head of the equity advisory group at JLL Japan, where he was responsible for expanding the commercial real estate services firm’s international capital coverage, both inbound and outbound, as well as developing its corporate finance capabilities in the country. Before that, he spent three years as managing director and head of Japan at global real estate investment bank Eastdil Secured.

Based in Tokyo, Sakuramoto will be working out of ESR’s local offices and utilizing the industrial heavyweight’s platform to establish ARA’s own operations in the country. ARA will look to expand its team in Japan as it further develops the business.

ARA has seen pent-up demand from global investors to invest in Japan, which was the firm’s “last missing piece” in terms of its footprint in the region, the source told PERE. It is understood that ARA does not have any hard asset exposure in Japan beyond owning 30 percent of the country’s largest independent real estate asset manager, Kenedix. The Kenedix Group has a diversified fund management business, including three listed REITs, one private REIT, over 50 private real estate funds and a crowdfunding platform.

Following the firm’s $5.2 billion acquisition by ESR in January 2022, ARA is understood to be back in the market fundraising for its flagship Asia value-add fund ARA Real Estate Partners Asia III. Its predecessor ARA Real Estate Partners Asia II was closed on a total of $375 million in 2018, according to PERE data. With a reported net return target of 12 percent, Fund II had a strategy focused on office buildings, logistics and industrial assets and retail properties across the region, PERE previously reported.