Barden Gale named new CEO of JER

The former Starwood Capital vice chairman takes over the day-to-day running of JE Robert Companies from Joseph Robert, who has been undergoing treatment for brain tumours. Robert will become executive chairman.

Barden Gale has been appointed chief executive officer of JE Robert Companies and is to take over the day-to-day running of Joseph Robert’s real estate firm.

The former Starwood Capital vice chairman of real estate will start at the McLean, Virginia-based firm on July 15, a spokesman confirmed.

Joseph Robert will step aside as chief executive officer, a role he has held since 1981, and will become executive chairman helping Gale set “corporate strategy and structure and in building relationships with investors and business partners”, according to a statement.

JE Robert Companies is the parent company of private equity real estate firm JER Partners and the real estate investment trust JER Investors Trust, which was recently delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

The appointment follows a raft of personnel changes at JE Robert Companies, including the departure of president and global chief operating officer Michael Pralle after an 18-month tenure at the firm and the loss of European president Malcolm Le May in February.

Robert himself also underwent treatment for brain tumours this year. Robert had returned to work full time and in May his clinical team said he had made an “absolutely outstanding response to treatment thus far”. Gale’s appointment as chief executive officer, rather than as global operating officer, is a result of Robert’s treatment.

Gale joined Starwood in January 2008 from ABP Investments US – the investment arm of the Dutch government pension fund Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP – to become vice chairman of its real estate operations, a role specially created for him.

People familiar with the situation said Gale was brought into Starwood to develop its core/value-added platform, however the market dislocation disrupted that strategy. He then started helping to raise funds for Starwood but a near-freeze in capital raising also put prevented the strategy from being expanded. “This is a good thing for Barden. Everyone is happy,” a source told PERE.

During his nine-years at ABP, Gale was chief architect of the pension’s real estate portfolio, which grew to €20 billion under his stewardship. Gale has also worked at Nesbitt Burns Securities in New York and Salomon Brothers in London and New York. 

JER has spent the past nine months focused on managing its assets in Latin America, the US and Europe. Pralle was instrumental in hiring a raft of people to invest in those markets. In October last year, Pralle told PERE he wanted to build the firm into a capital-raising “machine” that would rival the likes of Tishman Speyer and The Carlyle Group.