Blackstone RE head elevated to firm’s board

John Gray of New York’s Blackstone Group has been promoted to the main board of directors. His ascension to the top table comes shortly after he became sole head of the firm’s real estate platform.

Jonathan Gray has been elevated to the main board of directors at New York-based private equity firm, The Blackstone Group, capping a remarkable career rise so far. 

Having just been named the sole global head of real estate, Gray has joined seven other directors on Blackstone’s board, including chairman and chief executive officer Stephen Schwarzman, president and chief operating officer Tony James, vice chairman J. Tomilson Hill and four outside members, based on information on the firm’s website.

Gray joined Blackstone in 1992, became a senior managing director in 2000 and co-head of real estate in 2005. It was announced last month that Chad Pike, Blackstone’s former co-head of global real estate, assumed a new role as vice chairman of Blackstone Europe, making Gray the sole global head of real estate. In addition, Gray sits on Blackstone’s management and executive committees, as well as the firm’s real estate investment committee.

The appointment has underlined the importance the Blackstone hierarchy seems to have attached to its real estate team, which is on course to raise the largest private equity real estate fund of all time.

Current head Schwarzman paid tribute to his efforts and the highlighted the importance of real estate to Blackstone. He said: “Jon has been an integral part of the Blackstone fabric for the past twenty years. He heads one of our largest and most successful businesses with the highest standards of excellence and integrity.”

Major recent deals Blackstone’s real estate platform closed under Gray’s leadership include the $9.4 billion acquisition of Australian property firm Centro Property Group’s 600-strong US retail portfolio in one of the largest transactions since the global financial crisis began and the purchase of a 10.1 million-square-foot suburban office portfolio in the US from Duke Realty Corporation for $1.08 billion.

“At the end of the day, Jon was always the first among equals there,” said James during an earnings call last month explaining the rationale for naming Gray as sole global head of real estate. 

News of this appointment coincides with Blackstone closing on $10 billion in equity commitments on its latest global real estate opportunity fund, Blackstone Real Estate Partners (BREP) VII, according to people familiar with the matter. Of those commitments, $4 billion was raised in 2012 alone. The firm expects to raise another $2 billion for BREP VII by the end of the year, which would make it the largest closed-end real estate fund ever.

For more on the evolution of Blackstone's real estate team, read our special report in PERE's March issue.