Blackstone waves a rare goodbye to one of its leaders

After 18 years at the world’s biggest private equity real estate firm, eight of which spent growing its Asia business, Stuart Grant is leaving to join London-headquartered property developer Stanhope.

When New York-based asset manager Blackstone launched its Asia real estate business following the takeover of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Asia real estate assets in 2010, the job of getting the business up and running was handed over to three partners: Chris Heady, Alan Miyasaki and Stuart Grant. The chief task involved working through the bank’s $2.6 billion pan-Asian opportunity fund, the MB Asia Real Estate fund, which held 89 assets.

Eight years later, with only three assets in that fund left to be exited and after two record-setting opportunistic fundraises in Asia, the journey of one of this trio is coming to an end. Stuart Grant, senior managing director and head of real estate asset management in Asia-Pacific, will be moving to London to join property developer Stanhope in a newly-created role of managing director in September. At Stanhope, Grant will be working alongside chief executive David Camp, ultimately to take up the leadership role once Camp retires.

Grant’s departure ends his 18-year-long association with Blackstone across its Europe and Asia operations. Grant joined Blackstone in London in 2000 and oversaw the firm’s asset management activities across the UK for around ten years, including assets like the Center Parcs, Grosvenor Crescent and the West London office portfolio Resolution. He was also involved in the asset management work on the 30-acre office site Broadgate, which was initially developed by Stanhope. Blackstone owned a 50 percent interest in the office estate through a joint venture with UK REIT British Land.

Since 2010, Grant has been in charge of Blackstone’s asset management efforts in Asia-Pacific. In the region, the firm has a staff of 83 people across six offices in the region, of which 18 work in asset management.

“I have enjoyed playing a part in building Blackstone’s Asia business, with the best-in-class team and operating platforms,” Stuart tells PERE.

Blackstone’s “secret sauce”, as Grant calls it, has been the strong operation platforms it has built across the region, namely in the logistics sector in China, residential in Japan, office and retail in India and 151 Property (Blackstone’s Australia operations formerly called Valad).

“The key thing for a business like Blackstone is for the partners to be able to get on very well,” said Grant, reflecting on his time at the firm. “Chris, Alan and I were the three partners who got Blackstone’s business up and running in Asia.”

In fact, Heady and Grant’s relationship goes back a long way to their time in London.

“Chris Heady and I have been working on deals together since 2000 when we joined the firm in London,” he added. “We’ve worked on all sorts of real estate transactions from industrial to student accommodation to retail to office. He would acquire assets and I would be involved in the asset management work.”

To his peers like Rob Blain, executive chairman of property services firm CBRE in Asia-Pacific, what has stood out all these years is Grant’s approach in relation to his dealings between Blackstone as the landlord with the occupiers, and Blackstone as the asset manager with regional and foreign investors. Blain first met Grant back in the 90s when Grant was working with the Jardine Matheson group. Blain and Grant have worked on a number of deals together, including Blackstone’s sale of Gold Fields House in Sydney for A$400 million in 2015. CBRE advised Blackstone on the sale.

“He has a natural ability to remain calm under pressure under intense negotiations,” says Blain. “The legacy he is leaving as he goes to a new career in London is the value of the relationship between the asset management and property services sector.”

Predictably for a firm known for having successors lined up, it is understood that Blackstone has positioned regional chief operating officer David McClure to assume the responsibilities left by Grant. He will be trying to fill big shoes even if a comparison between the two might be unfair given he will be inheriting a leading platform as opposed to building one.