Bressler: industry magnate and Aermont leader

Léon Bressler, one of the best known figures in European private real estate, has named a successor to lead Aermont, the management business he founded in 2007.

He has appointed Paul Golding, one of the London-based firm’s partners, as managing partner to succeed him in leading the day-to-day operations of the firm, while Bressler is to assume the role of chairman. Both positions are to become effective as of April 3.

It is the second time Bressler has handed the reins of a company he is leading to a senior subordinate while the firm is in a strong position. Last July, Aermont raised €3.8 billion for its fifth European opportunity fund, its biggest to date and the largest capital raise focused on the region last year, according to PERE data. The original target for the vehicle was €3 billion, evidence of the popularity of Aermont’s fund series among institutional investors.

Aermont has raised approximately €13 billion for the series since inception. The firm occupied position 33 on the PERE 100 ranking of managers by capital raised in the last five years. It is expected to rise further in the forthcoming iteration of the ranking, published in June, on the success of Aermont Capital Real Estate Fund V.

Bressler previously handed over leadership of Unibail when it was Europe’s largest listed property company by market capitalization in 2006 to Guillaume Poitrinal. Under Poitrinal’s leadership, the retail-focused firm merged with Rodamco Europe a year later, reinforcing its regional dominance, though its fortunes then faltered with the growth of e-commerce. Bressler is today also chairman of the supervisory board at the company, now called Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.

Aermont’s remit, however, is more diversified. Under Bressler’s leadership, Aermont has become known for making large bets in complex situations, across a variety of asset classes, including those considered outside the mainstream property types.

One example was Pinewood Studios, which Aermont privatized in a £323 million ($385 million; €364 million) transaction six years ago. It has since recapitalized the business, which owns some of the UK’s best-regarded studio space. According to reports in November, £2.9 billion was raised from investors for a vehicle dedicated to the company, which stands to benefit from recent surges in appetite for content.

Pinewood Studios
Pinewood: a deal led by Aermont’s next managing partner Golding

The deal is considered a forerunner in the creation of a real estate sub-asset class referred to as ‘content creation real estate,’ which has attracted investment from a widening group of managers, including industry giant Blackstone. The driving force behind that deal was Bressler’s successor Golding.

He joined the firm in 2010 from Norges Bank Investment Management, where he was head of real estate strategies. Golding played a key role in setting up the real estate investment business for the steward of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund.

PERE understands there was a consensus of support for his promotion to managing partner from the firm’s other partners. Besides Bressler and Golding, partners at Aermont include Nathan Shike and Alison Trewartha, two long-staying senior executives. They are now joined by Samuel Kreber, Aermont’s chief financial officer, and Henning Richter, a managing director.

The senior changes have resulted in one key departure. Vincent Rouget, one of the firm’s top investment executives and thought to have been a possible alternative choice for managing partner, is leaving the business. He is Paris-based and is expected to start a new role there in the coming months.

The firm would not comment on the changes beyond a statement in which Bressler said: “Aermont is going from strength to strength. 2022 was an outstanding year in terms of project completions, investment performance and fundraising… I am confident Paul will succeed in leading Aermont.”

Paul Golding Aermont Source: PERE
Golding: the ex-NBIM executive joined Aermont in 2010

PERE spoke with Bressler in 2016 for an interview in which he discussed succession, a year after he elevated Golding, Shike, Rouget and Trewartha to partners, in part with a view to his own executive retirement. “It is clear now that this is more and more a collective achievement,” said Bressler at the time. “And that will be the recipe for long-term success.

“When people talk about succession processes, sometimes they do not have the right approach. True succession is not about whether a leading guy is going to be there in one year or 10 years. The key issue is whether, at any time, an organization is strong enough to continue the job without being particularly impacted by such a decision.

“And so, if one person happens to be hit by a bus the damage would be neutral, except for that person of course. Whether a person retires becomes irrelevant because a process is in place that has been developed over years.”