EXCLUSIVE: Blackstone MD leaves for individual investing

Former Los Angeles-based managing director Chris Chee has left the firm to start a new company redeveloping California properties.

Chris Chee, a managing director at New York-headquartered private equity real estate firm The Blackstone Group, has left the firm to start a solo real estate investment business in Santa Monica.

Chee, who was part of a team that oversaw Blackstone’s West Coast expansion, left on September 30. During nearly 13 years at Blackstone, Chee worked in both debt and equity, moving from New York to open the firm’s Los Angeles office in 2005. Chee worked at Fortress Investment Group before joining Blackstone as a principal in 2002.

The reason for Chee’s departure was to spend more time with his family, sources familiar with the situation said. Chee declined to comment.

Shortly after leaving Blackstone, Chee formed CTC Capital Partners, a real estate company which will invest his own money in redevelopment opportunities in California. The company, which has no plans to raise third-party capital, has already made investments – two in Oakland and one in Santa Monica, in addition to a Chinatown, Los Angeles property in escrow.

The properties will be repositioned with a focus on the ‘circular economy’ – a term for positive development that not only reduces waste, but also restores resources. Chee chairs the development committee and sits on the board for Los Angeles Waterkeeper, a non-profit that protects area waters, and serves on the advisory board for the Make It Right Foundation, which builds green homes for people in need.

Chee was part of explosive growth in Blackstone’s West Coast reach. Blackstone owned just two buildings in California at the start of Chee’s tenure and increased its holdings to almost 75 million square feet before selling off much of the portfolio just before the real estate crash.

Starting in 2013, Chee led a team that bet on Orange County, California office space, buying approximately two million square feet in the sector through a number of deals. Many of these properties were former Equity Office buildings that had been sold by Blackstone to Maguire Properties and subsequently foreclosed on. Last year, Chee also led a team that arranged a $600 million construction loan for two condominium towers in Oahu being developed by Howard Hughes Corporation, in addition to other high-profile financings.

“Chris was a valued member of our team and a talented investor,” said Jon Gray, Blackstone’s global head of real estate, in a statement to PERE. “We wish him the best in his new venture.”