The biggest achievers in private real estate have always been a competitive set, but among this year’s global award winners, the rivalries ran particularly deep. 

Unlike in the regional categories, no winner in a global category amassed more than half of the votes. One of the winners that came closest to a majority was Blackstone, the 800-pound gorilla of the industry, with its win for the Firm of the Year. In that category, the New York-based mega-manager clinched 47 percent of the votes, more than double the percentage of Chicago-based net lease specialist Oak Street, which came in second place with 20 percent.

Similarly, Brookfield handily won for Capital Raise of the Year, with its $17 billion fundraise for Brookfield Strategic Real Estate Partners IV, the latest vehicle in its opportunistic real estate fund series. As the largest real estate fund to close in 2022, BSREP IV commanded 46 percent of votes in the category – double the percentage received by the runner-up, Madison Realty’s Madison Realty Capital Debt Fund V. At more than $2 billion, the latter vehicle was the largest dedicated real estate debt fund raised during the pandemic – but only a fraction of the size of BSREP IV.

Bill Thompson, senior managing director and co-head of the real estate capital advisory business at investment bank Evercore, believes the scale of an organization is a major factor in deciding which group goes home with the biggest global awards. Indeed, the finalists in Deal of the Year category – which include Prologis, Oak Street and Ares Management – are all firms in the PERE 100 ranking, with the latter two in the top 25 of the list.

“You have more money flowing to the big players, there’s more concentration than has ever occurred previously, with 40 percent of the market captured by probably the top 10 to 15 folks in terms of capital flows,” he says. “It’s obvious to me that the deal of the year would go to somebody in that segment.”  

Scale is not everything

But scale – and impressive achievements – are not everything. Blackstone also prevailed in two other global categories – Deal of the Year and Debt Firm of the Year – but faced stiffer competition from the other contenders in those contests. 

In Deal of the Year, Blackstone won for the firm’s recapitalization of Mileway, its pan-European last-mile logistics platform. At €21 billion, it is the largest private real estate transaction in history, and yet winning Deal of the Year was not a slam dunk for Blackstone. The deal garnered only 37 percent of the votes, while the runner-up, logistics giant Prologis’s $23 billion privatization of industrial real estate investment trust Duke Realty Corporation, commanded 25 percent. Another blockbuster transaction, Oak Street and Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC’s $14 billion take-private of net-lease REIT STORE Capital, was not far behind with 23 percent of votes.

GIC, meanwhile, beat out fellow investor giants Oxford Properties, Ivanhoé Cambridge and ADIA – all of which rank in the top 50 of last year’s PERE Global Investor 100 – for Institutional Investor of the Year. Even during a challenging year to deploy capital, the sovereign wealth fund was the biggest buyer of commercial real estate in both Europe and Asia, and the fourth-largest globally, according to MSCI Real Assets’ ranking of top real estate buyers in 2022, based on transaction volumes in office, industrial, retail, apartments and hotels for closed deals of $10 million or greater.  

In addition to STORE, GIC’s major real estate transactions included a commitment to a $600 million joint venture with ESR Group for industrial property investments in India; a €2.3 billion partnership with Southern Europe-focused luxury hotel platform Sani/Ikos Group; and the £3.3 billion ($4 billion; €3.7 billion) acquisition of UK student accommodation provider Student Roost with Greystar.

Still, the investor held a fairly slim lead over second-place finisher Oxford Properties, with 40 percent of votes compared with Oxford’s 31 percent.

Sector matters

In the sector-focused global categories, the level of competition varied widely depending on the property type. The category where the winner had the widest lead was Data Centers Investor of the Year, an accolade that went to Harrison Street, which claimed 48 percent of votes, more than double that of its nearest rival, Madison International Realty, with 21 percent. The Chicago-based manager similarly trumped the also-rans in the Alternatives Investor of the Year category, with 41 percent of votes versus 21 percent for runner-up GLP.

In contrast, Oxford Properties beat KKR for Office Investor of the Year by a slim margin of three percentage points, drawing 33 percent and 30 percent of votes, respectively. The most nail-biting race, however, was in the Logistics Investor of the Year category, where Prologis eked out a victory over Blackstone by just two votes; both managers had claimed 30 percent of industry votes.

How much competition there is in a particular property type depends largely on how established that sector is on an institutional level. “The growth in those non-traditional sectors is rapid but there aren’t necessarily as many players that dominate,” says Thompson. “You have a lot of operators in some of those sectors, like self-storage or manufactured housing. But you don’t have a lot of big asset managers in those spaces.”

Meanwhile, the traditional sectors are more crowded because institutional investors have been active in those spaces for a much longer period, he adds. “It’s really been the four food groups for a long time that have dominated, and so there’s just a lot of established players. Hence a lot of competition.”

One seeming contradiction to this statement was the Residential Investor of the Year category, which represented one of the four traditional sectors but proved to be an easy win for Harrison Street. Once again, the Chicago-based manager clearly dominated, raking in 44 percent of the votes, with Blackstone a distant second at 24 percent. 

Residential, however, includes not only multifamily – which is a less established property sector outside of the US – but also more niche residential strategies such as student housing, senior living and co-living. The various offshoots of residential are also reflective of private real estate’s crowded playing field globally. Competition, after all, drives innovation.