In 2015, a student housing operating specialist formed a relationship with the world’s largest investor in the asset class, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Landmark Properties had not only made a name for itself in the institutional space, but it had managed to attract “long-term, sticky” capital. Notably, it had cut out the middle man in the process.
Residential assets under management
Headquarters: Athens, Georgia
Who’s in their corner: The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority through a strategic partnership; Blackstone and Goldman Sachs through joint ventures
“[Sovereign wealth funds] are currently paying two levels of fees and two layers of promotes when they give to [private equity firms],” Landmark co-founder and chief executive Wesley Rogers tells PERE. “They’d be better off just paying one level of fees, and one level of promote to us.”
This thinking had informed the firm since Rogers and his co-founder James Whitley stepped off the University of Georgia campus in 2004 and immediately into the world of student housing development.
After beginning as a merchant builder of off-campus properties at state universities, the operational specialist began attracting private equity attention. Most notably, Landmark had a long-running series of joint venture deals with Harrison Street before deciding in 2014 to begin searching for a more permanent and direct capital solution from what Rogers now dubs its “primary investors.”
“The more primary investors tend to have less sharp elbows than a lot of the private equity firms do. We tend to have more control over the asset,” Rogers says.
That is the relationship Landmark originally formed with ADIA, opting for a build-to-core account, selling completed assets to third-party buyers, but remaining the operator after returns were harvested.
Landmark has since expanded its mandate with ADIA to include acquisitions of student
housing properties. It has also expanded its relationship set, forming joint ventures with Blackstone’s BREIT and Goldman Sachs’ merchant banking group.
The relationships have allowed Landmark to grow to $7.8 billion, with another $2 billion set to be delivered in 2022, essentially focusing on one asset class.
Landmark has since scaled beyond its original gambit. Rogers says it has explored, and continues to explore, student housing in Europe and Canada.
Landmark is also building out its build-to-rent single-family platform and traditional multifamily capabilities. Rogers says that particularly in the build-to-rent space, investors are keen to partner with Landmark given its already proven track record in a more operationally-intensive space.
“We always said if we want to get into another asset class or expand outside of student housing, we want to make sure that we’re leveraging our expertise in our core competencies,” Rogers says.