The chairman of Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing (MSREI), Owen Thomas, is set to return to New York after deciding to quit his additional post as chief executive of the bank’s Asia operations.
Thomas will return to the US in June after three years as CEO of Morgan Stanley Asia, according to a memo from Colm Kelleher, who leads operations for the bank in Europe, the Middle East and Asia except Japan, seen by PERE. Thomas will continue in his position as chairman of MSREI, a role he performed while also CEO of the Asia business, and remain on Morgan Stanley’s management committee, the memo added. A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman confirmed the contents of the memo, but declined to comment further.
In January, Thomas’ fellow MSREI colleague and veteran real estate executive, Jay Mantz, left Morgan Stanley after 17 years to “pursue other opportunities”. Mantz was vice chairman of MSREI, working alongside Thomas and overseeing the real estate platform. More recently, John Klopp and Olivier de Poulpiquet were handed the day-to-day operations of MSREI, taking over as co-chief executive officers and co-chief investment officers in September.
People familiar with the situation previously said Mantz’s departure followed a seismic shift in focus away from investment banking, including principal investing, towards client-focused businesses less threatened by tougher regulation, such as wealth management. Led by Morgan Stanley’s chief executive, James Gorman, the realignment took many veterans with it, including Mantz’s former investment management co-heads, Steve Trevor and Stuart Bohart, and Morgan Stanley’s entire proprietary trading group, which will spin out into a separate hedge fund.
The shift also saw Morgan Stanley reassess its commitment to the MSREI platform last summer, these sources said, with the bank quietly accepting bids for MSREI and its MSREF funds. The process eventually stumbled over pricing issues and third-party calls for indemnification against potential losses, and a sale is not believed to be in the cards – at least in the near term.
No details of Thomas’ replacement in Asia have yet emerged, but Kelleher said in the memo that the MSREI chairman would “remain in the region over the coming months to help as we transition a smooth leadership succession”.