EUROPE NEWS: Man of the moment: Christian Delaire

One of European private real estate’s most senior figures is bowing out of full time work after 20 years on the industry’s frontline.

Christian Delaire, head of real estate at Italian insurance giant Generali, unexpectedly resigned from his post in late March.

Generali, one of Europe’s largest real estate investors, has remained tightlipped since his departure and there appears to be no sign of a permanent replacement on the immediate horizon. Francesco Benvenuti, the chief operating officer for the investments team at Generali, is sitting in the hot seat on an interim basis.

However, from sources familiar with the matter, PERE has gained some insight behind Delaire’s exit from the Trieste, Italy-based group. It is understood that he intends to step away from corporate life and focus on family life before deciding which direction to take, possibly in the non-executive field. In the meantime, it is understood that he wants to get more involved in charity work and even to try his hand at teaching.

In addition to setting Generali up for significant growth, Delaire was talking up his own future at the insurer just eight months ago. Having left his role as chief executive at Paris-based real estate asset management firm AEW Europe, he told PERE that one reason for the move was the opportunity to operate at a global rather than European level. Another lure was having direct access to equity, he said at the time.

Delaire began his career at Dutch financial services firm KPMG before moving on to AXA Real Estate Investment Managers (now part of AXA Investment Managers – Real Assets), the real estate investment management arm of French insurance firm AXA Group, in 1994. He spent 15 years at the company taking on a number of roles, including global head of corporate finance, head of asset management, France, head of transactions, France, and global chief investment officer.

In March 2009, he was appointed as CEO at European real estate investment manager AEW, where he oversaw more than €17 billion of assets as well as drove the firm’s strategic direction. Then in March 2014, he made the move to Generali Real Estate, where, as CEO, he steered the firm’s expansion beyond Europe in order to diversify its property holdings, first into Asia and then into world’s largest real estate market, the US.