Having been responsible for overseeing all real estate private equity investments by REOG since 1994, David Brush has seen more of the asset class than most. From his London base, he now heads a team of more than fifty in offices across the globe, and has supervised 150 transactions worth more than $18 billion in total.
“Our infrastructure is very well built as we've been here so long,” Brush says. “It means our operating partner and service company relationships have been tested for the better part of a decade and our team is very experienced: most of our directors started as associates and have grown with the business and the market.”
Brush himself now has two decades of experience in the real estate business. Born near New York City, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and joined a bank training program in Philadelphia. “My first entry into the business was really serendipitous,” he says. “The program had a very strong real estate business, and I found it interesting so gravitated towards it.”
Brush joined Bankers Trust in 1987, initially working on investment banking related activities. However, by the end of the decade, the US property market had suffered a major crash. “It was the worst real estate market since the Great Depression,” says Brush. “There were suddenly lots of opportunities to acquire assets at good prices, so like everyone else, I got into the restructuring business. It was out of that that private equity was born – I was just fortunate enough to be there at that time.”
Our infrastructure is very well built as we've been here so long. It means our operating partner and service company relationships have been tested for the better part of decade.”
Bankers Trust founded what was to become Deutsche Bank's REOG in 1992, and Brush took the reins two years later. At the time the group was based in New York, befitting its US focus, and employed only a handful of investment executives. But within a few years it had become clear that to get the best deals the group would have to go international. Brush admits that one of the advantages of his longevity in the business has been the opportunity to watch the European market develop from scratch.
“We did our first European deal, a small transaction involving the Bicester outlet center near Oxford, in 1994,” he says. “But what really kick started the European market was the French non-performing loans business in 1995 to 1996. The banks and government started to sell large portfolios, and when other countries saw how effective it had been for France they followed. People in the industry built their infrastructure off the back of that.
“Then the government and corporate real estate disposals started. Now the market's grown to be every bit as important as the US,” says Brush. It was the growth of the international market that prompted the firm to move its headquarters to London. Brush and his family have lived in the city since 1998; and although in his spare time, he's a keen golfer, and also coaches soccer, basketball and baseball, he admits that most of his free time is spent hanging out with his four children.
“This was part of the appeal of moving to London,” he says. “At the time my children were aged between three and ten, so the move has had a profound impact on them. It means that they don't just have an American perspective of the world.” He has also made the most of the travel opportunities his job affords him by getting out of the conference room to take his family on trips around Europe and beyond, once trekking as far as Egypt.
“After all,” he says, “one office looks a lot like another.”