When the US real estate market collapsed in the late 1980s, many private investors, to say nothing of national governments, were caught in the headlights. Eugene Golub, however, entered the fray almost immediately: Golub & Company, a Chicago-based developer, became the first private American real estate company to enter the former Soviet states. Not only did Golub help pave the way for private equity real estate investment in Central and Eastern Europe, he also became the operating partner of choice for a number of opportunity funds in the region.
Beginning in Warsaw in 1989, and then in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Budapest and Prague, Golub began building Western-quality offices and other high-profile developments where only grey, functional buildings once stood. In addition to forming a joint venture with GE to develop large-scale properties in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, the firm recently formed a similar partnership with Quinlan Private.
During his initial foray into the region, observers said that Golub was “flying by the seat of his pants”—he has even been quoted as saying that “there isn't even a translation for the phrase ‘real estate developer’ in most of these languages.”
Looking back, of course, Golub not only influenced the direction of private equity real estate in Eastern Europe, he also helped carve out careers for a few industry luminaries. John Howard, who heads up Doughty Hanson's European real estate funds, worked for Golub in the 1990s, while Marc Mogull, Howard's predecessor, worked with Golub on financing a project in Russia while at the EBRD in the mid-1990s.