As the head of Colony Capital, Tom Barrack was at the forefront of investing in the sort of assets-cumoperating-companies that now permeate the private equity real estate industry: hotels, theme restaurants, pubs and, perhaps his firm's most well known investments, casinos.
The current casino mogul cut his teeth as a principal at the Robert M. Bass Group after a stint in the Reagan administration. In 1991, Barrack founded Colony Capital, which has gone on to launch 12 funds and acquire more than $18.5 billion in assets. Though the firm has not always generated the highest returns— some of Colony's early forays into operating companies were not entirely successful—Barrack and his team have continually pushed the border between private equity and real estate.
In addition to recent headline-grabbing acquisitions like the Raffles and Fairmont hotel chains, Colony has bought a number of assets off-the-beaten path. Last year Colony was part of an investor consortium that bought French football team Paris Saint Germain; in the past, the firm has also invested in vineyards in France and California, ranch land in Arizona, a piece of Korea First Bank, shares in property companies focused on Manila and Hong Kong and a resort on the island of Sardinia.
In 2005, Barrack famously told Fortune he was “getting out” of US real estate. Today, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants is increasingly targeting deals in North Africa and the Middle East.