There is no shortage of interesting stories in the world of real estate—Joe E. Robert Jr. is proof of that. Robert got his start in the business when the builder he was working for went bankrupt in the middle of several projects. Seizing upon the opportunity, Robert worked with the lenders to dispose of the company's non-performing loans. Later, Robert worked with his father to buy a commercial mortgage REIT that had gone belly up, though he was later fired. Armed with $10,000 and a yellow legal pad, Robert began looking at ways to raise money to buy bad loans and JE Roberts Companies was born.
Robert first made a big impact on the industry in the days of the Resolution Trust Corporation, when he purchased and worked out more than $11 billion in RTC assets. Since then, the McLean, Virginia-based company has expanded into Europe, launched its own specialty finance REIT and raised three opportunity funds, becoming one of the most diversified private equity real estate firms in the world.
Talking to PERE last year, Robert summed up the firm's strategy: “Whoever turns over the most rocks wins at the end of the day.”
But Robert isn't only known for his real estate acumen: In addition to being a mainstay on the capital's social scene, Robert is a recognized philanthropist— his Fight for Children charity raises money to provide education and healthcare opportunities for youngsters and he recently donated $25 million to the Children's National Medical Center for Surgical Care in Washington DC. Last year, he received an award from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, an honor that recognizes people who have overcome humble beginnings and adversity. Past recipients have included Maya Angelou, Bob Dole and Colin Powell.