After five years in Manhattan guiding the global real estate investing strategy of asset management titan BlackRock, Simon Treacy has opted for a rather different life style: property development on the islands of Hawaii.
It was a message that could not have been any clearer, with the press release announcing his new role at Texas-headquartered real estate firm Howard Hughes Corporation featuring a photograph of the smiling Australian donning a floral printed aloha shirt.
As president of Howard Hughes’s Hawaii operations, Treacy will be leading the development, sales and operations of Ward Village, a coastal development project that aims to build 4,500 residences and approximately 1 million square feet of retail space.
Treacy’s departure from BlackRock was announced to staff and investors in November, and he officially started his new role in early January.
Treacy’s move draws the curtain on his long and eventful journey with the team of MGPA, which was later sold to BlackRock in late 2013. At MGPA, Treacy was a founding shareholder, director as well as the Asia chief before becoming the firm’s global chief executive. He, along with the rest of MGPA’s senior management, oversaw the sale of the business to BlackRock in 2013, a landmark transaction resulting in the creation of a global business with a combined $23.5 billion of assets, managed on behalf of 700 investors, with over 400 employees across 18 offices.
He was involved in some large asset transactions too, chief among them Treacy says was Asia Square, a twin-tower development in the Marina Bay of Singapore. The development courted controversy for accounting for the lion’s share of MGPA’s record-setting $3.9 billion pan-Asia opportunistic vehicle in 2008, and while it never hit its return targets, was ultimately sold at a profit in two transactions to Qatar Investment Authority and CapitaLand last year.
James Quille, MGPA’s former CEO and chairman, who led its sale to BlackRock, is one Treacy’s biggest fans. Of his one-time protégé, Quille says Simon was the first one to identify the potential to invest in Japan in the late 1990s.
“MGPA was one of the first investors and one of the largest after the Wall Street banks to invest in Japan,” says Quille, who has known Treacy for around 25 years. “Simon built that business from scratch, to a team of more than 50 people. His ability to both network and develop deep relationships with investment banks, trust banks, other intermediaries opened conduits for us and find good off-market transactions in Japan. Rarely did we bid for any assets.”
Treacy’s involvement with Japanese partners will now be limited to their interest in the American Island-state, but given the scale of Ward Village, which he compares to the master developments of Barangaroo in Sydney and Hudson Yards in New York, that would not be a shock.
Meanwhile, his former role at BlackRock will not be filled, his duties transferring to Benjamin Young, formerly a managing director who led the firm’s US equity separate account business, and the global head of real estate Marcus Sperber. The decision, according to one source familiar with the strategy, is in alignment with BlackRock having already combined its infrastructure and real estate business into a real assets business as of January 2016.