In 1982, the first year Forbes published its list of the 400 richest Americans, 63 people whose fortunes came from real estate made the cut. Twenty-four years later, that number has been almost cut in half.
Such a decline can partially be attributed to the massive real estate correction in the 1980s. But most of the blame can be laid at the feet of Bill Gates, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. In 1982, the minimum net worth of any member of the Forbes 400 was $200 million; in 2006, it was $1 billion. In a world dominated by Microsoft and Google, real estate just isn't the gravy train it once was.
Nevertheless, some private equity real estate professionals have managed to protect their fortunes from the ravages of time and technology. This year, Tom Barrack, Neil Bluhm and Sam Zell all found themselves among the ranks of the über-rich.
In fact, their inclusion in the Forbes 400 got us thinking. There are lists aplenty ranking the wealthiest people in the world, the best companies in America or even the sexiest people alive. But what about the private equity real estate industry? Where is its list, its chronicle of the most important and influential people shaping the asset class?
The answer can be found in the following pages.
There, PERE presents its picks for the 30 most influential people in the global private equity real estate industry. These selections are not just the richest or most successful—although Barrack, Bluhm and Zell do make our list—but rather those who have had the most impact in shaping the private equity real estate industry into what it is today and what it will be tomorrow.
In compiling this list, our journalists consulted with dozens of industry practitioners around the world. Ultimately, however, it was our editorial team that distilled those responses into the 30 people that, in our judgment, have had the greatest influence on this now global asset class.
And global it certainly is. Though our list is dominated by US names—17 in all, befitting the industry's origins—many of those investors are now putting significant amounts of capital into international property. (And one of them, John Grayken, even became an Irish citizen.) At the same time, the migration of private equity real estate abroad has led to the emergence of thought leaders and power brokers throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East. From Robert Tchenguiz to Dr. Seek Ngee Huat, non-US investors are now exerting greater and greater influence over the private equity real estate industry. If we were to compile a similar list 15 years from now, it would no doubt include significantly more names from outside the US.
There are lists aplenty ranking the wealthiest people in the world, the best companies in America or even the sexiest people alive. But what about the private equity real estate industry? Where is its chronicle of the most important and influential people shaping the asset class?
Another notable aspect of our selections is the broad range of professional backgrounds included. Though fund managers predominate—given their significant roles in shaping and implementing overall investment strategies—our list spans institutional investors, operating partners, professors, consultants, politicians and even heads of state. That is a reflection not just of the extraordinary breadth and depth of the asset class, but also of the connections between politics, economics and the underlying property markets.
A few caveats. First and foremost, the individuals on our list must have some link to the private equity real estate industry. That may be stating the obvious, but real estate is a very large asset class and private equity one small component of a much larger industry—so Donald Bren, for example, the richest real estate tycoon on the Forbes 400, would not merit inclusion.
Secondly, our list does not include numerical rankings; names appear in alphabetical order.
And finally, respondents to our queries were prevented from nominating themselves—a proviso that nevertheless went unheeded. But no one made the final cut unless they received support from a number of sources, including the editorial staff of PERE.
Any blame, therefore, lies with us. If you have any comments or complaints, please let us know.
But for now, read on. And enjoy.