The skyscrapers of New York City and all of America’s greatest cities are monuments to the power of the real estate industry that builds them.
But—as the titans who rank among the most powerful players in real estate finance know better than anyone—even the lowliest strip mall couldn’t rise from the ground without a lender ready to put dollars on the line. Thus, as ever, the landscape of commercial real estate finance in 2018 was chock full of its own monuments.
Take Blackstone’s $1.8 billion whole loan to jumpstart construction on one of the most important new office building projects in New York City: Tishman Speyer’s The Spiral at the recently opened Hudson Yards campus. Or Bank OZK’s $558 million financing package for The Estates at Acqualina in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.—the largest condominium construction loan in Miami-Dade County this business cycle. Or Deutsche Bank’s $630 million construction loan in Los Angeles for Related Companies’ Frank Gehry–designed $1 billion mixed-use project, The Grand.
Each of these projects has the potential to make a bold mark on a premier American city. And pure real estate finance prowess made them all possible.
Recognizing achievements like these is what our annual Power 50 list is all about. It’s our chance to highlight the work of some of the industry’s boldest, sharpest and most creative minds. All three of those aforementioned lenders soared to new heights on our list this year. We offer a well-deserved tip of the cap to them.
But entrusting developers with ungodly sums of money isn’t the only way our honorees proved their mettle in 2018. As usual, an impressive crop of savvy, unrelenting finance brokers demonstrated their crucial role in steering the flow of capital.
This year, Newmark Knight Frank’s Dustin Stolly and Jordan Roeschlaub vaulted to the top spot among debt advisers with a remarkable expansion of their share. The duo, having done $6.5 billion of business in 2017, arranged $11.8 billion worth of debt deals last year, an 82 percent increase. When a small team of 12 flashes that kind of influence nationally, it proves size hardly matters.
On the other hand, if our jobs were to compare brokers to one another, we’d be working 24/7. Add lenders into the mix and . . . well, that’s when the honorees start showing up in our editors’ sleep (literally).
This year’s list grew with the arrival of some well-deserving new faces. Foremost among those was LoanCore Capital, a platform with major international backing that seems to have a finger in every pie, from floating-rate balance sheet debt to the red-hot world of collateralized loan obligations. Not far behind was Mesa West, a debt fund recently acquired by Morgan Stanley that lent $3.2 billion last year across state lines and asset classes. CapitalSource, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based group that dabbles in the market’s thorniest products, construction and value-add bridge loans, is also worthy of a shout-out for its $2.4 billion in lending accomplished in 2018.
December’s uncertainty created some tremors that threatened a grand finale to this cycle that won’t seem to quit. The gradual tightening of the Fed’s reins quickly became a distant memory at the end of the year as volatility spooked the central bank into pledging a wait-and-see approach. But even that minor blip was a reminder of how just two dozen basis points can make or break a deal. As borrowers waited for the dust to settle, deal flow temporarily sputtered to a halt before the New Year.
This year has been brighter, and anyway, a bit of strife isn’t enough to intimidate the industry’s heaviest hitters. For one thing, our Power 50 warriors wouldn’t be featured in the following pages if they hadn’t earned their stripes in past cycles. For another, each figure earned a spot here via a reputation for excellent judgment. That means sensing which deals not to pursue as much as it means knowing when to break out the sharp elbows.
The Commercial Observer Power Gala held in Midtown Manhattan each June isn’t the only party these superstars of finance get an invite to. Every day, they’re front and center at one of the greatest shows the world of business has to offer where risks are often rewarded, where NDAs aren’t always honored and where mistakes can be ruinous. But in no other arena is the reward for hard work so tangible: money in their pockets and edifices that stand for centuries.—Cathy Cunningham, Mack Burke, Matt Grossman and Larry Getlen.