Blackstone Inc.’s $68 billion real estate trust said its president A.J. Agarwal will go on a sabbatical for nine months and Rob Harper will fill that role.
(Bloomberg) — Blackstone Inc.’s $68 billion real estate trust said its president A.J. Agarwal will go on a sabbatical for nine months and Rob Harper will fill that role.
Agarwal will be on a continuing education sabbatical starting Sept. 15 and will serve as an observer of the board throughout that time, according to a filing Tuesday from Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust. Harper, who joined the private equity firm in 2002, is currently BREIT’s head of asset management.
Blackstone built BREIT into a massive player in the real estate industry, but the trust’s growth streak has come under pressure in recent months as investors sought to pull money when rising interest rates prompted a global flight for cash. BREIT has limited withdrawals for nine consecutive months to avoid forced sales, but the redemption queue has been easing recently.
Agarwal will be pursuing a sabbatical at a Stanford University program. He stepped down from his role as president effective August 14.
“Blackstone has a deep bench of talent and we are fortunate to have Rob, who has been invaluable to BREIT and instrumental to its success since inception,” Frank Cohen, chief executive officer of BREIT, said in the filing. “We look forward to A.J.’s return but we know he will enjoy his academic year at Stanford after 31 years at Blackstone.”
A major share class for BREIT has posted a net return of 2.6% this year through the end of July, compared with an 8.4% gain in all of 2022 and a 30% increase in 2021.
Commercial real estate markets have been hit by the sudden rise in borrowing costs as well as shifting demand for properties such as offices. A measure of prices has fallen 12% over the past year through July, according to real estate analytics firm Green Street.
BREIT has sought to focus on properties such as student housing, industrial warehouses and data centers, which lifted BREIT’s returns in July. The trust has “virtually no” exposure to commodity offices, BREIT has said.
Blackstone has held years-long discussions to shift leadership atop the real estate business that houses BREIT. In February, Wesley LePatner stepped up to run the “Core+” property business business when Cohen ceded leadership. Cohen retained his role as chairman and CEO of BREIT and remains global chairman of Core+.
(Updates with details on commercial property market starting in seventh paragraph.)
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