CPE’s Stars to Watch 2019: Tale of Two Aris

Ari Adlerstein, 35 and Ari Dobkin, 35 Managing Dir...

Ari Adlerstein, 35 and Ari Dobkin, 35

Managing Directors at Meridian Capital Group

Ari Adlerstein
Ari Adlerstein

Ari Adlerstein and Ari Dobkin—”the two Aris,” as they are often called—serve as co-heads of Meridian Capital Group’s healthcare and senior housing finance platform, where they oversee the origination, underwriting and placement of loans. Since joining Meridian in 2011, the duo has closed more than $6 billion in transactions, with more than $1.6 billion closed in 2018 alone. As Adlerstein puts it: “For better or for worse, the Aris are attached at the hip. We’re basically married.”

Providing a broad array of advisory services, including equity capital markets and investment sales, the senior housing and healthcare specialists have chalked up a remarkable string of transactions. Among their 2018 accomplishments was arranging $135 million in acquisition financing for a 10-property, 1,464-bed portfolio of skilled nursing facilities. Adlerstein and Dobkin needed just 52 days to close the unusual and complicated transaction.
The partners’ chosen field—which includes independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facilities—is heating up. “People are having a hard time chasing yield in multifamily and in, frankly, most commercial real estate asset types,” said Adlerstein. “It’s a funny market. Senior housing remains robust. So we’re seeing a lot of outside capital that is starting to chase senior housing.”

“Thankfully, we got in early so we know the ropes,” he added.

Ari Dobkin
Ari Dobkin

dlerstein and Dobkin took a rather unconventional path to their current roles. In 2008, the friends co-founded a charity called Kids of Courage, which sponsors trips around the country for children and young adults with illnesses or disabilities. Through their volunteer efforts, they became acquainted with David Herzka, son of Ralph Herzka, Meridian Capital’s chairman & CEO.

ntroductions were made, and the Aris developed a bond with the prolific dealmaker, who invited them to come aboard as brokers. But the entrepreneurial duo had something else in mind. “Ari and I basically said … ‘We want to build something; we don’t want to be competing with a hundred brokers on the floor at Meridian that are all doing the same thing,’” Dobkin recalled.

Instead, they agreed to take on a new vertical, health-care, which Meridian Capital wanted to revisit after a previous foray into the sector hadn’t panned out. Dobkin’s exposure to the field as a controller at an early-intervention agency proved to be an asset. Adlerstein, a law school graduate, joined Meridian immediately after passing the bar.

Adlerstein realized they’d made it around 2013, when the team closed its first deal worth more than $100 million. In another key moment, a large private equity group in senior housing asked them to handle the off-market sale of a senior housing portfolio. “It stands out in my head because you spend the first few years of your career doing a lot of chasing and sort of trying to prove yourself,” Adlerstein recalled. “The fact that our reputation was out there, and something was calling us of that caliber, was meaningful.”

Biggest Mentors: Ari Adlerstein counts Ralph Herzka as a primary role model. The legendary Meridian Capital founder is constantly hustling on behalf of his clients, he noted, arriving at the office earlier and leaving later than anyone else. Dobkin says that his biggest influence is likely a rabbi who taught him in 10th grade and urged him to attend Fairleigh Dickinson University and pursue a master’s in accounting, setting the capital markets maven on his current trajectory.

Meet the rest of CPE’s Stars to Watch for 2019—commercial real estate’s top young talent.