Executive of the Year Spotlight: Bill Benjamin

In 2016, Ares allotted around $910 million of equity among 26 transactions and 87 properties.
Bill Benjamin (above) received Honorable Mention for the 2016 Investor of the Year award.
Bill Benjamin (pictured) received Honorable Mention for the 2016 Investor of the Year award.

This article is one in a series of short profiles highlighting recipients of CPE’s Executives of the Year awards. Celebrating its 20th year, the program recognizes the contributions of commercial real estate’s top executives across all major business sectors and asset types.

First-place winners and honorable mention awardees are chosen by a confidential vote of the CPE 100, an invited group of industry leaders.

Today’s installment explores Ares’ global growth under the leadership of Bill Benjamin.

Honorable Mention: Investor of the Year

Bill Benjamin, Partner & Head of the Real Estate Group, Ares Real Estate Group

Headquarters: New York City

Years with Ares: 3

Previous roles: Senior partner at AREA Property Partners (1995-2013).

Ares by the numbers: Between September 2015 and September 2016, Ares grew its portfolio by 6.25 percent, counting 170 properties under management, and increased active funds by 15 percent, reaching 46 active funds under management. While Ares operates nine offices with 70 employees in the U.S., Europe and Asia, its firm-wide employee count was 915, and its firm-wide office count was 15 as of September 30, 2016. Across the firm, Area and its active funds earned $80.4 million in total fee revenue in 2015.

The year in review: Over the 12-month period ending September 30, 2016, Ares committed approximately $910 million of equity across 26 transactions and 87 properties and distributed around $1.3 billion back to its investors. At the same time, Ares’ investors made $1.75 billion in equity commitments across recently established U.S. and European vehicles.

Executive appointments: Ares invited industry vanguards James Skinner and Rand April to join the company’s board as independent directors in April. During Skinner’s 15-year run with Neiman Marcus Group, he served as COO and CFO until 2015, when he moved to the role of vice chairman before retiring in 2016. Before Neiman Marcus, Skinner served as CFO for CapRock Communications Corp. and CompUSA Inc. Rand April retired from international law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, after more than 30 years, having served as managing partner of the firm’s Los Angeles office for 18 years.

 Growing a European platform: Since joining Ares in 2013, Benjamin has assembled and developed a team of 70 professionals, each with distinct and extensive real estate experience. When it was conceived in 1995, Ares’ European Real Estate platform comprised a tiny portion of an opportunity funds business based in the U.S. Now, thanks to Benjamin’s direction, the platform includes 10 funds and several separate accounts and co-investment vehicles, with approximately $4.9 billion in equity commitments to support 150 opportunistic and value-add transactions.

In April, a joint venture between pan-European retail real estate specialist Redevco and funds managed by Ares Management made its inaugural acquisition when it purchased of a portfolio of six retail centers in southern and western Spain for approximately €95 million ($101 million). Totaling 276,377 square feet, the retail parks were nearly fully leased with grocery, fashion and fast food tenants when the transaction closed.

Building a diverse portfolio: In February of this year, Ares announced that one of its active funds had made a strategic investment in Montage Hotels & Resorts, an ultra-luxury hotel developer, entailing the purchase of a minority stake no greater than 20 percent and the provision of $200 million in future growth capital to Montage. The investment focused on expanding a portfolio of Montage- and Pendry-branded hotels and resorts.

The following November, Ares partnered with TruAmerica Multifamily, providing $54.5 million in equity funding to facilitate the $236 million acquisition of a six-property portfolio containing 1,402 apartment units in the Baltimore area.