Global Real Estate 50
“Real estate as a sector is transforming, clients are transforming the way they do business, and the assets themselves are transforming,” says the head of Pinsent Masons property group James Crookes. “The environmental and sustainability agendas are having a massive impact on design, construction and the basis on which money is lent and invested. Over the next few years this will drive the client agenda and the range of services they need.”
This is an issue that is highlighted in the features on Sustainability Trends and which is also evident in new data points that The Lawyer has gathered for this year’s report.
For the first time we have included data on partner promotions at the Global Real Estate 50 firms over the past five years, between 2014/15 and 2018/19, along with information on lateral hires and departures. The insight this provides helps create as accurate a picture as possible of where the leading firms are placing most of their investment (not every firm in the rankings had unveiled its 2020 at time of publication).
The data includes the total number of promotions each year since 2015, how many of these were into real estate and their location. Clearly, there is a direct correlation between the size of a firm and the number of partner promotions it is likely to make, but by tracking real estate promotions as a proportion of each year’s round, this data gives an accurate indication of which firms in the global legal market are prioritising investment in property more than any others.
DLA Piper and Greenberg Traurig emerge as the firms that made the highest number of partner promotions last year with nine apiece. CMS has also consistently promoted high numbers into real estate, giving seven lawyers the nod last year.
But it is remarkable how few real estate lawyers at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) made the grade in 2019 – just three, suggesting that the newly global firm believes it may be already near or at capacity in terms of senior property talent.
Four were promoted in London at the start of 2020: Ciarán Londra, Giles Pink, Matthew Pomfret to the real estate group and Payam Yoseflavi to the real estate finance group.
Numerous firms made no property promotions last year, including White & Case, Ashurst and Simmons & Simmons.
London can reasonably stake a claim for being the centre of the global real estate legal market off the back of it having seen three times as many lawyers promoted to partner there as its closest rival. In total, the firms ranked in the Global Real Estate 50 promoted a total of 102 in London between 2015 and 2019.
The battle to be the second-placed city in real estate partner promotions terms is neck and neck between New York and Chicago, with Manhattan just pipping the Windy City with 41 versus 35.
Notably, four of the top 10 most popular cities for real estate partner promotions since 2015 are in the UK: London (102); Birmingham (23); Manchester (23); and Leeds (13).
All bar one of the remainder are in the US, with Los Angeles (18), Denver (12) and Kansas City (10) joining Chicago and New York on the leaderboard.
The sole non-US/UK location to make the top 10 is Frankfurt, with 12 real estate promotions in the five-year period. The German city saw two promotions last year (Alexandra Weis at King & Spalding and Harald Heller at Reed Smith) and also appeared in the top 10 in 2018 with two partner promotions (Kristina Jaeger at Clifford Chance and Christian Lonquich at DLA Piper), 2017 with four (Nicolas Deuerling at Ashurst; Johanna Hofmann at CMS; Sabine Wieduwilt at Dentons; and Matthias Wagner at Simmons & Simmons) and 2016 (three promotions: Hendrik Theismann at Ashurst, Fabian Böhm at Clifford Chance and Sven Wortberg at King & Spalding).
In 2015 legacy Berwin Leighton Paisner lawyer Tina Siebenhaar was the only partner promotion in Frankfurt. Indeed, Germany takes third place overall when the 29 partner promotions since 2015 are considered on a country basis, while the US just pips the UK in terms of the total number of partners getting the nod.
Between 2015 and 2019, a total of 205 real estate lawyers have been promoted to partner in the US, with the most significant crop, 56, coming most recently, in 2019.
This total is just 22 ahead of the UK, which saw 197 lawyers promoted. Similarly, the largest promotions round in total came last year with 48.
The gap between the US, UK and Germany and the rest of the world in terms of the investments firms are making is significant. None of the other countries that feature in the leading pack have seen more than eight (Canada) promotions since 2015 while third-placed Germany has seen more than three times as many over the same period.
The Lawyer’s promotions data, coupled with our exclusive metrics revealing the percentage of firm-wide revenue generated by real estate sector work, underlines which firms have the sharpest focus on traditional real estate work strategically.
Global Real Estate 50
THE LAWYER SAYS: As noted in last year’s report, CMS’s real estate team is characterised partly by its sheer size. The most up to date data puts total lawyer headcount in the sector group at 933, while the past 12 months saw it add to these capabilities significantly.
Notably, CMS deepened its funds team in Luxembourg with a corporate team hire from Dentons, including the latter’s former office managing partner Frédéric Feyten. CMS’s Luxembourg office now has around 40 lawyers, including eight partners. Its most recent internal promotion was real estate sector lawyer Sylvain Elias, while the firm also hired an investment funds team last year including partners Aurélien Hollard and Benjamin Bada, who joined from Allen & Overy and Arendt & Medernach respectively.
CMS has promoted 33 lawyers to partner level in its real estate group over the past five years, more than any other firm. It also made nine lateral hires and claims to have seen just five partner departures over the same period. One recent exit that is likely to be felt in the real estate sector group is that of private equity head James Grimwood, who quit in January for the rapidly growing London office of Goodwin Procter.
Nevertheless, CMS’s large (233-partner) real estate team features several well-known names and rising stars in property circles. Former DWF partner Abby Dry, who joined in 2019 to spearhead CMS’s new office in Liverpool, is said to have settled in well. The office now has a total headcount of around 15 and represents a mix of clients from London and more locally, particularly in the retail and leisure sectors. Notably, Dry recently acted for NewRiver REIT on the acquisition and management of over £1bn of property assets across the UK including numerous retail parks and shopping centres.
In Glasgow, investment and development specialist Paul Carter, whose clients include Aberdeen Asset Management and Credit Suisse Asset Management, is well thought of, as is Chris Rae. Bristol partner David Abel is noted for his M&G Real Estate and Sainsbury’s Supermarkets work, while in London Marc Franks’ clients include Brockton Capital Partners. Partners Clare Thomas is also highly regarded for investment work.
CMS’s scale and position as one of the world’s top five-largest real estate groups means it is at the forefront of advising on a range of deals in the sector, in particular alternative asset classes such as PRS and BTR as well as senior living and co-living. Notably, it advised real estate investment manager DTZI and the Collective on the world’s first co-living fund, which aims to raise up to £650m to buy or fund up to 10 co-living assets worth around £1bn.
Strategically, while CMS is targeting high-margin work it also has the resources to handle asset level matters through the use of its regional offices, notably in Scotland, and technology.
“The benefit of doing asset management work is that it’s a great way of keeping you connected with clients, helping you maintain a constant dialogue with clients at different levels,” says real estate head Ciaran Carvalho. “It’s not for everyone.”
Recent deal highlights for CMS include advising Peakside Capital Advisors and Partners Group on a joint venture to buy a portfolio of 30 commercial real estate assets in Germany, Paris and Amsterdam; WeWork on a number of matters across the UK and Europe; and TESLA to advise on the real estate aspects of its expansion throughout Europe.
The US. Until it squares away a merger or a proper link-up with a firm on the other side of the Pond, CMS is never going to be able to challenge Dentons for the title of world’s biggest real estate team or get a seat at the table on the market’s chunkiest deals. Indications are it is inching closer. Closer to home, while its three-way merger has so far seemed to have gone off without the usual post-deal exodus and (a handful of exits aside) appeared remarkably stable, the legacy Nabarro partners have effectively been locked in for five years. When that window opens, things may change for CMS, and not in a good way.
THE FIRM SAYS:
What have been the most significant recent developments at your firm aimed at helping meet client demand in relation to real estate work?
As a full-service law firm, we continue to expand the work we offer our clients. Real estate is at the heart of CMS and in our real estate practice we are able to provide legal support to our clients on planning, construction, structuring, tax, disputes, fundraising and transactional matters. Thanks to the firm’s broad geographical spread, our real estate teams work cohesively across Europe and beyond. In the last 12 months, we have expanded our UK Real Estate practice in the North with the appointment of Abigail Dry from DWF, an experienced real estate transactional partner with a strong track record in the retail and leisure sectors. Abigail has strong relationships with a number of important clients, for example NewRiver REIT. We have opened a small presence in Liverpool for Abigail and her team, who work alongside our established teams in Sheffield and Manchester.
Further afield, we have strengthened our Real Estate teams across Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru and in October 2019, CMS added three new offices to our list of locations: Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya and Johannesburg in South Africa. In January 2020, four new partners joined our Corporate M&A, Investment Funds and Tax teams in CMS Luxembourg from Dentons, helping to strengthen the collaboration between CMS Luxembourg and our offices in other jurisdictions, also in respect of real estate related mandates.
CMS Luxembourg now comprises more than 40 lawyers, including eight partners. Over the last year, we also promoted seven real estate lawyers in the UK to partner – all women – as part of the firm’s largest ever global partner promotions round which saw the promotion of 52 new partners globally.
For which types of corporate work do you anticipate seeing an increase or decrease in demand over the next three to five years?
Retail – It is not unusual to say that the decline in traditional ‘bricks-and-mortar’ retail is prevalent in the sector and this is reflective of the mood with our retail clients. With the rise of e-commerce and the continual need for customers to receive their goods within 24-48 hours, last mile logistics spaces seem to now dominate the physical market. Retail is having to adapt like any other sector to the needs of its consumers. ‘Repositioning retail’ is top of the agenda with the replacement of traditional retail spaces, with residential or alternative logistics spaces. Rise of Alternatives - The big story continues to be the rise of alternatives. The PRS and BTR market is expected to outperform all other asset classes over the coming years. Other residential sectors are also gaining traction, particularly senior living and co-living.
This has given rise to the investment across a range of ‘multi-family’ asset classes. CMS advised Far East Consortium, on its acquisition of a 20-acre plot in Manchester which will allow for the launch of Stage 1 of the high-profile Northern Gateway scheme. The £1bn scheme is the most ambitious housing-led regeneration project ever undertaken in the city. The demographical shift towards urbanisation in key cities has given rise to a variation on the asset classes. Co-Living has become an increasingly popular way of living in urban cities whilst also taking into account issues around housing affordability. CMS advised real estate investment manager DTZI and the Collective on the world’s first co-living fund. Offices – Since the election In December 2019, we have seen a flurry of investment in offices especially in London and across the key UK regional cities.
With Brexit also underway, stability in the market may now become apparent paving the way for overseas investors to pour capital in office developments. These are always seen as the most lucrative of all the asset classes and Asian money, particularly from South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, as well as China/Hong Kong are keen to invest. We recently advised Malaysian pension fund Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP) on the GBP c140m acquisition of 100 Cheapside, EC2 in December 2019. This is their first London office acquisition for many years.
Shift in key trends - Real estate businesses are understanding the need to have more ‘flex’ in the new world with all aspects of their customers lives e.g. living, flexible working and using cutting edge technology to continually enhance their customers experience.
What is the most significant way the firm is using technology to improve the efficiency and quality of the service it provides to its real estate clients?
Our real estate practice is one of the most active and advanced in utilising technology as part of its overall solution in delivering work for our clients. Achieving the optimum and balanced combination of technology, people and process is how we create significant efficiencies for our clients. Some examples of this are:
• Document automation: – our investment in HotDocs has allowed us to automate our standard form documents to produce time saving, high quality, client specific first draft documents. It is embedded across the whole of our real estate business and with our scale is a highly utilised software solution. For one of our client’s developments, we generate a minimum of 14 documents and key correspondence for a letting by a lawyer completing a single questionnaire;
• Kira: - we use Kira, our AI contract and lease analysis platform, to speed up lease reviews/extraction and verification of tenancy schedules as well as to extract key information from official copies. For some clients, we have been able to train Kira to identify specific provisions more accurately. An example of cost savings made through the effective use of technology was on a DD exercise for a substantial real estate business using our Legal Services Unit (60+ paralegals) and Kira. It delivered a 97% accuracy rating looking at specific clauses such as “change of control” and “assignability” and resulted in a 30% time and cost saving;
• Workshare Transact – we have invested in this deal collaboration and checklist platform that enables our lawyers to create online workspaces, providing a single, central, structured repository for transaction files to be shared throughout the deal. This sits alongside a range of other IT solutions and resources such as fee dashboards, weekly status reports and checklists to provide transparency to our clients throughout a transaction.
PEAKSIDE AND PARTNERS GROUP
Lead Partner (s): Heinz Joachim Kummer (Cologne); Dr. Malte Bruhns (Cologne)
Date of deal: January 2020
Advising Peakside Capital Advisors AG (Peakside) and Partners Group, the global private markets investment manager (acting on behalf of its clients), have formed a joint venture and secured a portfolio of 30 commercial real estate assets, located in major German cities or metropolitan areas as well as in the Paris and Amsterdam regions. Sellers of the portfolio are Imfarr Beteiligungs GmbH and SN Beteiligungen Holding AG. The purchase price amounted to over EUR 550m.
Lead Partner (s): Henrik Drinkuth (Hamburg)
Date of Deal: November 2019
Merger Advising the Board of Arountown in acquisition of TLG Immobilien AG for 3.1 billion euros ($3.4bn) in stock to create Germany’s biggest commercial landlord. A tie-up created a company with more than 25 billion euros of assets, bringing together the deal-making acumen of Aroundtown with the development expertise and prized Berlin portfolio of TLG.
Lead Partner (s): Lindsey Barrett and Steve Billingham (London), Carol Nisbet (Aberdeen)
Location: Cross Border
Date of Deal: 2019
Acting for WeWork across the UK and European jurisdictions. We are delighted to work with WeWork not only in England and Scotland but across many other European countries, including; Belgium, Hungary and Romania. We have recently been appointed to the panel for Real Estate and Construction across England and Wales and Scotland. We acted for WeWork across various deals in London: 133 Houndsditch in London and 99 Queen Victoria Street in London.
These involved real estate, planning and construction input, with a particular focus on advice around appropriate planning use classes. We also acted on Louisa Ryland House, Colmore Row and 6 Brindleyplace in Birmingham (6 Brindleyplace being the largest letting deal in Birmingham this year at 97,000 sq ft). We also acted for WeWork in Scotland on the lease of premises at George Street, Edinburgh as well as leading on other Scottish property transactions.
Lead Partner (s): James Miller (London)
Date of Deal: August 2019
CMS has been selected by TESLA as legal advisors for the expansion throughout Europe and to assist in the leasing of office and retail premises, including assistance in all phases of negotiation of new leases and fit-out works. Lead CMS lawyer: Petra de Rooy (Amsterdam) Date: Ongoing o Accor HotelInvest Acting for AccorInvest as the purchaser of the Novotel and Ibis Hotels Blackfriars Road from Commerz Real HausInvest Both properties - a four-star Novotel with 182 rooms and a two-star Ibis with 297 rooms – have been operated by Accor since they opened. The purchase price was not disclosed. Commerz Real acquired the development in 2010 for Hausinvest, its open-ended real estate fund. Blackfriars Road is located in Southwark, south of the Thames. This borough has seen significant improvements in recent years, including the construction of The Shard and the addition of a large number of tourist and cultural attractions.
BLACK MOUNTAIN PARTNERS
Lead Partners (s): Ciaran Carvalho, Kirsty Duane (London)
Date of deal: April 2019
We have acted for Black Mountain Partners, and their joint venture partner Ares, on a number of roles in relation to their investment in 68 King William Street, London. Our initial instruction involved the purchase of the property by way of a corporate purchase of the shares in the holding company together with a pre-letting campaign (including a Wolsey restaurant, Pure Gym and Regus Serviced Offices) to ensure that at completion of the purchase our client had commitments for letting the half of the building that was to be vacated following the administration of House of Fraser. Subsequently we have also advised the client on a financing to enable the major refurbishment of the building and are continuing to advise on the refurbishment. Black Mountain Partners was founded in 2018 to acquire, develop, lease and asset manage mixed use schemes, principally in London. This transaction is their first purchase and provides a strong foundation to demonstrate their capability to the market.
Do you agree that the UK General Election result and removal of the much uncertainty surrounding Brexit is as a likely catalyst for real estate investment activity in the UK and Europe? How is your firm preparing for such a development?
Brexit was the main topic of discussion amongst investors last year, with the uncertainty of the outcome resulting in a slowdown in investment volumes and new development starts across the market. However, since the result of the general election in December 2019, which produced a significant Conservative party working majority, investors and developers are once again looking very favourably at the UK market. A Labour government was feared by many (more so than Brexit itself) and with political uncertainty having been removed, we are seeing many more requests to advise on investments and projects from national and international groups. Typically capital has been sitting on the sidelines for some time watching and waiting: now many are eager to invest their available funds. Interesting occupational demand has remained strong since the 2016 referendum and with fewer new developments underway in some areas there is a shortage of high-grade space. That is likely to lead to a rise in rents in some areas. All of this augurs well for the UK real estate investment market in 2020. Europe European gateway cities continue to attract investment.
A challenge has been current yields due to investor demand: accentuated whilst the UK has been “on pause”. For some cities eg. Amsterdam and Berlin, rents remain relatively modest and investors continue to price for growth. We see investors continuing to look to Europe particularly whilst equity markets remain volatile and bond yields are low. In addition, continuing low interest rates and inflation generally being seen to be under control, continues to feed the appetite for real estate on a risk adjusted basis. How are we preparing? We are advising many national and international investors across our firm. With our deep coverage in the UK and Europe in the real estate sector, we are able to support our clients and new entrants to the market. Real estate is both local (having people on the ground is important) and global (capital flows). Having real estate lawyers in capital cities and in the regions across the UK and Europe enables us to be close to the assets and local issues. Within our real estate sector, we also have people across geographies that advise clients on cross border transactions and associated tax, structuring and regulatory issues.
How is your firm’s real estate practice responding to the various challenges that the sustainability and environmental agendas present?
CMS has been confirmed as the first-ever legal partner of the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), the leading ESG benchmark for real estate and infrastructure investments across the world. Our new partnership with GRESB follows the successful “Sustainability in Real Estate” event, CMS hosted in London September, at which GRESB’s Head of EMEA, Josien Pick, was a guest speaker.
As the organisation’s first legal supplier, CMS will assist GRESB and its members who require: assistance and guidance with regard to the implementation of the ESG data needs of its members in legal documentation; assistance with regard to regulatory compliance as part of this process; and more generally the lobbying strengths and expertise of a major international law firm.
We have also been invited to become a member of the Green Finance Institute’s ‘Coalition for the Energy Efficiency of Buildings’ (CEEB) – a new initiative aimed at helping to finance the retrofitting of homes across the UK for energy efficiency. This is an industry-leading coalition and we will join the private-rented working group and play a pivotal role in the shift towards a more sustainable look to be.
How has your team helped clients navigate new challenges around the real estate industry’s transformation from being a bricks and mortar based business to dealing with data-led ‘customer centricity’?
Independently ranked in the highest tier for TMT as well as real estate, and with offices in over 40 countries, we are ideally placed to support clients to harness their unique data and domain expertise using technology. We have extensive experience of acting for many clients in the real estate industry on their digital transformation journey. This includes coordinating projects across borders in the most cost effective and efficient way. We are proud to have been involved in a number of groundbreaking projects, including:
• 22 Bishopsgate: Advising on various pre-lettings for the 22 Bishopsgate office building. It has been referred to as the ‘smartest building in the world’ with ‘unheard of’ range of technologies.
• Futureal: Advising on the development of a smart building operation system, with use cases like fan coil management, smart entry system, “well building”, personalised advertisements and automatic event organisation.
• MOL: Advising on its digitalisation project and the development of the smart MOL Campus. The initial project includes the consideration of various proptech solutions, such as fingerprint authentication and facial recognition, voice-controlled alarm features, office space and parking space booking systems.
REAL ESTATE AT A GLANCE
Head/s of real estate: Ciaran Carvalho, Marie Scott, Andreas Otto and Arnout Scholten
Sector group size: 993 lawyers, 233 partners
Partner regional breakdown:
% revenue: 18%
LATERAL HIRES (2015-2019): 09
PARTNER DEPATURES/RETIREMENTS (2015-2019): 05