Justin Wheeler

Justin Wheeler

CEO at Berkadia

Last year's rank: 36

Justin Wheeler
By April 30, 2023 8:59 AM

While the wider commercial real estate industry was determining new strategies in the wake of rising rates toward the end of last year, Berkadia had the luxury of taking a longer-term approach, focusing on recruitment, investments and building out technology.

“We’re really blessed because we have private ownership — it’s Berkshire Hathaway on one side and Jefferies Financial Group on the other,” said Justin Wheeler, referring to the companies that formed Berkadia in 2009 as a joint venture. “We’re able to take a long-term focus. A lot of our competitors who are publicly traded or have other ownership issues — they’re regulated, they’re a bank, etc. — have to worry about quarterly earnings and things like that. We just worry about, ‘What can we do today that will make us a better company three, five, seven years down the road?’ ”

Berkadia finished 2022 with a combined production volume of $57 billion between investment sales, mortgage banking and equity, leaving the company with a $393 billion servicing portfolio by the end of 2022.

Last year saw further development for the company of Berkadia Institutional Solutions. Formed in 2021, it’s Berkadia’s effort to go beyond just executing middle-market, private capital-focused deals and to wade deeper into deals of more than $100 million each. This generated a big get in March 2022 with the $325 million sale of the largest multi-
family asset in Arizona at the time, the 1,222-unit Vaseo Apartments in Phoenix. Berkadia represented the seller, a partnership led by DivcoWest and Klein Financial Corporation. Dallas-based Invesco Real Estate was the buyer.

“That was a really complicated deal, and a marquee deal for us as we start to see the fruits of the Berkadia Institutional Solutions group,” said Wheeler, who also points to a $375 million sale for what is referred to as the JAMCO Portfolio, a 12-property, 2,459-unit multifamily portfolio throughout Georgia. “I love ‘round trips’ — when we sell a property or portfolio, then finance the acquisition of those properties on the other side. That shows that we’re adding real value to clients at both sides of the transaction. The JAMCO deal was one of those.”

Other significant developments for Berkadia in 2022 included hiring Damu Bashyam, a longtime executive at Columbia Bank and JPMorgan Chase, as chief information and innovation officer; acquiring the technology platform of real estate tech extraction company BlueSuit; and signing partnerships with fintech company Esusu and U.K. real estate consultancy Knight Frank. —L.G.

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