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The Global Perspective with Justin Wai from Blackstone (SHA ’06).

Sep 24, 2022

Justin Wai, currently the Senior Managing Director of Blackstone and Head of Greater China Real Estate, has had a long and successful career as an alternative asset manager. After graduating from Cornell Hotel School (2006), he joined Macquarie Bank’s investment banking group for real estate before moving to Blackstone. This year marks Mr. Wai's fifteenth year at the firm. He can share his unique insights into how Blackstone has managed to adapt to changing economic conditions, how the firm structure has changed over the years and how the Chinese real estate market has grown and developed.

Blackstone is a major alternative asset manager worldwide, managing close to US$1 TILLION in assets. The firm invests in a range of assets, from real estate to private equity, credit, and hedge funds. Blackstone is one of the largest real-estate owners worldwide, with approximately one third of its assets managed in real property.

Blackstone's extensive portfolio of logistics assets in Asia was created and developed by Mr. Wai. This sector makes up a significant portion of Blackstone's real property portfolio in Asia and has experienced tremendous growth since the onset of the pandemic and the rise of ecommerce. This logistics portfolio was just one of five deals that Mr. Wai used in an illustration to show Cornell students the importance of due diligence. Blackstone's partnership with one the largest Chinese residential developers was an excellent example of how companies can combine their strengths to find synergies. Blackstone's extensive global experience in logistics and greenfield development combined with Blackstone made them a strong team. Today they are still partners in the Chinese logistics venture valued at US$1billion.

Garden Square Shanghai--An example from Mr. Wai

He was able provide valuable insight as an investor such as Blackstone. When he first started at Blackstone, he would regularly evaluate deals between US$50-100 million, but over time the firm became involved in much larger transactions, such as the recent $1.2 billion acquisition of a trophy logistics park in China, which Wai led personally. At a certain point, the firm even had to start building platforms for sectors that Blackstone has strong conviction in, such as China's DragonCor logistics operation platform, which is a separate entity owned by Blackstone to operate its vast logistics portfolio in China. Having the opportunity to hear about these strategies, unique to the few firms approaching Blackstone's size, was very valuable in illustrating how these firms reinvented themselves as they continued to grow.

Blackstone's culture from top to bottom has allowed it to continue its success. Mr. Wai shared some key insights during the conversation. He stressed that the culture at Blackstone is not static. There is an ongoing commitment to innovation and being vigilant to ensure that investors receive value. In addition, when asked about hiring practices and entry-level roles at Blackstone, Mr. Wai discussed the firm's emphasis on hiring genuine and hardworking individuals who fit into the culture of positive reinforcement. He went on to add that a large contributor to Blackstone's success is the simple fact that they have a deep commitment to positive professional interactions with clients, sellers, service providers, and anyone else involved in the deal process.

This was following a conversation about how Blackstone has changed over the years. Mr. Wai described how, despite intense growth, the firm's core values have always remained the same. Blackstone, unlike other global firms, has one investment committee for all regions. This allows top leaders to be very involved in decision making regardless of where they may be located. He touched on the fact that the collaborative culture and a genuine emphasis on 'being nice' have persisted throughout his tenure at the firm. Cornell students saw evidence of this culture by Mr. Wai’s generosity with time and thoughtful answers to questions throughout the lecture.

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