Zell or Garrabant: Who will win the emerging-markets real estate race?

Sam Zell and former partner Gary Garrabrant ready themselves for battle in a field they once conquered together: emerging-markets real estate. Both are preparing funds to buy stakes in property companies in Latin America, China and India.

Garrabrant, who stepped down as chief executive of Equity International in 2012, hopes to raise $1 billion at his new firm, Jaguar Growth Partners. While Zell, the billionaire chairman of Equity International, wants to raise about $600 million. Both men pioneered emerging-markets real estate investing more than 15 years ago when Equity International made it big in Mexico and Brazil.

Now, potential investors ask who was responsible for the previous gains, and who will be responsible for them in the future.

After U.S. commercial real estate values have risen in the past five years, many big real-estate investors worry values have peaked in the U.S. and seek to put their money abroad. "If you want more exposure to real estate, you should be looking outside the U.S., including emerging markets," said Scott Simon, chief investment officer of the Fire and Police Pension Association of Colorado.

Zell and Garrabant were the first and by most measures have been the most successful in the industry. "It will be interesting to see where the major investors put their money," said Rick Singer, a founder of New York-based property investor Eastbridge Group. "I'd be shocked if they share between the two funds."


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Nick Banks

Nick created Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2002 and spent the first eight years developing and acquiring office and retail projects in South Florida as well as North Central Florida. In 2010 the focus of the firm was shifted to primarily serve third party clients and perform brokerage, property management and mortgage banking functions. Nick has personally developed and acquired nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail properties in markets throughout Florida. Prior to founding Front Street, Nick was the Director of Finance and Dispositions for Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale where he financed and sold over $500 million in commercial real estate. Before joining Stiles, Nick was an Associate Director at GE Capital Real Estate where he sourced over $200 million in financing throughout Florida. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real Estate. He serves as a board member and current vice-chair for the United Way of North Central Florida where he also chairs the Development Committee. Nick is actively involved with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce where he serves as a board member and committee member for the Council for Economic Outreach. He is also a recent graduate of Leadership Gainesville which is a year long leadership program hosted by the Chamber. He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he has served as finance chair and as a member of the leadership council. Nick serves as an advisory board member of the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. Nick was recently named chair of the Gainesville committee for the North Florida chapter of Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is a licensed real estate broker in the State of Florida and is a long time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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