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Polish Up Your Résumé: The World’s Largest Property Owner Needs A New Boss

Abu Dhabi

The head of real estate at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the world’s largest direct owner of property, has left the sovereign wealth fund, which is now looking for a new real estate chief.

Tom Arnold has left ADIA to return to the U.S. and be closer to his family, PERE magazine first reported. Arnold had been with ADIA for 11 years, the last two in the top job. 

Salem Al-Darmaki, ADIA deputy head of real estate and infrastructure, is taking over as acting real estate head, and the fund is looking for a permanent replacement, PERE said. 

Blackstone might be the world’s biggest manager of real estate, but ADIA is the largest direct owner, with $62B of its $828B of assets invested in property. 

ADIA manages the portfolio in-house, and in recent years has focused on doing a small number of very large deals. It has focused on emerging markets like China and India in recent years, rather than the mature markets of the U.S. and Europe.

Indeed, in the U.S. in recent years it has been a big seller. In 2019, it sold 330 Madison Ave. to German insurer Munich Re for $850M.

In the UK, it has backed BTR platform Fizzy Living, but its main priority has been working out what to do with its shopping centre holdings. It appointed JLL in February to sell a 50% stake in the Oracle shopping mall in Reading, 40 miles west of London, for £200M. 

And it has gone back to the drawing board with plans to build a major retail-led scheme in nearby Slough, a town which will be connected to London more easily once the Crossrail train link opens. 

ADIA and development manager British Land had been planning a 1M SF retail and residential scheme, but now the scheme is being envisaged totalling 2M SF but office-led with just 250K SF of retail.