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Former NBA Star Grant Hill Joins REIT Board

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Grant Hill played 19 seasons in the NBA before retiring and pursuing a career in investing, heavily focused on real estate.

The real estate investment trust that owns the Empire State Building has added NBA great Grant Hill to the roster of its board of directors.

Empire State Realty Trust added Hill, one of Duke University's most famous graduates and now a part-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, by expanding its eight-member board to nine seats.

“Grant’s leadership and team skills, experience in branding and entrepreneurial successes will add value to our Board and assist the brand development of our Observatory business,” ESRT CEO Anthony Malkin said in a statement announcing the appointment. “Our Board refreshment over the last 24 months has added digital commerce and real estate investment expertise, and we are fortunate to welcome Grant and his valuable experience and insight to our Board of Directors.” 

Hill, who retired from basketball in 2013 after a 19-season career, has invested in and developed more than $200M of commercial real estate through Hill Ventures, his marketing and management company, per a release. He invested in the Atlanta Hawks in 2015.

He is also a co-founder and a member of the investment committee of Penta Mezzanine Fund, a private investment firm, and has worked as an analyst covering NBA and college basketball games for Turner Sports. 

Hill is a Northern Virginia native who starred for the Detroit Pistons in the 1990s and was heralded as the next Michael Jordan. Ankle injuries torpedoed his career after he signed with the Orlando Magic before he was reborn as a heralded role player with the Phoenix Suns until he retired at 40.

Hill, now 48, said he was delighted to join the board and described the REIT as “an innovative company that has me excited to work with this exceptional Board to help influence its future."

Like most owners of office real estate, ESRT is grappling with a complex set of challenges. The company took a $12.3M loss in the third quarter. Its total office occupancy across the company’s portfolio was at 85.9% at the end of September, down from 89.4% a year earlier. It had ticked up from Q2, however, when occupancy was 85.6%.

The company has a 9.4M SF office portfolio, 7.6M SF of which is in Manhattan, including the famed Empire State Building. It has five suburban office properties in Westchester and Connecticut that span 1.8M SF.  

Reports emerged in May that activist investor Jonathan Litt, who runs hedge fund Land & Buildings Investment Management, was taking short positions in multiple New York City office landlords, including ESRT.

In June, ESRT announced President and Chief Operating Officer John Kessler was stepping down, with Malkin adding the president title to his roles of chairman and CEO. The role of COO was not replaced.