Blackstone's $280 billion real-estate team is buying up everything from warehouses to campus housing to biotech lab space. Here's a look at its power players.

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Introducing Blackstone's power players

Blackstone power players 4x3
Blackstone power players 4x3

Blackstone; Rachel Mendelson/Insider

Investing giant Blackstone is buying up real estate at a rapid rate.

Just this past week, it bet $13 billion on student housing with a deal to buy American Campus Communities. In the past few months, it acquired Australia's Crown Resorts for $6.3 billion, and reinvested in its European logistics real-estate company.

It's working. Blackstone smashed its earnings records earlier this year, largely thanks to its booming real-estate business.

Insider set out to identify the key people driving the land grab, and landed on 17 executives focused on everything from investing in life-sciences office buildings to Hollywood studios to multifamily apartment buildings.

Here, Hana Alberts, one of the editors on the story, gives us a look at the work that went into creating this list.

What prompted you to make this list?

On recent investor calls where Blackstone has reported record earnings, executives like Jon Gray and Stephen Schwarzman chalked them up to the firm's real-estate business. We wanted to identify the influential people leading that division, the largest arm of the private-equity giant, with $280 billion of its $915 billion of assets under management.

Did any of these power players really stand out to you?

I was struck by how Nadeem Meghji, the head of real estate for the Americas, led Blackstone to nab a 49% stake in a cluster of Hollywood studios in June 2020, when the pandemic had thrown the economy for a loop.

I am also amazed by how much these folks can accomplish at young ages. Katharine Keenan became CEO of Blackstone's Mortgage Realty Trust at age 36, and 33-year-old David Levine has been involved with $100 billion in transactions since 2010 and is now cohead of Americas acquisitions.

What are the trends they're keeping an eye on this year?

These leaders are investing in various forms of real estate right now, from apartment complexes in South Florida to college-campus housing. Other hot areas include warehouses (thanks, ecommerce and next-day delivery!) and biotech lab space — but there's a notable lack of investment in major office complexes, another sign of the times.

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The rise of "Zoomtowns"

A man on a laptop sitting in between two houses
A man on a laptop sitting in between two houses

iStock; Rebecca Zisser/Insider

Zoomtowns, a handful of previously overlooked crannies in the South and Mountain West, have boomed in recent years with an influx of remote-working outsiders. Big-city transplants with big-city paychecks are flooding in — and longtime locals are feeling the squeeze.

Not only are residents being kept out of homebuying, but the rate of displacement is accelerating: Some are being forced to leave their hometowns in pursuit of more affordable housing, or, in some cases, losing their homes altogether.

Read the full story here:

Amazon's physical stores business is struggling to grow

Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy with imagery of Amazon's "Just Walk Out Shopping"
Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy with imagery of Amazon's "Just Walk Out Shopping"

Amazon; Mike Blake/Reuters; Henry Nicholls/Reuters; Leon Neal/Getty; Savanna Durr

Amazon's projection to open 280 Fresh stores in the US by 2022 has turned out to be woefully off, with just 27 Fresh stores open so far. The company's struggle to reach its Fresh store-expansion goals is emblematic of the challenges it's faced in the physical-retail arena.

While Amazon has perfected the art of e-commerce efficiency, it's facing a much tougher reality in the brick-and-mortar space, driven by the high cost of the stores, a dysfunctional internal culture, and tension with Whole Foods. Some employees question whether the company will ever excel in the offline-shopping space.

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Lagging behind peers, ExodusPoint is set on being boringly dependable

A man with an Exodus Point flag scratches his head at the bottom of a mountain. Flags for Citadel, Millennium and Point72 are mounted at the peak.
A man with an Exodus Point flag scratches his head at the bottom of a mountain. Flags for Citadel, Millennium and Point72 are mounted at the peak.

Exodus Point; Millennium; Point 72; Citadel; IStock Photo; Vicky Leta/Insider

In 2018, ExodusPoint debuted with $8.5 billion, making it the biggest hedge-fund launch in history. Four years later, the fund can be called both a success and a work in progress.

By many measures, including its ability to raise money and grow, it's proved a raging success. It manages $13.5 billion, with offices around the world and a head count close to 700. But to the extent that a startup fund unique enough to have close to $14 billion in assets in four years can have direct peers, it has trailed both them and the markets.

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