Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds
Despite his relatively young age, Jim Brooks is a seasoned real estate professional and he’s getting plenty more seasoning as manager of Kearny Real Estate Co.
Kearny is a unit of Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds, which is the division of investment banking firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter that invests in commercial real estate.
Brooks is currently negotiating with owners of the Lakers and Kings, who are considering building new practice facilities as part of a 23-acre commercial project Kearny is developing in El Segundo.
That is hardly Brooks’ only undertaking. He’s responsible for implementing Kearny’s overall mission: to buy land or neglected buildings at low prices, develop new structures on those sites, and then resell them to real estate investment trusts or other investors.
In line with that mission, Brooks recently led Kearny’s acquisition of 125 acres in northern San Diego County and its renovation of a 400,000-square-foot industrial building in Rancho Cucamonga.
Brooks could conceivably play a role in two other high-profile Morgan Stanley real estate investments: PacTen Partners’ 520,000-square-foot “speculative” office project now under construction in Glendale, and the 1,087-acre Playa Vista project near Marina del Rey.
At least one thing is evident from Brooks’ track record: He seems to have an uncanny sense of market timing.
Upon graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1980, Brooks landed a job with Koll Construction Co. for almost three years. He then joined the development side of the company just as the building boom hit its stride in the mid-’80s. He worked on the 300-acre Mira Loma Commerce Center and the Koll Business Center in La Verne, a 104-acre industrial development in the San Gabriel Valley.
Then, in the dregs of the real estate market in the early ’90s, Brooks got a job offer from his former co-worker at Koll, Jeff Dritely, who had become managing director of Morgan Stanley.
Brooks sensed that the next wave of action in real estate would come from Wall Street, so he jumped.
“This was just before the advent of Wall Street opportunity funds; it was a great time to hit the market,” he said.
Now that the region’s real estate market is once again robust, Brooks is spending more time on development. And as Kearny undertakes more projects, Brooks expects his responsibilities to grow.
“There’s still a lot of room for growth in this cycle and (Kearny) is aggressively looking to grow,” he said. “MS is on the forefront of the real estate market, and Kearny intends to stay ahead of the curve.”