Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds
Specialty: Investing in large real estate projects and portfolios.
Recent deal: Bought the mortgage for the Playa Vista project.
When an investment group including Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds recently bought the mortgage on the proposed Playa Vista development, Jeff Dritley was right in the thick of the deal.
“You name it, I do it,” says Dritley, west coast director for the $1 billion Morgan Stanley funds. His role includes “identifying prospects, doing the analysis, identifying operating partners, negotiating transactions and closing transactions.”
A Harvard MBA and CPA, Dritley formerly was division president of the Los Angeles District for The Koll Co. and a manager in the New York headquarters of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. (now KPMG Peat Marwick).
He also is known for his management of the $1.5 billion Kearny Street Real Estate Co. portfolio, purchased from Bank of America in 1993 (all but $300 million of which has since been sold).
Dritley looks for good deals on the West Coast, primarily in Southern California, with Morgan Stanley acting as general partner in the overall fund to buy individual properties and portfolios in partnership with other institutional investors.
Besides Playa Vista, its other high-profile deals include the $300 million purchase of Huntington Beach-based Chevron Land’s real estate holdings and its financing of Glendale Plaza, a 24-story, 550,000-square-foot speculative office building planned for 655 N. Central Ave. in Glendale. The Glendale Plaza deal makes Morgan Stanley one of the few institutional investors to invest in speculative office development since the recession.
Dritley says most of the funds’ deals are big because that’s what his group does best.
Putting them together requires “patience, management skills, negotiating skills and the ability to smell a deal that comes from years in the business,” he said.
Despite the size and prestige of the Morgan Stanley deals, Dritley, by his own assessment, is “not flashy,” and not given to bombastic negotiating techniques.
It’s the same approach he uses in his professional and outside involvements, including former president of the L.A. Chapter of the National Association of Office and Industrial Parks, and board member of Neighborhood Youth Association, which helps youth in the Venice area.
“I try to be pragmatic and to the point, and to do what I say I’m going to do,” he said, a sort of understatement that works even better when it’s backed up by billions of institutional dollars.