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Hines’ OC Head To Run Asia Office, HQ

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Commercial real estate development and investment giant Hines plans to ramp up its work in Asia, and has tapped the head of the firm’s busy Orange County office to lead the charge.

The privately held Houston-based firm, which has about $120 billion of assets under management, this month said it’ll open an office in Hong Kong, to be the company’s Asia-Pacific headquarters.

The Asia-Pacific region, which includes operations in China and Australia, will be led by Ray Lawler, who was recently named co-chief executive of the region.

Lawler for the last nine years or so has led Hines’ OC operations out of Newport Beach, and in the process has built one of the largest portfolios of office properties in the county—outside of Newport Beach’s Irvine Co., the area’s dominant landlord—while also adding apartment development and industrial properties to the mix.

Hines currently owns and manages about 4 million square feet of commercial properties in OC, ranging from the Intersect office campus in Irvine near John Wayne Airport to the 34-acre Beckman Coulter campus in Brea.

Expect similar growth in Asia, according to Lawler, a former planning commissioner for the city of Newport Beach.

Hines “is very enthusiastic about the real estate market in the Asia-Pacific region and foresees long-term growth potential in a number of new business opportunities and diverse product categories,” Lawler said. “We have a long-term commitment to the region and ambitious plans for our expansion.”

Lawler said he’s planning to relocate around the start of the summer. Joining him from Hines’ Newport Beach office in Hong Kong is Director Drew Huffman, who will be responsible for development, acquisitions, and financing efforts in the region.

The Newport Beach office will now be headed by a pair of associates at Hines, Scott Peterson and Tom Lawless, with additional oversight from Paul Twardowski, a senior managing director based in the firm’s San Diego office.

“All systems are normal,” Lawler said of the local operations while in Hong Kong last week, noting that he’s been working hand-in-hand with Twardowski on OC-related deals for the better part of a decade.

Doing Things Differently

Hines first entered the Asia region with an office in Beijing in 1996 and remains one of the few American real estate developers doing business there.

Since that time, Hines’ development and acquisition experience in the Asia-Pacific region totals 12 million square feet, with those properties valued at more than $2.4 billion. A good portion of that has been sold over the years.

The firm’s 15 existing projects in the region include the recently completed One Museum Place in Shanghai, a 60-story office tower.

Hines is best known nationally and internationally for its collection of high-rises in the mold of One Museum Place, but under Lawler’s watch, OC has undertaken a less glitzy, more opportunistic approach to development and investment, primarily investing in low-rise and mid-rise buildings.

“We’ve tried to do different things,” Lawler previously told the Business Journal. “We had to focus where we could be profitable.”

Hines has been among the most active real estate investors in OC during the current market cycle, buying, renovating and in some cases selling close to 8 million square feet of properties across the region.

A flurry of commercial property transactions in OC in 2016 earned Lawler—a former captain and pilot in the Marine Corps who earned a Bronze Star—the nod as the Business Journal’s real estate Businessperson of the Year.

Among its most prominent office properties in the region is currently Newport Beach’s 4000 MacArthur office complex, which it owns in a venture with Goldman Sachs.

Intersect, a multibuilding campus it owns in a venture with Newport Beach’s Pacific Investment Management Co., represents its largest renovation project in the area.

Hines and PIMCO paid a reported $121 million for the former Washington Mutual campus near the airport in 2015 and have put in upwards of $25 million more turning it into a multitenant campus.

More recently, the company’s added a few industrial projects to its OC portfolio, including a large facility along Dyer Road in Santa Ana that’s been refurbished.

It has also joined the multifamily development wave taking over the area, with complexes in the works in Brea and Anaheim.

The OC office of Hines has been a launching pad for other notables in the area’s real estate community.

Lawler took over the top spot at the company’s local office from Doug Holte, who now serves as president of the office division for Irvine Co. (see OC Leader Board, page 61).

Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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