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Where were you when Lehman Brothers collapsed? Ask most private real estate senior executives and they will tell you. On September 15, 2008, the Wall Street stalwart, assumed by many to be too big to fail, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Dow Jones index lost 4.5 percent immediately on the news. A year and a half later, it would halve in value. Global real estate plunged some $600 billion in the same timeframe, according to global broker CBRE. The loss was approximately equal to the value of all the property transactions worldwide last year, as calculated by its rival JLL. It was a bloodbath.

The impact of the global financial crisis for the real estate sector was first shocking, then painful and, finally, educational.

Over the course of this special report, essentially an aggregation of experiences from the time of Lehman’s collapse, you’ll read about managers defaulting on their debts, writing down swathes of equity, even handing back keys in some cases. One called Lehman’s collapse a “a day of reckoning,” another a time for “hard choices.” A third described how “the tide went out” exposing all the flaws, individual and systemic, in the private real estate sector.

Then came the recovery. Within six months of the Wall Street bank’s demise, half of the lost value in commercial property markets was restored. Those investors and managers fortunate to have capital and the wherewithal to deploy it first would become today’s sector champions. You’ll read how leading managers and investors capitalised on recovering markets using their capital heft to secure strategic investments in assets and operators that had been rendered vulnerable by the crisis.

The period was the making of some organisations. For many others, however, it was a time best consigned to the history books. For both, the events surrounding the crash of Lehman Brothers left marks that are still visible today.