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DALLAS-After testing the retirement waters, Thomas F. August has returned to the industry to lead Behringer Harvard REIT I Inc. The Wall Street heavyweight has been a trustee of Brandywine Realty Trust since the 2006 merger of his former company, Prentiss Properties Trust.

“Retirement isn’t what it’s made out to be,” August casually tells GlobeSt.com. “I was very anxious to find something I’d feel comfortable with and hopefully add some value.”

August’s new role is executive vice president of Behringer Harvard Holdings, the parent company of all Behringer Harvard programs; COO of Behringer Advisors LP, REIT I’s adviser; and COO of HPT Management Services LP, the REIT’s property manager. The high-profile chief executive will be overseeing a REIT with $5 billion of class A office assets and more to come.

Behringer Harvard REIT I has raised $1.9 billion of equity since February 2003, which to date has fueled the purchase of 75 institutional-grade office properties in the US. The investment group has room to add $800 million of equity before REIT I is fully funded, according to Robert S. Aisner, president and COO of the Dallas-based investment group.

“Our plan all along for the size of this REIT was to find someone we believed could run a REIT of this size, had a history of doing it and a reputation of building great teams,” Aisner says. “It was getting to be time that we knew it was time to start looking for the person to lead it. The stars were aligned.”

Aisner credits the rapport that arose during negotiations to acquire some office buildings from the Prentiss-Brandywine portfolio with planting the seed if, he teasingly adds, “he could be coaxed out of taking his wife to lunch and playing golf.” Until August came on board, Aisner was REIT I’s COO. “And I’m delighted to hand that over to Tom,” he says.

In revealing their newest teammate, Behringer Harvard’s top execs say August will be in place to complete the current public offering and beyond. “Tom has a proven ability to enhance shareholder value and a strong track records as a tested and talented leader that will be a welcome addition to our executive team,” Robert M. Behringer, founder and CEO of Behringer Harvard, says in a written statement.

August says there will be challenges due to the capital markets, but he’s not prepping for any immediate changes in REIT I’s portfolio or day-to-day operations as he takes the reins. “We’re headed in the right direction and my job is to keep pushing it in the right direction,” he says. “I will be getting involved in all aspects.”

August says the portfolio could change out over time due to the natural course of business or the economy. “Certainly, this portfolio is in great shape, but we are entering into a new phase,” the 35-year executive says. “I’m sure there will be challenges going forward. Yet when you have an exciting organization and a great portfolio, what more can I ask for.”

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