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[IMGCAP(1)]DALLAS-Underwriting the plan with a series of promotions, Robert Behringer has turned over the CEO reins for all Behringer Harvard funds to his six-year sidekick. The switch comes just months before the book closes on Behringer Harvard REIT I Inc., which will have amassed $2.8 billion to $3 billion of equity by its capital close-out.

“These promotions are important, as they allow us to begin aligning personnel by fund style in consideration of the different exit strategy options that are possible in the coming years,” says Behringer, who stays as chairman and CEO of the Dallas-based parent company, Behringer Harvard Holdings LLC, and chief investment officer for all funds. The changing of the guard was released in a letter to shareholders and filed with the SEC.

Taking the funds’ CEO’s torch is Robert S. Aisner, who started as a board member in June 2002 and then moved into the roles of president and COO. Aisner remains president of the parent company.

In line with Aisner’s promotion, Thomas F. August has been named COO of Behringer Harvard REIT I while Samuel A. Gillespie, head of asset management since 2004, becomes the COO of Behringer Harvard Opportunity REIT I Inc., Opportunity REIT II Inc., Behringer Harvard Short-Term Opportunity Fund I LP and Behringer Harvard Mid-Term Value Enhancement Fund I LP. Mark T. Alfieri, who joined in 2006, is COO of Behringer Harvard Multifamily REIT I Inc. M. Jason Mattox, current executive vice president, has been named chief administrative officer, tasked with directing marketing and operational services shared by the funds.

[IMGCAP(2)]“This really was a long-term plan of ours to slowly separate the management of each of our operating silos,” Aisner explains to GlobeSt.com. “By bringing in people to do the day-to-day duties, it allowed me to move up to the CEO’s role from COO.”

Meanwhile, Behringer Harvard’s flagship core office REIT I has moved to the final stage of its fund drive. The official close-out is Oct. 31. To date, the fund’s equity has footed acquisitions for $5 billion of US office properties, but it’s expected to peak to $5.3 billion to $5.5 billion of assets as it moves to “full operating stage,” Aisner says. The existing portfolio is 93% leased.

REIT I is structured for an eight- to 12-year hold on the portfolio. August, a recognized Wall Street heavyweight, will run REIT I “just like he did when he was at Prentiss Properties,” Aisner says. “Between 2013 and 2017, he will need to create a liquidity event.”

August and his two senior executives at Prentiss Properties Trust, which was bought for $3.3 billion in 2006 by Radnor, PA-based Brandywine Realty Trust, will guide REIT I through its next phase. Scott Fordham heads up accounting while the newest member, Michael A. Ernst, will oversee finances. Ernst was executive vice president and CFO for Colorado-based UDR Inc. Gerald D. Oliver Jr. has been brought on board as the fund’s property manager.

Thus far, REIT I has sold office buildings in Denver, Houston and Southern California. “As with any REIT, we will continue to reposition the portfolio to take advantage of market conditions,” Aisner says. “In California, we had a terrific offer from a company that wanted to be a user. It was a good return for shareholders.”

A similar scenario could be playing out in Fort Worth. The buzz on the street is the REIT has received an unsolicited offer for the one-million-sf Burnett Plaza at 801 Cherry St., but there’s no SEC filing as yet and Aisner’s blocked from discussing if the deal’s real.

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