“Frankly, most people in the business probably don’t know we’re out there,” John Blumberg told me 18 years ago.
I was the real estate editor of the Rocky Mountain News and Blumberg was thrilled that a business-to-business site that facilitated the private placement of commercial real estate capital and was owned by his Denver-based Black Creek Group, had been named by Forbes Magazine as one of the best B2B sites in the nation.
“When you have a national publication that is only picking 200 companies across the country and five in real estate, you’re going to feel good about it,” Blumberg told me in 2000, just seven years after he founded Black Creek with two other real estate entrepreneurs, Evan Zucker and Jim Mulvihill.
The privately held Black Creek has done a wide variety of deals, from the B2B site to buying and selling key land along Denver’s southeast corridor to a deal in Mexico with real estate legend Sam Zell.
Since Blumberg and his partners founded Black Creek, it has executed more than $18.1 billion in real estate deals.
It has owned and operated more than 1,300 office, industrial and retail properties in the Denver area and across North America.
Black Creek has developed more than $3 billion worth of properties in North America and has developed or acquired more than 120 retail properties across the continent. It is one of Walmart’s global development partners, having completed 75 projects and created 90 stores for the retail giant.
Sadly, Blumberg died last month at the age of 59. He died from pancreatic cancer.
“Friends — it is with heavy hearts we are letting you know that our dear friend John Blumberg passed away Sept. 19, 2018. Our deepest thoughts and condolences are with his family right now,” the company said in a statement to clients last month.
I once wrote an article about a Black Creek Group investment and described the privately held firm as one of the “savviest and most aggressive” commercial real estate firms in Denver.
Blumberg and his partners certainly saw the promise of Denver when many others feared to invest in a market that had been hammered by the collapse of the oil economy, overbuilding and tax law changes.
Even when selling property, as it did in 1998 when it sold prime land along the southeast corridor to CarrAmerica Realty Trust, once a mighty real estate investment trust that was sold for $5.6 billion a dozen years ago, the company was always bullish about Denver.
“This sale in no way is a reflection that we don’t have confidence in the market or this site,” Blumberg told me at the time. “We sold it because it represented a very high return on our investment in only six months.”
Blumberg is survived by his wife, Dana, and children.
“It goes without saying that John was one of the smartest real estate investors in the world and a pioneer in the commercial real estate space, but more than that, he was a kind, compassionate friend and devoted family man,” according to the company.
Bruce Treen, who had worked at Black Creek, knew Blumberg well.
“John was so much more than a co-worker all those years ago,” Treen wrote on Blumberg’s obituary site.
He described Blumberg as “incredibly smart yet showed great empathy.”
It was a joy working with Blumberg, personally and professionally.
“Working with him never really seemed like a job,” Treen continued. “There was always humor, and I never saw him lose his temper with anyone. He’s a very level-headed guy and a great guy to know.”
I always thought a great deal of the success of Blumberg and his partners at Black Creek was that they were always passionate about commercial real estate while at the same time being as analytical as any Wall Street firm.
“There are firms that invest billions in real estate portfolios whose executives may never see a single building in which they invest,” the company notes on the Black Creek Group website.
“That’s not who we are.”
For example, at Black Creek, “Our investment professionals are on the ground in the key markets in which we invest. We’re examining buildings we own and working every aspect of every real estate transaction in order to maximize every dollar that we invest. We believe it’s the right way to invest in real estate.”
In other words, when the company says: “At Black Creek, we’re deeply invested in real estate,” it’s talking about more than just money.
And that type of passion will continue at Black Creek, even with Blumberg’s passing.
“We will continue to execute our business plan and key priorities under the leadership of our remaining founders and executive team,” the company said in a statement that it shared with me.