February 21, 2014

Four on Friday: Matt Shulman of The Ardent Companies

Matt Shulman is the CEO, and a managing partner, of The Ardent Companies, a real estate investment and asset-management firm founded in 2012. The company may be less than two years old, but its partners have plenty of experience, having overseen more than $1 billion in commercial real estate investments over the past decade.

In today’s Four on Friday, we talk with Matt about his firm, the overall state of the commercial real estate markets and find out what his favorite movie is (spoiler alert: it’s one that includes a memorable sing-along to “Tiny Dancer”).

HeadshotHS: Give us an overview of The Ardent Companies.

Ardent is a real estate investment and asset-management company based in Atlanta. Ardent has invested more than $200 million in high-yield debt products, note purchases and direct equity investments across many property types. We have investments in more than 3 million square feet of commercial real estate, primarily in retail and office.

HS: What are the property types and geographic areas that Ardent is most interested in investing in?

We deploy capital into all property types, ranging from traditional retail and office to more hands-on hotel and land investments. We are focused primarily on the southeast, but have made investments nationwide, with a good amount of experience in the Midwest and Northeast.

Our high-yield debt origination business has shown the most growth over the past year, as we are filling the void left by banks in certain segments of the market. We are providing capital to operators growing their businesses and to ones looking to recapitalize by purchasing their debt in illiquid situations. Our pipeline ranges from homebuilders in Atlanta and Detroit to multifamily and hotel operators in Raleigh and Orlando.

HS: This is a broad question, but what is your assessment of the current health of the commercial real estate markets?

Overall, the markets seem to be recovering, but there are many economic factors that concern us. Political instability at the national level, the lack of road and mass transit infrastructure locally and the overall national debt all are reasons to proceed with caution.

The lack of new supply created during the downturn and the limited debt capital available for new construction should hold back the pent-up demand from developers to push projects forward. Tenants seem to be looking at growth and long-term planning, which is always a positive for landlords.

The recovery in the housing markets is good for our homebuilding and land business, but is also starting to influence disposable incomes and net worth, which should help drive retail. We are bullish on Atlanta long term and invest with that mindset.

HS: Fill in these blanks: 

A) My favorite movie of all time is ___.

B) My favorite TV show of all time is ___.

C) My favorite band of all time is ___.

Shulman: A) “Almost Famous” B) “The West Wing” C) Pearl Jam.

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