REITs@50: Industry Reflections, Ken Campbell of ING Clarion Real Estate Securities

Ken Campbell founded the first REIT-dedicated publication, Realty Trust Review, in 1970. He later sold the publication, but has remained active in the REIT industry. He currently serves as managing director with ING Clarion Real Estate Securities. Campbell, the 1995 recipient of NAREIT's Industry Achievement Award, sat down with during REITWorld 2010 to share his insights on the 50th anniversary of REITs.

As the first, and possibly longest-active, chronicler of the REIT industry, Campbell has witnessed history firsthand. However, there are several enduring characteristics of REITs that have impressed him the most over the last several decades.

First, he pointed to the quality of the assets that REITs typically own. Second, he pointed to the fact that leadership in the industry has been of consistently high quality. Disclosure is another huge benefit of REITs, that Campbell can remember wasn't always the case dating back to having to pour through microfiche to obtain company information.

"Today a filing is available within minutes on the Internet," Campbell said. "You can't understand the value in the distribution of information and that carries with it an enormous upgrade in transparency."

The final area Campbell highlighted was the expansion of the REIT approach to real estate investment in countries across the globe.

When asked to pinpoint the point in time when REITs entered the mainstream investment conversation, Campbell said it began in 1985 when David Rockefeller set out to promote Rockefeller Center Properties. While that company has not stood the test of time, it did pave the way for the big names to go public in the early 1990s. Those names included Milton Cooper with Kimco Realty Corporation (NYSE: KIM), Bobby Taubman and Taubman Centers (NYSE: TCO), Marty Bucksbaum with General Growth Properties (NYSE: GGP), and Mel and David Simon with Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG).

"What all of those events said to the world was that these are significant events, these are significant players in the private real estate industry, and they are opting to come into the public markets," Campbell said.

Despite the validation that came with the introduction of some of the largest and best-known private names into the public market, listed REITs have made slow gains in broader institutional investor portfolio allocations. Campbell said part of it has to do with the splintering of what is termed an "institution" and part has to do with the liquidity, real or perceived, among REITs.

"We are closer than we think to bridging that gap," Campbell said. "All the experience of the last two to three years has been a perfect prologue to a future where the pension plans will learn from the experience. Liquidity will have a much higher premium."