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Monmouth Among Real Estate Firms Hiring New Top Lawyers

Dec. 31, 2019, 7:43 PM

Real estate firms are hiring new in-house lawyers to help negotiate leases and other legal matters amid rising U.S. residential values and revised opportunity zone rules.

Monmouth Real Estate Investment Corp., one of the nation’s oldest public equity real estate investment trusts, said just before Christmas that its longtime general counsel Allison Nagelberg will retire Dec. 31 and be replaced by in-house lawyer Michael Prashad.

“Allison has represented Monmouth with integrity, devotion, and an uncompromising work ethic for two decades,” Monmouth chairman Eugene Landy, a Yale Law School graduate who started the industrial-focused REIT in 1968, said in a statement. “She played a critical role in the company’s success.”

Nagelberg declined to discuss her post-Monmouth plans. A Dec. 23 securities filing by the Holmdel, N.J.-based REIT said she received a $30,000 annual bonus that day from Monmouth and would receive two payments of $395,040 on Dec. 31 of this year and 2020. Bloomberg data show that Nagelberg owns about $1.36 million in Monmouth stock.

Prashad, 35, Nagelberg’s successor, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about his promotion at Monmouth. He joined the REIT in early 2015 and was made corporate secretary the following year, having previously handled litigation and real estate work at several New Jersey law firms.

Wenig’s New Role

The Bluestone Group LLC, a New York-based real estate advisory and investment banking firm, has hired Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman founding partner Howard Wenig as general counsel. The move was first reported by Real Estate Weekly.

“At this stage of my career, joining The Bluestone Group as general counsel was an opportunity that I could not let pass by,” Wenig said in a statement to the trade publication. “I wish the best for the firm in the future and I look forward to continuing to work together in my new capacity with the firm.”

Wenig didn’t return a phone call to his new office at Bluestone in downtown Manhattan. An out-of-office reply message from his email address at Belkin Burden said his affiliation with the firm—now called Belkin Burden Goldman—would end as of Jan. 1.

Wenig was one of four partners that started the firm in 1989. He went on to head the mortgage foreclosure group at Belkin Burden, which at roughly 50 lawyers has one of the largest real estate practices in Manhattan.

Other Additions

Bethesda, Md.-based Host Hotels & Resorts Inc., America’s largest lodging REIT, announced before Thanksgiving its hire of Julie Aslaksen, a 14-year veteran of the law department at General Dynamics Corp, as its new general counsel. Aslaksen was a deputy general counsel at the Falls Church, Va.-based aerospace and defense giant and was most recently the top lawyer for its information technology unit.

Deborah Ben-Canaan, head of the in-house practice at legal recruiting firm Major Lindsey & Africa in Washington, handled the placement of Aslaksen at Host Hotels. Aslaksen succeeds Elizabeth Abdoo, who informed Host Hotels in April of her intention to step down by Dec. 31 after 18 years as general counsel, according to a securities filing by the REIT, whose president and CEO is attorney James Risoleo.

In Chicago, privately held real estate development firm Bridge Development Partners LLC confirmed the hire of its first-ever general counsel last month in Daniel Hemmer, a former in-house legal chief at Windy City-based First Industrial Realty Trust Inc.

Michael Sachs and Casey Gordon of the in-house practice at Major Lindsey in Chicago handled the placement of Hemmer at Bridge, which also recently hired former Latham & Watkins counsel Heather Crossner as senior vice president of development in El Segundo, Calif.

Looking Outside

Some real estate firms, however, are content to have all their legal needs serviced solely by outside counsel.

Boca Raton, Fla.-based MedAmerica Properties Inc. changed its name to Broad Street Realty Inc. after closing Dec. 31 on the first phase of its merger with Bethesda-based Broad Street Realty LLC. The deal gives Broad Street ownership of a MedAmerica portfolio that includes nine grocery store-anchored shopping centers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

Broad Street said in a Dec. 27 securities filing that several executives resigned upon the close of its deal with MedAmerica, including the latter’s Boca Raton-based general counsel, Robert Schellig Jr. Schellig didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about his exit.

Broad Street doesn’t have a general counsel. The combined company’s CEO, Michael Jacoby, told Bloomberg Law in an email that it will rely upon Morrison & Foerster’s REIT practice co-chair David Slotkin in Washington for its legal work.

Slotkin and the law firm Shulman Rogers advised Broad Street on its merger with MedAmerica, which turned to Boca Raton’s Nason Yeager Gerson Harris & Fumero for outside counsel on the deal. Broad Street investors will own 87% of the combined company.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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