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Hamid Moghadam
CEO and Chairman
Prologis

It’s often said that success in real estate is all about location, location, location, but that’s only partly true. It’s also about timing the market. By anticipating and then taking action to respond to developing market trends, Moghadam has guided Prologis through three decades of sometimes turbulent economic conditions. In fact, his timing was impeccable in 2011 when, as CEO of AMB Property Corporation, he merged with his former competitor to form the company that now ranks as the world’s largest owner, developer and operator of industrial logistics real estate – and assets have tripled since the merger.

And Moghadam didn’t just get lucky with timing the Prologis merger – AMB became profitable and even successfully anticipated the collapse of the office building market in the late 1980s. Moghadam recognized that changing demographics, combined with overbuilding in office complexes, would lead to soaring vacancy rates. He redirected AMB’s investments to focus on industrial parks and shopping centers. That decision positioned AMB to thrive during the 1990s and set the stage for the company’s IPO in 1997.

“I won’t pat myself on the back for being smarter than other guys. We acted on what we saw,” Moghadam said. “It’s not just the ability to see trends, but the courage to do something about it. Many people, when faced with evidence that doesn’t fit their thesis, stick their head in the sand.”

Right place, right time

Moghadam also moved against conventional wisdom when he began buying distribution facilities near global trade hubs — seaports, international airports and large metropolitan areas — while other real estate companies were building warehouses in low-cost areas. Moghadam failed to see the wisdom in building storage facilities in low-cost areas far removed from major population centers. So, AMB focused on acquiring distribution facilities and cargo buildings in major cities close to global trade centers.

AMB also pursued an alternative strategy with rapid growth markets in Brazil, Mexico and China, where the company aggressively developed facilities to store and deliver consumer products to the rapidly expanding middle classes in those countries.

Culture of empowered accountability

Moghadam realized, along with his management team, that he could not run a $45 billion real estate company from the top down. To create a more nimble enterprise, Prologis is building what Moghadam calls a “culture of empowered accountability.” Big corporations have inherent advantages of scale and extensive resources, he says. But eventually, employees at large companies become like “house cats because they don’t have to fend for themselves.”

To help local business leaders fend for themselves and win on the ground, Prologis gives them the leeway to make local investment decisions and then, once they are vetted, get them approved by corporate risk management teams.

To make sure everyone operates from the same playbook, Moghadam has instilled a strong sense of corporate values. “You can’t write a 400-page manual for people to consult whenever they want to take action,” he says.

As a result, Prologis has embodied its values in the acronym IMPACT (Integrity, Mentorship, Passion, Accountability, Courage and Teamwork). “Values are something you stick with, even when it hurts, such as walking away from a business opportunity because it runs against your values,” Moghadam says. Corporate values matter more than culture to Moghadam, which can vary from one country to the next: “It’s the values that bind the company together.”

As CEO of a major corporation headquartered in San Francisco, Moghadam has given back to the Bay Area, particularly in education. He is also a strong supporter of his cultural heritage, establishing an Iranian Studies program at Stanford and co-founding the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution.

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