Star Shulman Catapults Ardent into the Big League
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Star Shulman Catapults Ardent into the Big League

Detroit native Matthew Shulman went from the University of Arizona to a master’s in real estate finance at New York University before starting Ardent Companies in Atlanta.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Detroit native Matthew Shulman went from the University of Arizona to a master’s in real estate finance at New York University before starting his own company in New York. After selling that, he landed in Atlanta (his wife’s hometown), and in 2012 established the Ardent Companies. The privately held real estate asset management firm has pockets in corporate finance, development/rehabilitation, real estate asset management, with bottom line income production.

CEO and Managing Partner Shulman has invested in over $1 billion in real estate assets since Ardent’s inception. He is known for creating relationships and the ability to adjust risk for compelling investor returns, as well as his up and coming commitment to the Jewish community.

The Feb. 8 Atlanta Business Chronicle/Real Estate Notebook reported in “Ardent Expands in Buckhead” that “Ardent has become an even bigger player in Buckhead by buying its 10th building in Piedmont Center totaling 1.7 million square feet at Georgia 400 and Piedmont Road. … Ardent has grown into one of Buckhead’s top three office landlords.” Note that Ardent’s headquarters are just outside I-285 in Cobb County.

Jaffe: What do you consider your greatest strength?

Shulman: We use talent and experience to look for value in the broad scope.

We also do lending and development nationwide, about half of which is in Atlanta. Yes, talent is in buying stabilized assets. Ardent’s No. 1 brand is hiring great people and forming long-term relationships. In 2013 we pivoted from distressed property to more value-oriented deals.

Jaffe: How do you see Atlanta’s growth? Can we sustain this momentum?

Shulman: Long term, yes. There will be slowdowns. I can’t say if it’s in six months or 36 months where we will see a correction in asset value. Warren Buffet’s motto is: “I would rather have a bumpy 15 years than a stable eight.” That’s why I admire him and focus on the long-term balance sheet.

Over the far-term horizon, Atlanta will sustain a growing real estate market.

Ardent is one of the three top commercial office space landlords in Buckhead due to the Piedmont Center complex.

Jaffe: How do you find deals?

Shulman: 70 percent of our deals find us. We have a reputation for being fair and having the capability to execute and move quickly on complicated situations.

Jaffe: Expound on the loan side of your business.

Shulman: We are well able to run parallel businesses. We do bridge loans, six to 36 months, … projects on which a bank would not take the risk, ranging from 8 to 12 percent interest.

We just did the huge old GM Assembly facility in Doraville, where there were zoning and environmental risks. We did a $21 million loan for the Opus [Place] tower in Midtown backed by New York investors. [Opus is slated to be Atlanta’s tallest residential tower with 53 stories on 14th Street adjacent to Symphony Hall.]

Jaffe: How have you connected more Jewishly over the past several years?

Shulman: I am currently on the board of the Federation and a trustee of The Epstein School. The context behind the motivation was my children’s attendance at Epstein, which made me search for where Judaism belongs in my own life. It was a four-year journey where I went to Israel for the first time at age 39. I am a Wexner Fellow, which requires study and travel (Aspen, Israel) spanning two years with sessions every other week. Amazing professional educators and speakers are brought in. There are 18 of us.

Jaffe: What’s the best advice your family gave you?

Shulman: A hard-driving work ethic. Both my grandfathers set the tone in tough businesses like scrap metal. Above all, relationships matter. Long after a deal is closed, Ardent will be there to protect and support.

Jaffe: Last word?

Shulman: Let’s quote the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the chasidic movement. “Seek out the positive. … Say your words of faith with joy.”  I chose to go for the happy aesthetic. Joy with purpose.

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