The e-commerce boom makes warehouses hot property

IN THE LATE 1990s Hamid Moghadam, an Iranian-born property developer, made a $5m bet on Webvan, an American online grocer. It was a bust. Webvan was one of the most spectacular casualties of the dotcom crash. More galling still, Mr Moghadam turned down the opportunity to invest in another e-commerce upstart called Amazon, thinking its focus on books was too narrow compared with groceries. Yet some people can win even by losing. Sensing a potential bounty in the online craze, the firm he co-founded, AMB, sold its portfolio of shopping centres and bought millions of square feet of warehouse space on the tarmac of American airports instead. “We got the company wrong, but we got the big trend right,” he says. Two decades later the company he heads, Prologis, is Amazon’s biggest landlord. Mr Moghadam, now 63, stands tall over the world’s warehouse business.

A Stanford graduate who got his start in property because no one else in America would hire him during the Iranian revolution, Mr Moghadam has made a career of bold bets. In 2011, with property still reeling from the financial crisis of 2007-09, he led a bumper deal to unite AMB and Prologis, a bigger rival, with a combined $46bn of owned and managed assets. Since then the property-investment firm has expanded globally. It has assets of $125bn and floor space of 1bn square feet (90...

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