Investor Jonathan Litt on NYC real estate post-pandemic, what’s booming and the future of retail

Jonathan Litt, chief executive officer of Land & Building Investment Management.

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A View from the Top is a Q&A series exclusively available on CNBC Pro. CNBC reporters will regularly speak with a business leader about decision-making, investing and industry news. 

Land & Buildings Investment Management founder and CIO Jonathan Litt has been closely tracking the ups and downs in the real estate industry, including office, industrial, retail, residential and hotel space, during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Litt has grown L&B, founded in 2008, into a prominent activist hedge fund in the real estate world. In more recent years, he has waged battles with the high-end shopping mall owner Taubman Centers, Forest City Realty Trust (now owned by Brookfield Properties) and office and multifamily property owner Mack-Cali Realty Corp. In 2017, he targeted Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson’s Bay, arguing the best use of Hudson’s Bay’s real estate was not as department stores. 

During the pandemic, his firm has taken short positions in some of New York City’s biggest office owners — Empire State Realty Trust, SL Green Realty and Vornado Realty Trust. And in late September, Litt came out against the real estate company Apartment Investment & Management Co.’s plans to split into two public entities, saying he would call a special meeting if AIMCO let shareholders vote on the move. 

In this interview with CNBC in late September, Litt said: “Real estate touches every part of the economy. And there are sectors which are enjoying the mega-trends … and dividend earnings are up, stocks are up, you’re making a lot of money in them. And then there are the sectors which are struggling. And we talked about regional malls and shopping centers, and they did reduce their dividends, right? So, I think that it’s a misnomer to think that this is a homogeneous group. The point is, there are a lot of different sectors within it.” 

Here’s the full Q&A: 

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