Jay Atkinson, MBA 03

Vice President, Investment Management
Gerrity International, Hong Kong

Jay Atkinson, MBA 03, spent his early career focused on the US real estate market and never had a “grand plan” to end up on the other side of the globe.

But through a combination of Berkeley connections and sheer serendipity, Atkinson wound up in China, where he manages the development of shopping centers for Gerrity International. And he says his job couldn’t be any better. “What’s fascinating about this is you’re not only building a company, but an industry because the industry itself is in such a nascent stage,” Atkinson says.

Atkinson’s path to Chinese real estate began in San Diego, where he landed a summer job working for William Gerrity, an adviser to the school’s Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics. That summer job became a full-time position.

Then, in 2006, Gerrity’s company was invited to consult for Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds on retail property investments in China. After just one trip to the mainland, Atkinson was hooked.

“The depth of change in China is remarkable, like nowhere else I’ve seen in the world,” says Atkinson, who has traveled extensively. “In the eastern third of the country and all the major cities, you see cranes, new housing projects, new roads, airports, subways. The level of infrastructure is really significant.”

Atkinson, of course, is involved with some of that construction himself. Gerrity develops three- to four-story shopping malls anchored around hypermarkets -- combination supermarkets and department stores -- in China’s fast-growing smaller cities.

Despite his past real estate and investment banking experience, no amount of training in the US could fully prepare Atkinson for the complexities of a developing market. He half-jokingly credits his experience in endurance sports, including Ironman triathlons, with helping him develop the necessary persistence. “You need incredible energy and endurance, because nothing is easy.”

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