The Auspicious Ascendance of Jon Paul and Nick Perez Marks a Generational Shift for Related Group
The story behind Miami’s best-known brothers
It’s a heady thing to be Jon Paul and Nicholas Perez. They are the sons of Jorge Perez, the billionaire chairman, founder and CEO of Related Group. They are the sons of an art collector so committed that a Herzog & de Meuron-designed museum bears his name. They are the sons of a businessman and philanthropist so renowned that their own names surely will be world famous for the rest of their lives. JP and Nick are the sons of the man who is Miami, and who, in many respects, made Miami.
The Buenos Aires-born mogul is now 72, and it was all-but predetermined that JP and Nick would one day step up, and indeed they have. JP is the president of Related Group, while Nick, who joined the company later, serves as senior vice president. By encouraging the two dashing gents to work together to continue the family’s legacy, Jorge was conducting a high-profile experiment. According to every indicator, the chemistry works.
Both brothers made their bones in New York. Jorge had founded Related Group with his close friend, Manhattan developer Stephen Ross, in 1979, and even though Perez’s Related Group and Ross’s Related Companies are now separate entities (the Related Cos. was a minority owner of Related Group for roughly four decades), it was a rite of passage for JP and Nick to gain experience within Ross’s behemoth. (The Related Cos. developed, among many other properties, the Time Warner Center and Hudson Yards.)
After graduating from the University of Miami with a degree in business entrepreneurship, JP left for New York to begin his six-year tenure under Related Cos. president Bruce Beal, who became the young scion’s mentor. JP regards the immersive experience as tantamount to an MBA before his actual MBA (he earned his formal MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management). “I started off as an analyst, having to dig into the financial side of real estate,” he recalls, noting that 2007 was a fraught year to jump into the business. “There was a year of good times before the global economic crisis, and when that happened, we were looking at hundreds of new opportunities to buy distressed properties, distressed developments,” he says. “We raised a construction loan fund; we raised an opportunity fund. My role in a lot of that was putting together the models and presentations. Being really focused on the financial side of real estate is what I took away from New York.”
JP learned his work habits through osmosis, through proximity to Beal: “Just by watching him, you learn to be passionate about what you do, to never give up. You can be the smartest person, but if you don’t work efficiently, you may not get anywhere. He showed me determination and sticking with things. You get frustrated as a young analyst coming out because most of the kids that they hire already have two years of investment banking experience. I was starting way behind them. But I just grinded, spent 12, 14 hours a day just trying to catch up and figure it out and never letting myself get down. And before you know it, it becomes second nature.”
By 2012, the condo market was showing signs of a revival. “That’s when I had a conversation with my father.” JP told Jorge that he’d learned a lot in New York and felt it was the right time to join him in Miami: “I told him I wanted to be a part of this next cycle.” Jorge agreed. JP started in the market-rate rental division, and did a few deals before moving into the condo division, with some mixed-use projects on his plate as well.
PASSING THE BATON
Did JP experience a moment when he knew his father was ready to pass the baton? Yes, but it was hard-won. “You always want the praise from your father,” he says candidly. “But you hear it more from other people than directly from the father. And I think that continues to motivate you.” About a year after COVID-19 landed in the U.S., JP sensed a shift. “We went virtual, and my father really let me take on the leadership role to run the company with my senior executive team, and he took a step back. He wasn’t on those calls. After less than a year of successfully navigating the company, that gave him confidence [in me]. It allowed me for the first time to be the one in charge, the one to whom everyone was coming for guidance and answers and direction.”
JP was quick to grasp how COVID-19 was changing the South Florida market. “People realized that they don’t have to be in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles,” he says. They realized they can have a business here—whether it’s financial, private equity, banks, start-ups, venture capital—and they can work here just as efficiently and effectively as in those other cities.”
Space was suddenly more seductive than ever. Tourists became second-home buyers, and snowbirds transformed into primary residents. Two-bedroom buyers became four- and five-bedroom buyers; investors morphed into end-users. At the same time, the demand for smaller, fully furnished investment properties without rental restrictions—perfect for VRBO and Airbnb—created a new market. Related Group properties District 225 and the Crosby fit that mold. The former, a 37-floor tower, marks Related’s first collaboration with Airbnb; the latter is a 33-story tower set within Miami’s WorldCenter complex. Both are sold out. Meanwhile, NoMad Residences in Wynwood, inspired by the popularity of the uberhot Manhattan neighborhood Madison Square North, is fast on their heels, having sold 35% of its units in its first month.
Meanwhile, Nick went west for college, earning a degree in business finance from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. But he, too, relocated to New York after graduation, spending two years at a real estate private equity firm called Island Capital Group, then moved over to Related Cos., doing residential development for the next five and a half years. “I also did a stint for the Related Cos. in Shanghai, helping to raise money through the EB-5 visa program to fund Hudson Yards,” he says. “That was quite a life experience.” In New York, the pace of the city left a deep impression on Nick: “In New York, if you go home, there’s always someone that’s still going to be working. If you’re not working hard enough, they will be, and they’ll find a deal and do a better job.”
Nick’s Manhattan education—both sentimental and professional—proved indelible. “If you have the opportunity, no matter what industry, to go work in New York in your twenties, I think you should do it,” he counsels. “But that’s changed a little bit—you can find that same job here with the same reputable companies and have a better quality of life, with more outdoor space and all the activities that are available here that are not so readily available in New York. But if you earn your stripes in New York, you can go anywhere after that,” he says, in what sounds like a paraphrase of “New York, New York.” Somewhere Sinatra is smiling.
Finally, in 2017, Jorge came up to New York to visit his son and tour his beloved art galleries. He told Nick that it was time for him to move back to Miami. “He was in New York staying at the NoMad, his favorite hotel,” Nick recalls. “They have a beautiful bar right off the lobby. And he invited me and my girlfriend at the time—who is now my wife—over for drinks with him and his wife Darlene, and two things happened that night. One is that he said he thought it was time for me to come home and work with JP.” Jorge explained that he wanted to spend more time traveling, collecting art and being involved in philanthropy. “It was a generational moment,” Nick says. “He wanted to see how my brother and I would work together.
“I was expecting to be in New York a little longer, but always with the goal of coming home and working with the family,” Nick says, “so I was extremely happy that the time had come then and not later. After he told me that, I told him I was going to propose to my girlfriend. I remember that night like it was yesterday.”
Upon his return to Miami, Nick began working in the condo division—and eventually on 2850 Tigertail Ave., Related Group’s corporate headquarters. “Because of covid, we were the only tenants in the building, and we had 80,000 square feet to lease up,” he says, but we leased that up by the time we received the TCO [temporary certificate of occupancy] in March 2021.” Along the way he, too, earned his MBA at Kellogg, his life rhyming with his brother’s.
The brothers’ mutual respect is palpable. Here’s Nick on JP: “He’s able to command a presence in a room and gain the respect of everyone he’s working with, every executive and every employee.”
And JP on Nick: “The best thing about working with Nick is hearing from other partners how good he is at the whole development process. They call me and say, ‘Your brother is amazing. He knows what to do, he knows how to solve issues, he’s creative, he’s thoughtful and he’s smart.’ He’s responsible for seven projects that are some of the largest and most high-end that the company has ever done and he’s really the one running those. My role is upfront, setting things up, but he’s the one executing it and he’s doing a fantastic job.”
“I am in the trenches,” Nick says. His level of involvement is flexible and fluid, and includes reviewing plans and details, shaping a project’s vision with regard to marketing and sales, and managing construction teams and general contractors. Nick enjoys an overview of 100 projects in development, but with a special focus on Solemar, Related’s first development in Pompano Beach; Casamar, Solemar’s sister property; the Crosby; the NoMad; the St. Regis Residences Miami, the most expensive condominium in Related’s 40-year history, targeting a $2 billion sell-out; and other acquisitions he’s too discreet to discuss.
What the Perez brothers are happy to talk about are the ways in which their innovative deals reflect what Miami needs, from peerless luxury to accessibility. When they turned to the St. Regis, the brothers recalled their shared admiration for the Robert A.M. Stern-designed projects from their Related Cos. days in New York. “They had never done a project in South Florida,” Nick says, “so when my brother was able to bring the site to our company, the last available site in old historic Brickell, we really wanted this to be the crown jewel of our development portfolio. We called Paul Whelan, senior partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects, and asked if they could design a modern version of Robert Stern that could fit into the Miami skyline. It was really special to get them on board for this project.”
If it sounds intoxicating to collaborate with such industry giants, JP admits it is. “I’d always imagined working for my dad, and growing up, first I would see him going to three-story apartment buildings after soccer games, and then when we were in late high school, college, he was getting into condominiums and huge high-rises—more flashy business, more public business. I always thought that was so cool that one day we’d be a part of that, doing that with him. Now we are the ones, Nicky and I—we talk to St. Regis, we talk to Robert Stern, we talk to David Rockwell,” he says (the Rockwell Group is also a design partner on the St. Regis project). “You sort of pinch yourself that we are the ones making all this happen.”
Catering to an entirely different demographic—those who seek a flexible, transient way of life—is the concept of downtown Miami’s District 225. The formula: smaller, more affordable, fully furnished units; income generation for owners; healthy profit margin for Related. Residents can become superhosts on Airbnb, which gives their units search priority. The building provides cleaning and short-term rental management. Plus, under the applicable zoning regulations, District 225 doesn’t have to provide parking. Instead, Related Group struck a deal with the Miami Parking Authority, which owns a parking garage across the street: Residents have the option—but are not required—to sign up directly with the MPA for a space.
When asked where this new residential concept came from, for once JP is at a loss for words: “Whose idea was it? That’s a good question. I don’t remember if it was me, my brother, I don’t know. The good thing about Nicky and me is that no one needs to take credit—actually, my dad still likes to take credit,” he says, and both brothers share a laugh. “I just want to produce—I don’t care who gets the credit.”
Photos by Nick Garcia